Before the Muslims landing at Sicily, the inhabitants had to move to the countryside, nearest to the town, and live in small rural farmhouses. The farmstead is the display of a local economy in the hand of the upper class and the bourgeois society. In the farmstead were living not only the landowners but also workers and farmers. Therefore, there were several rooms, cattle sheds and huge warehouses. Usually, the houses had one or more floors where the landlord was living with his family. Whereas, the ground floor was reserved to the farmers and the storage of the supplies. Other rooms were used as tool sheds or park for the stagecoaches. All the floors were done by stone sheets, also known as “balatuni”, or alternatively, by pebbles or bricks vertically placed.
Villa Altair today
One of these farmsteads is Villa Altair. The name “Altair“ comes from one of the brightest stars of the sky and, at the same time, one of the closest to the Earth. Villa Altair was originally built at the beginning of the 19th Century and revamped few years ago by the current owners, who tried to stay the most possible faithful to the original and preserve its unique bucolic soul. Inside Villa Altair there is a large courtyard with a well in the middle and a “stack”, once used to wash the clothes. On the east side of the villa, back then used as both warehouse and cattle shed, there are now private rooms for the guests and common places made unique by “dammuso” ceiling shape. The genuine products of the local cuisine can be tasted in the dining room, where there are ancient rural tools, such as the ones used to produce oil. The old bedrooms of the landlord on the first floor, now fully furnished, recall the colours of the fruits of surrounding campaigns.
The farmstead is surrounded by vineyards and olive trees that together create a beautiful portrait of the countryside, from which high-quality grapes and wines come from.
Moreover, in the backyard you will find a big variety of fruits and vegetables, including prickly pears, figs, apples, pomegranates, eggplants, zucchini, red peppers and tomatoes, that ladies used to dry in the sunlight.