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Translation by Elisabetta D'Errico
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Towers, Castles and Masserie - Castle of Acaya - Agostinian Convent - Castle of Corigliano
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Lecce - From Castro to Otranto - Leuca and surroundings - From Gallipoli to Porto Cesareo - Grecìa Salentina
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A 'new' very ancient Italian area
Salento (Salentu in local dialect) is the south-eastern extremity of Italy. It is a sub-peninsula of the main Italian peninsula, sometimes described as the "heel" of the Italian "boot".
It is in the region called "Puglia" or "Apulia", it encompasses the entire area of the province of Lecce, a large part of the area of Brindisi and part of that of Taranto. The peninsula is also known as Terra d'Otranto.
Salento peninsula is a rock of limestone dividing the Adriatic Sea from the Ionian Sea.
Known also as "peninsula salentina", from a geo-morphologic point of view it encompasses the land borders between Ionian sea and the Adriatic sea to the “Messapic threshold”, a depression that runs along the Taranto-Ostuni line and separates it from the Murge.

Where are the towers, castles and fortified farms?
Salento is full of towers, castles and fortified farms which were built to keep off the invaders.
Since the Roman age people began to defend themselves from the pirates by placing towers along the coast. This phenomenon increased in the 15th and 16th centuries when the Turks made frequent attacks to Italy, especially in the South. Between 1558 and 1567 about 399 towers were built in the South of Italy, of these 96 in Apulien. The towers had a cylindrical or quadrangular plan. The first ones were just for sighting; the second ones served as defense and were equipped with catapults and firearms. Some of them had wide rooms and could even house people during attacks.
The most important are: Torre Rinalda, Torre dell’Orso, Torre del Serpe (Otranto), Torre di Minervino (Porto Badisco), Torre Mozza, Torre Suda (Racale), Torre Sabea (Gallipoli), Torre dell’Alto, Torre Sant’Isidoro. Other towers were even built in the built areas, such as for example the Tower of Federico II in Leverano (1220), the Tower of Salignano (16th century), the Tower of Barbarano, near Morciano di Leuca (16th century), the Tower of Belloluogo in Lecce (1383) where sometimes queen Maria d’Enghien lived, the Tower of Parco in Lecce (1419), built in honour of Giovanni Orsini del Balzo, with a wide moat. Want to know more?

Otranto on the Adratic sea and Gallipoli on the Ionian sea were in trade relationships with other countries, so they often were surrounded by high walls and castles to keep out invaders. Castro too, which had the monopoly of maritime trade in the Channel of Otranto, had a beautiful castle as well as Roca that was razed to the ground after the Turkish attack to Otranto in 1480, because it was a land of robbers. Still today these castles can be admired, the works of important architects of the time: Evangelista Menga, Gian Giacomo dell’Acaja, Ciro Ciri, Francesco Martini. Besides the castles of the towns on the coast, in the inland areas too you will find some castles: the castle of Copertino, the birthplace of the future Isabella of Aragona, the castle of Lecce built in honour of Emperor Charles V, the Castle of Morciano, the castle of Acaja and of Corigliano d’Otranto with its deep moat and rococò decorations. Want to know more?

The fortified farms (masserie fortificate) represented another kind of defence; they were surrounded by high walls with bays and watchtowers. On the coast from Nardò to Avetrana you can visit “Giudicegiorgio farm”, well preserved with its 16th century tower and the portal built in catalano-durazzesco style. “Trappeto Farm” is in this area too: it looks like a rustic villa and is one of the most beautiful, it is monumental with a big external staircase and wide windows. Around Surbo you can visit “Melcarne farm”(newly restored) with its quadrangolar tower. At first it was built for defence against the attacks from highwaymen, then it became an aristocratic villa. Few kilometres away from Cavallino there is “li Nsarti farm” that recently has been turned into a beautiful villa. It has two floors and two large balconies on two sides of the tower. “Gelsorizzo Farm” (with a high quadrangolar tower) is near Acquarica del Capo; the highest part of the tower overlooks a beautiful terrace. Want to know more?
Where is the Castle of Acaya?
Marco PreteThe Castle of Acaya dates back to 1535-1536; it has a trapezoidal shape and a moat and walls which are one of the most suggestive place of the village. The architect was Gian Giacomo of Acaya, (who built lots of buildings in the Reign of Naples). It is half way between Lecce and Otranto and it is like a fortified city. The Castle is in the south-western corner of the “borgo”, linked to the land through a draw-bridge. It has two beautiful round towers in “pietra leccese”. Devasted during the Turkish attack in 1714, the castle has been slowly restored thanks to the local Administration intervention. You can enjoy a beautiful sight walking upon the walls while looking at the surrounding countryside. Want to know more?
Where is the Agostinian Convent in Melpignano?
The Convent, in Baroque style, was built between 1573 and 1662, perhaps by Giuseppe Zimbalo, one of the most famous artists of the time; it was one of the many convents ordered by the Latin church who wanted to impose its presence on an area which was strongly influenced by Greek religion. Sometimes religious rites are celebrated, especially weddings or even concerts and exhibitions. The façade is magnificent and the altars inside are richly engraved, such as the one dedicated to St. Nicola from Tolentino (1656), the work of the sculptor Placido Buffelli from Alessano.
On the front space lots of cultural events are held, the most important of which is the famous “Notte della Taranta”.
Where is the Castle of Corigliano d’Otranto?
This Castle (730 sq. mt.) was built in 1465 to defend the land from raids and the Saracens’s attacks. This is the proof of the courage and strength shown by these people who held out against the Turkish attack by throwing big pieces of cheese down from the city walls. Its first owners were De Monti family, then, thanks to Trane family, the Castle was enriched with a beautiful Baroque façade, full of engraved inscriptions and faces of important people.
It shows four round towers (which is rare among the castles of Salento). On the towers there are statues of Saints, each representing a theological virtue: St. Michele (strenghth), St. Antonio Abate (moderation), St. Giorgio (prudence), St. Giovanni Battista (justice). The building still keeps its original deep moat and it is often place of public events, especially in Summer.
There is a funny legend about the castle: one of the last owners used a secret passage of the castle that led to the castle of Martano, to rush out at night. The castle is in good state and a part of it may be visited thanks to the intervention of “Kalos Irtate”, a group of young people from Corigliano who want to draw people’s interest towards the beauties of their land. They run the bar on the inside terrace, where you can have a drink.
It can be visited on request.

Lecce, the beautiful city
Lecce is the “capital” of Salento.
The main square is “Piazza St. Oronzo” was once called “the merchants’ square” because here twice a week there was the weekly market where merchants met for their business relationships in the shops and in the square. Here there is the old “Palace of Justice” (1577), built by the Jesuits, whose church (the “Church of Buon Consiglio”) is nearby. The Jesuits, in fact, played an important role in Lecce, in fact they founded a school (a kind of university) which was opened until 1767, the year when the order was expelled from Lecce. Until 1977 the palace was the seat of the Palace of Justice.
The pearl of the square is the Roman Amphitheatre, appearantly built in the 1st or early 2nd century A.D., during the reign of Trajan. Then it remained covered for centuries until it was brought to light again in 1905 by the local scholar Cosimo De Giorgi during the works for the Bank of Italy. It shows the importance of Roman civilization in Lecce and here hunting games or celebrations and feasts were held in the past. This is understood by the friezes around the podium; then you will see scenes of fighting bulls and exotic animals (elephants, lions, panthers and wolves), Roman inscriptions, sculptures and even a statue of Athena attributed to the Athenian sculptor Alcmene (which nowadays is kept in the Provincial Museum). The amphitheatre, recalling those built by the Romans, was dug out of a limestone deposit, with the addition of “pietra leccese”. Probably there was another level of seats above the top row that we see today, probably with columns and pillars.
Paolo MargariBehind the amphitheatre there is the “Sedile”, a large square-shaped building with Gothic arches topped by rounded arches. It dates back to the end of the 16th century and was built by Pietro Mocenigo, a Venetian, to witness the business relationships between Lecce and Venice (Venice was the place of departure for the Eastern Mediterranean). Until the 19th century it was the seat of the Town Hall, then it was turned into Tourist Office; now it is the place for Exhibitions.
The real symbol of the square is the “Column”, built in 1666 to thank St. Oronzo who had saved the town from the plague in 1656. The marble column marked the end of Via Appia and was a gift from people of Brindisi; the original statue of the Saint (that you see above the Column) was destroyed in 1737 by fireworks and it was remade in a workshop in Venice.
Not far from St. Oronzo square there are two wonderful examples of Baroque in Lecce: the “Basilica of Santa Croce" and “Palazzo dei Celestini” (the Celesitnes were another religious order and had their Monastery just here). The two buildings date back to the 16th century. The style of the church is ebullient without exaggeration, the façade is wonderful, with a beautiful rose-window surrounded by angels. It was the work of Gabriele Riccardi, Cesare Penna and Giuseppe Zimbalo. The words are not enough to describe the beauty of Santa Croce, but you certainly will be fascinated in front of lions, dragons and angels which hold the balaustrade. When you go inside you will breathe an austere atmosphere (as you feel in the Classical basilica style), with its wooden ceiling and the smooth columns adorned by Corinthian capitals. The altars, in the side aisles, are pure Baroque and some of them show beautiful paintings.
You cannot leave from Lecce without visiting the “Castle” and the “Church of San Matteo”. The “Castle” (16th century), built on a preexistent fortress of Gualtieri VI of Brienne, was the work of Gian Giacomo dell’Acaja. You can visit the large rooms of the Castle if you go to exhibitions or take part to cultural events here, even if the building is still being restored. The “Church of San Matteo” is what the German historian Gregorovious defined the “Pantheon of Lecce Baroque”, a superb building with curve surfaces and strong volumes. You will notice the concave surface at the top and a convex one at the bottom.
Another beautiful square is Piazza Duomo with the Bell-Tower, the Cathedral, the Bishop’s palace and the old Seminary. The square has a peculiarity: it is a rare example of closed square in Italy. In the past, in fact, at the entrance (where there are two twin buildings) there was a wooden gate; this gate was closed every evening just to keep religious life apart from ordinary life.
The façade of the Cathedral was built in the second half of the 17th century for Bishop Pappacoda (whose sepulchral monument is inside the church) to enlarge the old church, while the main entrance is on the side, next to the Bishop’s palace. In fact the old façade is not so richly decorated and lacks of solemnity, it is more composed and almost austere.
From Castro and Santa Cesarea to Otranto
Castro, Santa Cesarea, OtrantoCastro is on the Adriatic sea coast. The high part of the town stands above a high rock. Its origins are very old and remains of Messapian walls have been found lately. It was a Roman and Byzantyne town, often an episcopal seat. Here you can admire a romanesque “Cathedral” (1171) and the remains of a frescoed byzantyne “Crypt”.
Castro Marina is the port that was made out of the high rock. The place is charming with a pretty little square where during summer evenings young people stay until late. In some way it reminds Capri.

Rolf HickerSanta Cesarea takes its name after the legend of a little girl whose name was Cesarea; she found refuge in the caves to escape from her father’s insane desires. She was protected by the sea; in fact, though promising her father to meet him in her room, really she climbed down through the courtyard window and run away towards Castro. When her father discovered it, he went to Castro to get her back, but, on the way, a mysterious black cloud appeared and the evil man drowned in the waves. Just in that place water started stinking and never stopped. In fact here you can smell sulphur to remember the man’s bad smell. From then on, Santa Cesarea has become a well known thermal spa: from “the four caves” (Fetida, Gattula, Solfatara and Solfurea), the caves where Cesarea found shelter, come out, at a temperature of 30 degrees, waters containing sulphur, iodine, lithium and salt, useful to cure some diseases.
Walking on the promenade you will see “Palazzo Sticchi” with its Moorish architecture and its big orange dome. Recently lots of elegant residences have been built behind the historical centre, overlooking the sea. What is worthy to see in Santa Cesarea is the natural swimming pool, among dark and solid rocks: the sea breaks against the rocks and fills up the pool. Then you can go to the “pineta” (pine-wood) from where you will enjoy a wonderful sight of the sea, the buildings and the little houses on the coast.

The coast is rocky, the main caves you meet are the “Zinzulusa” and the “Romanelli”. The access to the sea is made easy by some establishments such as “Archi” and “Caicco”, which allow you to swim in a very beautiful blue sea. If you want to dream on the golden sand you have to go to Porto Miggiano.
Going inland you pass through places which are characterized by a calm and relaxed atmosphere, houses which stand each close to the other where you smell the simplicity of people who meet together to make the tomato sauce and other things for cooking.
Before arriving to Minervino there is the “dolmen Scusi” with its eight pillars holding a heavy slab of stone. The name comes from the dialect word that means “hidden”, just because perhaps the dolmen had the function to hide someone or something. But what emerges during the visit is that this is a land of hard work, a land where everybody works by day but at night they sit together and tell stories and old legends.
Arriving at Giurdignano, an old castle of Otranto, you can admire the splendid frescoes in the “Crypt of San Salvatore” (11th century) where monks from Italy and Greece went to pray or you can find out dolmens and menhirs; in fact near Giurdignano there are most of the dolmens and menhirs present in Italy. Most of them are incorporated in the houses built up to the erly 1900’s. It is worthy to know that there is a megalithic garden with 25 megaliths, sacred symbols engraved in the Christian era with a magic – religious meaning.
An important event held here are the so called “tavole di San Giuseppe”; the most devoted families of the town lay the traditional tables (on the 18th March) full of big loaves with religious shapes. In the evening, after the procession and benedition, they open their houses to visitors offering them the typical loaves called “pucce”.
Other places of artistic importance in Giurdignano are: the early Christian “Abbazia delle 100 porte” (so called for the high number of windows), which in the 7th century probably was a monastery and the castle of the 16th century.

Then you take the road to Otranto among olive trees and oaks. All of a sudden you will see Otranto with its two colours: the white houses and the blue sea. In the fields there a small river, the Idro, that gives the name to the town.
You can start your visit of Otranto from the “Lungomare degli Eroi” (“Heroes Promenade”) which will lead you to the old town. You enter through “Porta Alfonsina”, built after Otranto was rescued from the Turks’ attacks thanks just to Alfonso of Aragona’s fortification plan.
The historical centre is a series of narrow streets which follow one another like tortuous alleys, full of little coloured shops where people sell a miscellaneous variety of objects: whistles, pots, jewels, clothes, laces, typical food and so on.
The Cathedral is situated in a little square; it captures your sight with its Renaissance rose window in Gothic-Arab style. The building was ended in 1088. Here, in 1480, found refuge women and children who were escaping from the Turkish siege, but the Turkish soldiers came inside and murdered them, spreading blood all over the floor, on the famous Pantaleone Mosaic. The Mosaic (16 metres long) was made between 1163 and 1165 by a monk who lived in the near Abbey of San Nicola di Casole. His name (Pantaleone, in fact) is written on the floor when you enter the cathedral. In it the monk wanted to portray the Tree of Life (an enormous tree going from the entrance to the presbitery) starting from the Creation. It is full of pictures and religious symbols difficult to understand. For example he portrayed the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, the Snake, the Flood, the building of Noah’s ark and other symbols, but at the same time he portrayed the characters of King Arthur and Alexander the Great.
In the Chapel of the Martyrs, in the right nave, in seven reliquiaries there are the bones of the 800 Martyrs who were murdered on 14th August 1480 by the Turks because they had not abjured their Christian faith. They were beheaded on the Minerva Hill (just in the place where now there is a chapel), and on the top of the hill a Sanctuary was built.
Once out of the Cathedral a little street will lead you up to the Castle and the Ramparts. In summer lots of tourists come here and buy souvenirs or take photos. From the Ramparts you can overlook the sea and the port that especially in summer is full of lights and people who sing and talk till late at night.
Before arriving to the Castle, in a little square, there is the Byzantine Church of St. Peter, one of the few Byzantine examples in good condition in Italy. In fact here you can still admire paintings from ancient times.
The Castle was restored during the 1980’s; it was built for the Aragonese king between 1485 and 1489. It has a pentagonal shape with three cylindrical towers on the corners. In the moat are still visible some of the granite balls shot by the Turks during their attack in 1480.

Leaving Otranto and coming back towards St. Cesarea there is the “Torre del Serpe” of the Roman age. Many stories are told about it which are worthy to know. A little farther there are the remains of Casole, a Basilian convent destroyed by the Turks and a big lighthouse, now the “Sea Museum”. The coast from Oranto to St. Cesarea is dominated by “Torre St. Emiliano” and Porto Badisco with its wonderful “Grotta dei Cervi”.
Leuca and its surroundings
Capo di LeucaWhen you reach the most extreme area of Italy, you are in Santa Maria di Leuca, where Italy ends at the foot of a lighthouse, as though it were the final border of the land. Santa Maria di Leuca, from the Greek word “leucos”, that means “white”, white like the limestone rocks and the lighthouse, 47 mt. high, that dominates from Punta Meliso, 102 mt. above sea level. Just Punta Meliso separates the Jonian sea and the Adriatic sea, and the lighthouse is always a good guide for sailors and for anyone who comes here by boat. Once here you ought to visit the Sanctuary “De Finibus Terrae” , with a sober façade that looks at a statue of the Virgin standing upon a high column of 1694. The “croce petrina”, an iron cross formed by two crossed keys upon an octagonal column, means that St. Peter started his preachings from here when he was returning from the East. Surely Leuca is the meeting point between the East and the West, the sea and the land, the human and the divine world.
Coming down you can stop at a bar in the port, where at any hour fishermen talk with people, young or old or Vips, cheerfully and friendly. They may take you to discover Leuca and its beautiful caves, each with a story inside. It is better to visit the caves on the East side in the morning and the ones on the West side in the afternoon because they show different shadows of light.
On the promenade there are lots of terraced villas, all built in liberty style, with Moorish decorations and Oriental glamour, the summer houses of some local aristocratic families (who still today come here in Summer), dating back to the late 19th century and early 20th . We recommend you Villa La Meridiana, Villa Episcopo, Villa Mellacqua, Villa Daniele-Romasi.

After Leuca you can go back up to Patù, an ancient Messapian village. This was the place of birth of Liborio Romano who was Minister of Home Affairs in 1860 in the Reign of Naples. Not very far from the town there is “Vereto”, the seat of an ancient Messapian town, surrounded by high walls (4 Km. long) where you can see the Centopietre”, a singular medieval monument, built with slabs from a Roman mausoleum. Inside, on the walls, traces of paintings in Byzantine style are visible.
Then you go to Alessano, where you can walk in the ancient part of the town and admire the “Chiesa Matrice”, the seat of the Diocesi until 1818, and the “Convent of the Capuchin friars” with its beautiful altar carved in wood. Everything in Alessano remembers Don Tonino Bello, the priest to whom the main square is dedicated. In the middle of the square you will see the Clock Towe of the late 19th century. In Sangiovanni street there are wonderful villas of the early 1900 but in the narrow streets in the historical centre of the town there are the palaces of the 16th and 17th centuries, the best of which is Palazzo Sangiovanni, with its façade in ashlar style.

You can continue by visiting Presicce, in the inland, with its beautiful and rich historical centre. “Piazza del Popolo” shows in the middle the elegant “Column of St. Andrea” (of the 18th century) with a pretty balaustrade: here the Cardinal Virtues are embodied in the four female figures who stand upon it. The Church of St. Andrea dates back to the late 18th century and has an elegant and Baroque façade with a Bell Tower in Renaissance style. Inside you can admire paintings of Tiso and Catalano, two of the most famous Salentine painters of that period.
There is a high altar and eight lateral altars, all decorated with precious stuccos.
Opposite the church your sight is captured by the beautiful Palazzo Ducale and its hanging garden. Here, at present, there is the Museum of the Folk Civilization. This palace, built in Norman style, and many others embellish this little historical town, and while walking through the narrow little streets, you will see them rich in decorations and frescoes.
Other important monuments that you can visit are: the “Chiesa degli Angeli” (of the 16th century), the “Chiesa del Carmine” (of the 17th century) built in “pietra leccese”, with engraved columns rich in bas-relieves and the “Monastery of the Carmelitani” (of the 16th century).
The underground olive mills, not far away from here, are evidence that Presicce was an important agricultural centre for the production of olive oil. They have been restored and can be regularly visited in Summer, while at Christmas a suggestive crib is set inside.

Driving through a road flanked with olive trees, you will arrive at Acquarica del Capo with the remains of an ancient Castle and the “Masseria Gelsorizzo” with its Norman tower. In the countryside from Presicce to Acquarica you will see the typical “pajare”: they are cone-shaped and were used as shelters, built without cement but with lime stones from fields. They represent the real masterpieces of rural architecture. Among them there is the “Pajarone”, a very big one, that dominates over the others.

When you arrive at Ugento, you are among the Messapian people, where in 1961 a woman found out a little statue of Zeus (6th century B.C.). The people of Ugento called it “lu pupu” (it means “the child”) for the care the woman took in touching the statue before giving it to archaeologists. In the “Civic Museum” is kept a copy of the Messapian God, while the original is in Taranto. Even though today you will see just some remains of the ancient Messapian walls, at the end of the 17th century towers and architraves of Messapian times were well visible. The Cathedral was rebuilt in 1700, after the Saracens’destruction in 1537. The façade only was built some years later, in 1855.
The coast around Ugento is full of typical towers, the best known of which is “Torre San Giovanni”, built for emperor Charles V in the second half of the 16th century. Then it became a lighthouse and signalled the presence of sandbanks off the coast. Lots of tourists from Germany, England, America and Switzerland spend their summer holidays here on this coast, on the white beaches with their characteristic thin sand.
From Gallipoli to Porto Selvaggio and Porto Cesareo
Gallipoli, Porto CesareoGallipoli takes its name from the Greek name "Kallipolis". The old part of the town is something different from the rest. It is a circular island which you can visit walking along the ramparts. In the past the walls were 2 metres high, now they are much lower and from there your gaze can sweep over the blue sea as far as the horizon. Among little alleys and tortuous streets lots of baroque façades, wonderful buildings and houses will appear before you.
The water surrounding the island has a pristine clarity and to protect the fishing industry, people take great care of the waters and the surrounding environments. Every morning there are lively fish markets and numerous seafood restaurants can be found along the streets where yiu can taste some of the best seafood of Italy.
In the highest place of the old town there is the “Cathedral of Sant’Agata”, one of the best examples of Baroque in Salento (after the Church of the Holy Cross in Lecce). The façade was built by Giuseppe Zimbalo, the same artist who built the Bell Tower in Lecce. What is peculiar here is the use of ”carparo”, which is less soft and friable than the “pietra leccese”, which gives its dark pink colour. The church was built in the years between 1629 and 1696 and on the façade it shows the two patron saints of Gallipoli: St Sebastiano and St. Fausto. Inside, on the walls and on the ceiling, there are paintings of the 17th and 18th centuries.
The city is a lively and bustling place with numumerous shops, restaurants, castles and churches to visit.

Going north on the Jonian coast, between Torre dell’Alto and Torre Uluzzo, you will find Porto Selvaggio, a very suggestive landscape with emerging rocks in a clear sea surrounded by a thick pinewood and Mediterranean bush.
This area has been protected since 1980, after violent quarrels with the public and political authorities, and goes under the name of “Parco naturale attrezzato di Porto Selvaggio”.
The area is full of vegetal and animal specimens: goldfinch, chaffinch, greenfinch, lizards, foxes, hedgehogs, capers, lentisk and myrtle. The whole area is 428 hectares wide.

The Ionian coast is a low one and Porto Cesareo has very long beaches with a very thin sand.
The place is very renewed for fresh fish which you can taste during the whole year. It has not important monuments, except the station of Marine Biology, but it attracts lots of tourists in summer for the beauty of its very well equipped beaches.
The gorgeous Grecìa Salentina
Grecìa SalentinaThis area is formed by nine towns, where the traditions take us back to the past, to an ancient language (the “griko”, a sort of solemn Greek language) which is still today spoken by old people and which is seen at the entrance of each town, in the road signal reporting the words “kalos irtate”, that means “welcome”. We advise you to visit it at least in two days so that you can admire most places and hear the Greek language spoken at every corner of the streets. Moreover, if you have time, you can eat some specialities of Greek savour which are delicious.

Soleto is the first town you meet, famous for the “Guglia of Raimondello”, the bell-tower of the Church dedicated to St. Maria Assunta built in 1397. The legend says that four devils built it all in a night. Anyway it is a wonderful bell-tower, 45 metres high, in late Gothic style that shows the wealth and the power of the Orsini del Balzo family, whose prestige made Soleto the most important town of Grecia Salentina. You can also visit the Chapel of Santo Stefano (1300), a pretty and small chapel, with its beautiful Romanic portal, the Gothic vaulted bell-tower and the façade in “pietra leccese”. The frescoes and the inscriptions on the walls are in Byzantine style as well as the “blessing Christ”, the fresco in the apse where four bishops hold an ornament containing prayers from Byzantine liturgy. Sacked by the Turks in 1480 after the siege of Otranto, Soleto still keeps a beautiful historical centre full of noble palaces dated 1400 and 1500 and built in Baroque style.

The next town is Sternatia, a town of the 9th or 10th century a. D., a period which saw a strong immigration of monks and merchants from Greece and the Eastern world. In that period Sternatia was under the Normans, then under the Orsini del Balzo and finally under the Granafei family, who held the feud until 19th century. Visitors are welcome by an old olive tree set in the middle of the square; it seems as if the tree keeps the secrets of the town, old images of farmers at work or of women in the fields. On the bell-tower of the “Church of the Assunta” there is an old clock, that strikes the passing of time in the crypts, in the oil-mills and in the narrow streets which, at lunch time, exhale smells of roasted peppers. Few steps away from the square there is “Palazzo Granafei”, a big fortress of the 18th century with a beautiful cloister. Sternatia is famous too for its underground oil mill, recently restored. You can go down and see how people made oil in the past. Beyond the 15th century walls there is the “Crypt of St. Sebastiano” (9th century), rich of frescoes representing the Holy Trinity. Do not forget to visit also the ex “Convent of the Dominicans”, now the seat of the Town Hall.

Few kilometres farther there is Calimera, that in Griko means “good morning”. The main church (Chiesa Madre) is in Piazza del Sole and is dedicated to St. Brizio; inside there are nice Baroque altars and beautiful paintings. In the square there is also a little chapel (The Chapel of the Crucifix) with a wooden polychrome crucifix in full-relief of the 16th - 17th century. It represents Christ just before his death. Not far from here, in the park, there is a little aedicule with a funeral stele of the 4th century B.C. It witnesses the link between Calimera and Greece, in fact this stele was discovered in Athen and given in 1960 “as a witness of the common origin”. Calimera is a town surrounded by religion, legends and rituals. For example, on the way to Martano there is the “Chapel of San Vito”; here, every year on Easter Monday, an ancient and magic ritual takes place, which is propitiatory of wealth and productiveness. In the chapel, in fact, there is a magic stone called “la petra de Santu Vitu” (the stone of St. Vito), dating back to prehistorical age; it has a hole in the middle and everybody magically is able to pass through it. This act is considered propitiatory of good crops.

In the hearth of Grecia Salentina is Zollino. Here there are not many historical memories. Perhaps it was founded by people from Soleto, in fact its coat of arms bears a Sun, the same as in that of Soleteo. The town felt a strong Byzantine influence but the Greek rite disappeared in 1688. There is the “Church dedicated to Ss. Pietro and Paolo” and, in the main square, the 18th century column. In Zollino people celebrate St. Antonio who, in the past, protected the town during some natural disasters: earthquakes and floods.

Martano was probably founded by the Roman centurion Martius, as we elicit from the coat of arms. After the decay of the Roman Empire, Martano was under the Greek domination and from the Greeks they inherited uses and habits. There is a beautiful Aragonese Castle (15th century) which protected the town from the Turks in 1480; the walls and the six towers are still visible. The parish church is dedicated to the Virgin; then there is the Chapel of Carmine, the Chapel of Immacolata (with a pretty Baroque altar), the Monastery of the Cistercians (built by the Alcantarini) and lots of other little palaces with portals and balconies worthy to be visited.

Martignano is the smallest town of Grecia Salentina. Anyway, even though there is not a large number of inhabitants, it is a town full of events, among which the most famous are “Carnival” and the festival in honour of the patron saint.
The façade of the “Chiesa matrice” is not so elegant, but inside it keeps beautiful works of art. You will admire the artistic bell-tower built about in 1681 and the two lateral altars. Other important monuments are: the Chapel of St. Giovanni (with a painting portraying St Giovanni in the act of giving baptism to Jesus), the convent of the Franciscans friars built in the early 1600, palazzo Palmieri (with a beautiful back garden which is now a public park and an oil mill), and the “pozzelle”which originally were used to get the rainwater used for the soil.

Like Calimera, Castrignano dei Greci too in the name recalls that it is part of the Grecia Salentina. Between the 9th and 10th centuries the town was under the domination of the Greek Byzantine people who imposed their laws, their language and habits; in fact Castrignano kept the Byzantine rite until 1614. Still today people speak a kind of a Greek dialect and follow some ancient habits taken from Greek civilization. Anyway the origins of the town are uncertain though the legend says that it was founded by Minosse or by the Roman “Castrinus” and that it served to stop the invasionscoming from the sea and from the North. What we know for certain is that it was founded near a Roman campus (“castrum”, in fact). In the built-up area you will admire the byzantine Crypt of St. Onofrio” (6th century a. D.). It was built by the Basilian monks and they gave it such name because in the area there was a menhir upon which there was the statue of the saint. Inside the crypt there is also the Greek inscription “IBYZ” that means “1237”, probably the year when it was restored.
The Castle, built in “pietra leccese”, was once surrounded by a deep moat. On the portal you will see the coat of arms of the Gualtieri family, its first owners. The façade on the South was restored in the early 1600 and has beautiful Baroque decorations, because that was the period of splendour of the Baroque style.
The parish church is the “Church of Annunziata”, built in 1878 where there are beautiful paintings. In “Parco Pozzelle” there are about a hundred wells very well preserved until today; they were used to receive the rainwater that was then used by the inhabitabts.

Melpignano is famous not only for the Convent, but also for the main square (St. Giorgio Square), that is unusual for Salento: in fact, it is formed by porticos with rounded barrel-vaulting. It was built like this because in the 16th century an important market took place here, with merchants from Lecce, Bari and Naples. Nearby there is the “Parco della Pace”, a real toyland for children in a beautiful garden full of swings, slides and others roundabouts. Opposite the square there is the beautiful “Church of St. Giorgio” (1500) where two famous singers, Nabil and Noa have recently received honorary citizenship to the sound of the miraculous music that cured the “tarantate”. In Melpignano you can also taste gastronomic specialities, especially “pizze” cooked in wood-burning ovens or ice creams.

Corigliano d’Otranto is famous for its medieval Castle. From Piazza San Nicola, through Lucchetti Arch (1497), you go into the city centre. On the Arch symbols, metaphorical elements and figures are engraved, which seem to be the work of a great artist, not of a small stone-cutter of “pietra leccese”. In the square you will admire also the “Clock tower” and the beautiful front of “Palazzo Comi”, with its little cherub who holds a fake double lancet window. In the “Curch of St. Nicola” (1622) there is a mosaic of the Tree of Life that recalls the one inside the Cathedral of Otranto. Next to it the Bell Tower, very similar to the one in Soleto.

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