Massariola ice house

By taking a dip in the past, we can realize how modern technologies have made our everyday life much easier.
Our grandparents did not have a refrigerator, nor a freezer, and the arrival of summer greatly complicated their daily life, especially concerning food and drink preservation. To keep food longer during warmer months, they used to buy the snow accumulated and stored in the so-called “Neviere”. But what exactly are these?

The “neviere” (ice houses) were constructions intended for the conservation of snow, which was piled up in winter months, and then sold frozen starting from the month of June. An ice house which can still be seen nowadays is that of Massariola, about ten kilometers from Abate Masseria on the State Road 172 dei Trulli.

The building is covered with dry-laid Chiancole stones and has a two-storey structure, composed of ground floor and basement. From the ground floor, through a trap door in the middle of the room, you could access the basement to deposit the snow and the necessary equipment for ist storage. The basement made up the cistern where the snow was stored and had a barrel cover, which was about six meters deep.

A layer of bundles was placed at the base of the floor, in order to easily detach the ice that would form on the bottom. Then the snow was beaten, smoothed and interspersed with layers of straw which, besides separating the various levels, ensured thermal insulation. The last layer of straw was the thickest and served to protect the ice below from the summer heat. With the arrival of summer, the ice-house man, with the help of about thirty workers, arranged for the squaring of the blocks that were cut with hatchets and pointed saws and then transported to the sales points.

This job has now disappeared, but it’s quite significant, since it still reminds us how our grandparents used to live.