Radical Restoration of a Masseria In Pugila

In 2009 Martha and I were fortunate enough to meet Francesco Selvaggi, a wizard of the art of stained glass and a fine example of an ambassador for this territory. He owned a historic masseria in Puglia called Masseria Li Reni, and welcomed us into his studio there to do some video. I was honored.

Francesco maintained a precious corner of the Salento. It brought joy to visitors.

And that’s why I was stunned when I came across a link to Masseria Li Reni. It didn’t look much like I remembered; the history had been scraped away. The website explained:

In 2015, Francesco Selvaggi, a glass artist, transferred the property to the Vespa family who has brought the structure back to its ancient glory thanks to a series of radical restoration interventions.

Do we sense the disconnect between “ancient glory” and “radical restoration interventions”?

Thus, knowing your answer, I continue the narrative on the timeline forking towards ancient glory.

We were, in a sense, temporary neighbors with Mr. Salvaggi while staying in another masseria just down the dirt track. It was a fake masseria, built in very recent times to look like an historic one. You could see Masseria Le Rene from “our” masseria roof. One evening as the clouds built up, we took a short walk down the dirt track. The Masseria rose ominously from the gardens planted around it’s walled enclave.

masseria li reni
Masseria Li Reni

Francesco’s passion for the territory and his historic lodgings was infectious. He’d endowed his Masseria with two apartments. There was a courtyard he and his wife had embellished with little artsy things that made you eager to have your coffee there in the cool of the morning. There was a thrashing floor, from a time when the high-protein wheat of southern Italy was prized whether made into bread or pasta.

masseria li reni
The Original Masseria Li Reni entrance

Francesco took us to the nearby town of Manduria and showed us the little archaeological museum. You had to knock to request a visit. The folks inside were sorting some artifacts. They were unpublished.

I asked if I could do a little video while they showed us the best of them. The answer stunned me. “Certo!” or…certainly!

You see, archaeologists often hold back any viewing of “their” artifacts until the books are closed on the excavation and the report written. But this was a small town of friendly people proud to show off the historical context of the land they inhabit. Bravo!

Francesco narrated. His artistic fingers caressed ancient artifacts the public had never seen before. Before me was a magic show that revealed the Italy of old, not just in its artifacts but in its hospitality.

After the artifacts had all been displayed we continued on to taste another thing that’s big in Manduria, Primitivo di Manduria, a wine I’ve admired since sipping the owner’s production of Primitovo as the house wine in a modest local restaurant, one of those places that when you ask about the pasta in a voice that marks you as a visiting tourist the owner pints toward the sky and trudges to the kitchen to bring a sample of each pasta type so you can see it. The excitement in his voice assures you that he’s vever tired of this explaining of the basics for tourists, and in the end we ended up with great bowls of pasta cooked by his wife. I admire greatly folks who take pride in what they do.

In any case, Francesco took us to the Museo di Primitivo on 19 Via F Massimo to take a look at the exhibits and then line up in front of what looked like gas pumps at your local station. If you’d brought a bottle you could fill it with Primitivo or Negro Amaro, a softer wine (if you didn’t bring a bottle, they sold plastic containers, rather large ones). Francesco told the attendant we’d like two of these plastic jugs, one for each of us, and told her the mix of wines he liked, a bit of this, a bit of that to fill the containers so we could take a little of his “private reserve” home to the Lunigiana.

manduria messapian walls
Manduria and Messapian Walls

You may have never heard of Manduria unless you’re an Italian wine lover, but it is a fascinating town surrounded by Messapian walls. It also has a famous fountain, the Fonte Pliniana, named after Pliny the Elder, who marveled at the fact that the water level was always constant and an almond tree grows in the center of it.

This is how I remember Francesco and the territory between Taranto and Lecce, rustic and rural. Then a “radical restoration” occurred and erases a small part of its central core. It’s what happens in life. People who’ve stayed there love the heck out of it.

So am I wrong to be sad?

If you wish to visit Masseria Li Reni

To see a picture gallery, or book a room, see Masseria Li Reni

Manduria Travel Toolbox

Travel Toolbox

Why go to this destination? Fabulous setting in the Salento, close to the interesting town of Manduria
Region map and guide Puglia
Train Station On the north end of town, near the Messapian wall. -- Buy Train Tickets in advance
Lodging Manduria Hotels and Vacation Rentals
Guidebooks to destination National Geographic Traveler: Puglia
Other Remarks Try a Masseria stay if you like to live historically.
Best of our travel pictures: James Martin on Picfair
Long Term Traveler Car Leasing: Why Lease a Car on Vacation?

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Puglia at Speed: A Fast Travelogue

Puglia to the Greek Islands

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Pathologically Pugliese: the Evolution of Pagghiare


Radical Restoration of a Masseria In Pugila originally appeared on WanderingItaly.com , updated: Nov 19, 2021 © .

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