I should never leave the house without my camera. I thought I'd likely taken enough pictures of Martignano but no, I haven't. When I went for a walk through town late this afternoon I hit at least a half-dozen, "ah ha" moments: a half-open decrepit door that gives a peek into a sun-bleached walkway filled with potted plants; expanses of once white stone walls of ancient houses so pock marked with age they've turned into gigantic abstract paintings in grey and black.
Today, our hostess, Paola Bray, took us to visit two nearby masseria --farmhouses. Masseria Chicco Rizzo is an 18th century stone beauty, all ochre and cream stone, that's been recently and lovingly restored as a hotel. The 13 bedrooms were once the place where the horses bedded down.
The second masseria was Paola's aunt and uncle's home, Uccia and Angelo Conte. They have a small herd of cows, a half-dozen calfs, one of them born yesterday, a little black creature, and an olive grove. Uccia, who is 60, says they work from early morning to late at night. For them there is no such thing as Sunday off or even a restful Christmas.
The couple's daughter, Amelia studies and works in Parma but happened to be visiting her parents. She took us to Galugnano, home to 1,066 souls, and only a few minutes' drive from their farm. We stopped at an abandoned medieval church called Santa Maria Della Neve. There's a well, a pozzo, in front of the little grey church. Amelia says legend has it the area in front of the church served as a courthouse with the judge sitting on the pozzo and the low stone wall facing it as the prisoners' bench. Those condemned to death were hanged behind the church and perhaps dispatched into the well.
I haven't been able to find much information on the Internet about the church's history although I did come across references to a book by Luciana Palmieri called L'enigma di Santa Maria della Neve in Galugnano. It appears to be out of print.
The interior courtyard of masseria Chicco Rizzo, a 17th century restored farmhouse
Paola Bray and her cousin Amelia Conte on Amelia's working masseria, where her parents also live.
Church of Santa Maria della Neve (St. Mary of the Snow) in Galugnano