Frantoio Ipogeo Sternatia

Useful Information

Location: Via Pizzo, 73, 73010 Sternatia LE.
(40.219735, 18.228142)
Open: All year daily 9-13:30, 15:30-21.
Classification: SubterraneaUnderground Factory
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Frantoio Ipogeo Sternatia, Via Pizzo, 73, 73010 Sternatia LE, Tel: +39-0836-666227, Cell: +39-338-7986523. E-mail:
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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15th century oil mill probably built.
1700 semi-underground oil mill was built near the Dominican convent, which was owned by the friars.
19th century replaced by modern mills and abandoned.


The Frantoio Ipogeo (literally Hypogeum Oil Press) is located in the cellars below the town Sternatia. 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 di Palazzo Granafei (Underground oil mill of Palazzo Granafei). It is called the Granafei, because it is located below the garden of the palace of the Marquis Granafei. It was operating until the 19th century and was owned by the Marquis. Unfortunately there is another site with the same name at Gallipoli, it seems the Marquis Granafei owned several palaces and several oil mills. The underground site is located near the Filia city gate, at the entrance to the historic center.

A staircase with a barrel vault leads down to a big chamber fitted out with tanks and millstones. While underground, the room is illuminated by sunshine slanting through a skylight. Oil presses of both types, the calabrese type and the genovese type were used to press the olive paste. This was collected in large tanks and extracted with a large shovel by the oil mill manager or nachiro.

The origin of these oil mills is lost, they were operated probably since the 16th century. However, oil mills were operated during antiquity, Roman era and all through the Middle Ages. The cultivation of olive trees and the production of olive oil, both for food and for lighting, was the main economic activity of the area. The question is just if they were operated underground. There once was a network of 19 oil mills connected through a network of underground walkways. One of them, which originally consisted of two oil mills, later unified to make room for a larger one, which was recently restored. It is the only one which is accessible.

Those underground mills were the most important in the town until 1700. Then a semi-underground oil mill was built near the Dominican convent, which was owned by the friars. Nevertheless, the oil mills were in full operation until the 19th century. However, the mills operated by hand and with donkeys were finally replaced by modern mills during the industrial revolution.