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This old house of stone

October 25, 2018
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Set among the lemon groves of the Vendicari Nature Reserve in southeast Sicily, Masseria Constanza is at an exceptional vantage point for views of the bucolic landscape and turquoise Mediterranean Sea.

The recently restored six-room villa maintains its original farmhouse features: bare stone walls, arched entryways and sleepy courtyards.


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The new interior design provides contrast with sleek, modern furniture, creating an atmosphere that’s as cool as it is calming.

For those uninterested in lazing by the pool, Vendicari provides an alluring medley of lagoons, sand dunes, rocky coastlines and uninhabited sandy beaches – the perfect seaside walk with only the waves, birds and wind for company.

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History of the house

The Masseria belongs to the siblings Costanza Messina, Corrado Messina, Nicola Messina and Giulia Messina and has been in their family for generations.

It was acquired by their ancestor, Corrado Calogero Rizzuto, probably in the second half of the 1700s, as is stated on the plaque located at the front entrance.

It then passed to his daughters Costanza and Vicenzina and, eventually to the grandmother of the current owners, Costanza Falbo.

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Before being acquired by the family’s ancestors it was most likely part of the Nicolaci domain, owned by the prince of Noto whose palace, which was designed by the great Sicilian Baroque architect Rosario Gagliardi, is the emblem of the Unesco site of Val di Noto.

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It was perhaps for this reason that, among all the restoration work that has taken place throughout the centuries, the last was attributed to Gagliardi.

According to Prince Corrado Nicolaci of Villadorata, it was the great architect’s first major project.

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Before becoming a Masseria linked to the agricultural production of a wealthy family in Sicily in the 1700/1800s, according to the history of the region, the building had been used for other purposes in the past.

It is presumed that a previous original architectural structure dates back to around 1200, the period that the so-called “Torre Sveva” – an important building positioned on the coast for the purpose of importing and exporting goods from the sea in the mercantile era – was constructed.

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The tower, also located within the domain, stands directly opposite the Masseria and was very closely linked with the latter due to its strategic position on elevated ground making it ideal for defence purposes.

Indoor living room limestone flooring and limestone wall cladding

The Masseria’s medieval structure was originally built upon an ancient site.

Throughout the course of the centuries it is believed that the structure was used for various purposes, from a fort in medieval times used to defend against forces coming from the sea, to a masseria linked to the agricultural activities that developed in the 1700s and 1800s in Sicily.

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The restoration project

The restoration work for the main part of the Masseria began in 2012 and was partially completed in the winter of 2013 only to be continued under phase II in 2017. All stone element were purveyed and procured by Ancient Surfaces.

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Stone floors, fountains, fireplaces, wall cladding and mosaci accents where provided by Ancient Surfaces under the direct guidance of the owners and architect.

Though the restoration project initially began many years before this, due to the landscape protection of the location within a nature reserve, it took a long time to get the required authorisations for the project to develop.

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In light of this it was decided that the restoration should proceed on a step by step basis, and a small part of the Masseria, which is of archaeological importance, has yet to be restored.

The restoration works took 2 years in total but there had been previous interventions to maintain the well-preserved condition of the building.

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The restoration project was aimed at maintaining architectural elements of the rural surroundings, which is why in various rooms you will find, alongside other items of furniture, the palmento – where grapes were transported and processed into wine – which is now used for board games, reading and siestas, the macina – historically pushed by donkeys in the production of oil.

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These architectural elements have been perfectly inserted into a contemporary living space. In addition to this, mirrors, chests of drawers, late 18th century cabinets, paintings, a 19th century grand piano, a 19th century velvet and silk brocade sofa, Empire and Liberty style living areas, and other rare decorative objects and contemporary Sicilian works of art including works by Michele Ciacciofera and Sergio Fiorentino.

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The aim was to combine nature, culture, tradition and modernity in such a way that would preserve the essence of a truly special and unique place to live with all the modern comforts, but also with that distinct Mediterranean feel of being ‘timeless’.

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