Masseria Petrarolo was built in 1689 to be stronghold against marauding Saracen raiders from North Africa. It is a described in Italian as a ‘fortified farmhouse without tower’. When it was built, the main core of the house could be isolated by raising the drawbridge (now a stone bridge). Three trapdoors enabled the residents to retreat from the ground floor spaces up into the core of the house using step ladders which were kicked away under pursuit. The bell stands proud on the roof-top and would have rung during an attack.
The convention was to light a basket lantern to alert the neighbouring masserias down the coast line of an impending attack. When an attack was underway a string of burning basket lanterns could be seen stretching down the coast. Defenders used arrow slits in the parapet walls to fire crossbow bolts at the enemy. Traditionally the Masseria and the land surrounding the house would have supported and provided shelter for a number of families not just the noble landowner.
In the eighteenth century, the farm was owned by Francesco Petrarolo, a financier: whose family coat of arms is displayed as the carved relief of a noble family, depicting a cherub and an underlying composition of pomegranates. In all likelihood an original group of buildings was added to and fortified in 1600’s with the chapel being built in 1689. The main house is almost certainly older.
The interior of the chapel, which is still used by a local congregation, has a single hall and is furnished and decorated with interesting central canvas, perhaps the eighteenth century, depicting a Madonna and Child, to which residents in the district dedicate devotion.