Frantoio Ipogeo Granafei

Useful Information

Location: Gallipoli, cellars of the Palazzo Granafei, Via Antonietta de Pace 87.
(40.0545638, 17.9752237)
Open: .
Fee: .
Classification: SubterraneaUnderground Factory
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Frantoio Ipogeo Granafei, Via Antonietta de Pace 87, 73014 Gallipoli, Tel: +39-0833264242.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Frantoio Ipogeo (literally Hypogeum Oil Press) is located in the cellars below the Palazzo Granafei. Frantoio is the south Italian word for an oil mill, Ipogeo means underground, so this is an underground oil mill. As Frantoio Ipogeo simply describes what it is, this is not actually the name of the place. The full name would be Frantoio Ipogeo at Palazzo Granafei.

On the grounds of Palazzo Granafei in Via Antonietta de Pace lies an entrance to the mill. A staircase with a barrel vault leads down to a big chamber. The oil mill consists of a series of niches, dedicated for different use in the oil processing. There is a circular place where a stone wheel was turned around by a donkey, to crush the olives. Then there is a press where the crushed olives were pressed to release the oil. A huge tank in the ground was the place where the oil was finally collected. All of those structures exist twice, so it is actually a double mill.

Oil presses are either of the calabrese type or the genovese type. Here the people used the calabrese press, which consists of a horizontal beam fixed on one side and with two long wooden screws on the other side. The beam is pressed against the crushed olives by continually tightening the screws. The olive mash was mixed with reed to optimize the oil flow. The whole mill is illuminated by a skylight, which was also used to throw down the olives.

The mill has dining tables for the workers and sinks for waste water, one for each mill. The workers came here in November, when the harvest of the olives started and stayed underground until April, almost half a year. They lived here and worked very long shifts, but the payment was extraordinary. On one month salary a family could comfortably live four months.

The city of Gallipoli was built on a limestone rock in the Mediterranean sea, almost circular with a diameter of 500 m and some 150 m from the mainland. Today a bridge connects the island to the new part of Gallipoli on the mainland. During the Middle Ages this location was obviously very easy to fortify. The underground below the town was hollowed out, for the use as cellars and for the oil mills. The cellars were very good for oil production, as they have a constant temperature all year, and are rather warm. There were numerous mills in town and many of the mills were connected by underground tunnels to form a huge labyrinth.

Gallipoli was a major center for producing lamp oil, and this was one of the biggest oil mills in this town. It was the most important oil mill until the Dominican friars built a new mill at their monastery during the 18th century. There once existed 19 oil mills in Gallipoli, and the town was producing lamp oil for a huge part of Europe. All the big cities were illuminated with the special oil from Gallipoli called "lampante" (for lamps). With the installation of gas light in the 19th century, the fast decline of the oil lamps started. Today this is the last oil mill which is still in working condition. The others were converted into cellars, one is even used as a restaurant.