One theory tells that the birth of Alessano is due to the Byzantine emperor Alessio I Comneno, who called Alessano in assonance with his name. But in reality, Alessano already existed before. In fact, others argue that it was founded by populations from the Ales river near Reggio or from Alesia in Gaul. Others affirm that Alessano owes its origins to some inhabitants of Epirus shipwrecked on the Apulian coast. Their hometown was called Alessia, hence Alessano. A curious hypothesis, on the other hand, suggests that Daedalus, creator of the Minotaur’s Labyrinth and fleeing from Crete, landed precisely in this territory with his wax wings well intact and not melted by the sun. Noting that he had the “Ale sane”, he called this town Alessano. In fact, in the coat of arms of the town, wings are represented. The truth is not yet known. There are no documents that allow us to shed light with certainty on the origins of Alessano. But the etymology of the name of the city would lead back to the Greek verb alexo, meaning “I reject, protect” and would reveal its original function as a military garrison. What is certain is that, after its birth, it was the Normans who assigned Alessano a prominent role over the entire Capo di Leuca. In that period, the city became a bishopric and will remain so until 1818. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Alessano lived its season of maximum splendor. Under the rule of important noble families (the Della Ratta, Del Balzo, De Capua and Gonzaga) the city became an important commercial center. There also arrived families of wealthy Venetian merchants and a small Jewish community gathered around a synagogue in via della Giudecca. The town was enriched with valuable Renaissance-style buildings that can still be admired today. Among these: Palazzo Legari, Palazzo Orsi (with a beautiful arched loggia and a characteristic battlements). Palazzo Sangiovanni (with a diamond-tipped ashlar facade) and the ancient Palazzo Ducale, built during the Del Balzo lordship. In addition to these prestigious buildings, the urban center of Alessano represents the typical example of a Mediterranean village with a medieval layout, shaped over time by human activities. The urban plot of narrow cobbled streets and the tangle of alleys and squares is the result of the centuries-old overlap of different civilizations that have followed one another. The ancient core still retains this mixture to a good extent. The alleys that often end in a small open space, according to a typically Arab model. The courtyard houses, with the well in common and the piles made from monolithic limestone blocks, according to a typically Greek model. Furthermore, the Mignani, the portals with stone profiles, the richly carved balconies and windows and the small churches complete the picture of the splendid historic center of Alessano. Corte Manfredi is also part of this context, an ancient Salento residence, recently expertly and finely restored as an exclusive accommodation facility.
Inhabitants nickname: sciudei.
Macurano is what remains of an ancient village whose remains are located about two kilometers south-east of Alessano. These are two distinct settlements, made up of caves dug into the tuff which forms the last fringe of the Montesardo hill. The two settlements are separated by an ancient road that still bears the deep marks of the passage of wagons. The first settlement, better preserved, is made up of a series of caves, the largest of which communicates with others of smaller dimensions and is dominated by another with several niches. On the walls there are numerous cross-shaped incisions. The presence of millstones and piles inside suggest that in the past it was a “trappeto“.
Presicce is a small town in the lower Salento, famous for hosting numerous underground oil mills (23) for which it was renamed with the name of “Città degli ipogei“. However, Presicce is not just this: the charm and beauty of Puglia seem concentrated in this unique, small Salento village. Presicce, in fact, is a mosaic of churches and stately buildings that embellish the historic center, alternating with the humble residences of the Courtyard Houses and the underground oil mills. Olive trees frame the village with their twisted shapes, dry stone walls tell long stories and wonderful Renaissance farmhouses alternate with eighteenth-century houses. The history of the town makes us understand well the reasons why Presicce has developed. First of all, the town is located in a valley that is particularly rich in water and it was probably the large presence of surface aquifers that attracted the first settlements. The Presicce coat of arms, a deer drinking from a water source, seems to recall precisely this abundance of water in the Presicese area. However, the town’s name seems to derive from the Latin word ‘praesidium’ as an ancient military garrison. In any case, the warm climate and fertile soil allowed the inhabitants from Presicce to develop the agricultural sector, particularly intensifying the production of olive oil, the main economic source of the country. Around the 11th-13th century the custom of digging underground cave mills, called trappeti, spread. The first were built on the slopes of the Serra di Pozzomauro; later, the activities began to move downstream and for centuries formed the backbone of the country’s economy. Towards the end of the 19th century the trappeti were abandoned, some transformed into landfills or cellars and the ones located in the countryside, transformed in sheepfolds or stables. Since the 1990s, subsequent reclamation and restructuring interventions have allowed the recovery of these environments as a tourist destination. They are absolutely worth visiting to learn about their history, how they work and relive the heavy working conditions of the ancient millers who for long months lived literally locked up in the oil mills together with the animals, never being able to go out. Another characteristic element of the ancient village of Presicce are the numerous courtyard houses. These are humble homes that date back to 1500 and have the particularity of being made up of a single room with the addition of a cellar. The courtyard houses are so called because they are gathered together in a single external space, called courtyard, where the main domestic activities took place. In ancient times, the court always housed a well (from which to extract water) and a wash stone, called pila, made from a single rock carved into it, where women washed their clothes. In the historic center of Presicce, however, there are also numerous important buildings. The Palazzo Ducale, located in Piazza del Popolo, is a noble building, dating back to the period of Norman domination, which in the past belonged to the Dukes of Paternò. Today the Palazzo Ducale is the official seat of the Museum of Rural Life and the hanging garden. The Casa Turrita, also known as the tower of San Vincenzo, is the most important testimony of the medieval history of Presicce. The original tower was built during the reign of Charles V, but in later times it was replaced by a building, which today is called Casa Turrita. The loopholes remain of the original ancient structure, located in the lower part of the building. Palazzo Pepe, also known as Corte Soronzi (named after one of the owners), belonged in the 1600s to the Pepe family, a wealthy Florentine family who owned a mill, an oil mill and several olive groves. Some churches also enrich the architectural context. The church of Sant’Andrea Apostolo, patron saint of Presicce, is today considered one of the most beautiful in the whole Ugento area. In late Baroque style, it was built on an old church from the 1500s, of which the ancient bell tower remains, and it is rich in plaster and polychrome marble. As in many churches of Salento, also in this one an altar is dedicated to S. Oronzo who protected this region from the plague of 1656. A few meters from its entrance there is the splendid column of Sant’Andrea, where in addition to the statue of the saint , the cardinal virtues (Fortitude, Justice, Prudence and Temperance) are depicted. A curiosity: the statue is not facing the church but towards Via Arditi because this was the ancient pilgrimage route to Santa Maria di Leuca. Finally, do not miss the Arditi chapel, located in the heart of the historic center of Presicce with its particular façade in which Baroque and Rococo styles alternate. Next to this stands the noble palace that belonged to the Arditi family, whose construction dates back to the end of the seventeenth century.
Inhabitants nickname: mascarani.
The name of the village, located in an elevated position, testifies to Specchia’s defensive past. It derives from the name of a heap of stones arranged in a conical shape, called ‘specchia‘, once used as a lookout and defense post. The perfectly preserved historic center of Specchia is considered one of the most particular of the lower Salento. The feeling is that here time has stopped: narrow alleys, dry stone walls and stairways that create suggestive ups and downs, make Specchia a place suspended in a past that is still present. The historic core of the village, in fact, still has the typical layout, with the primitive core of houses built around the castle in an elevated position. The most evocative part of the village is located behind the Castle, where among the remains of the ancient walls of Specchia and narrow pedestrian streets interrupted by flights of stairs, it is still possible to observe characteristic portals, Lecce stone frames, loggias and hanging arches, as well as friezes, statues, columns and votive shrines with sacred images faded by time. Among the many white houses protected by thick wooden doors in the historic center it is possible to observe very particular masks placed right at the top of the door. There are all shapes and with all facial expressions: angry, amused and intent on sticking out the tongue that were used to keep evil spirits away. Among the places to visit there are Piazza del Popolo, overlooked by some of the most elegant palaces in the town, including Palazzo Risolo dating back to the 16th century, the Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the 15th century and the Palazzo Baronale Ripa. Finally, we remember the church of the Madonna dell’Assunta, the chapel of S. Caterina Martire and the church of Sant’Eufemia.
Inhabitants nickname: scurlisci.
Salve, a small town in the lower Salento, along the Ionian coast of Capo di Leuca, founded according to a legend in 267 BC by the Roman centurion Salvius who was entrusted with some territories that Rome had conquered following the victories against the Messapians. Around these entrusted possessions an urban agglomeration was built which in the following centuries became the reference point for some neighboring populations who fled from the malaria-infested coast. Over time, the town grew and in the fifteenth century, to defend itself from attacks by the Turks, a small fortress was built thanks to which the inhabitants were able to repel the attacks of the Barbary pirates. In this century, coastal towers were also built to defend the territory from pirate invasions. In Torre Pali the most characteristic one, once connected to the mainland, is now completely surrounded by the sea. There are numerous historical and artistic testimonies in Salve: in addition to the fortified palaces, some baronial palaces, sixteenth-century towers such as the Montano tower, and the Church of San Nicola Magno which houses the oldest functioning organ (1628) in Puglia. Also in the historic center there is a very special underground oil mill to visit. In addition to all this, Salve is very near to the sea to which it is connected thanks to its famous marinas: Pescoluse (home to the famous Maldives of Salento), Torre Pali, Posto Vecchio and Lido Marini.
Inhabitants nickname: ventri ianchi.
An inlet on the coast that was once the seaport of Alessano. Today it probably represents the part of the south-east coast least contaminated by man: crystal clear water, a marina and a few houses scattered among the olive trees and the Mediterranean scrub. Novaglie is characterized by a low cliff, frequented above all by those who love the deep sea and scuba diving and fishing, probably more uncomfortable for those who have children. These rocky walls on the sea sculpt truly enchanting places in unspoiled nature, but often reachable only by sea or through rather winding paths. Numerous and splendid natural sea caves embellish the coastal stretch. North of Novaglie there is the beautiful Grotta Azzurra, which takes its name from the shades projected on the walls by the play of the sun’s rays in the water and the Grotta del Diavolo, shady and dark with a narrow entrance. South of Novaglie, on the other hand, is an important Neolithic station: the Grotta Cipolliane, an ancient complex of caves within walking distance of which the Grotta del Presepio and the Grotta dell’Elefante are part. Going even further south you arrive at the Grotta del Laghetto which houses a mirror of fresh and clear water and the Grotta del Ciolo with the fjord of the same name, a place not to be missed.
Marina Serra is a fraction of Tricase, with about 30 inhabitants, which overlooks the coast and is full of inlets between rocks overlooking the crystal clear sea, famous for the presence of wonderful natural pools, including the Rio Canal. A legend tells that this wonderful inlet, in which it is also easy to dive thanks to the steps carved into the rock by the washerwomen and fishermen of the past, was dug by the devil himself in a single night. It is said, in fact, that many centuries ago, near the inlet, there lived a ruthless and cruel prince whom the inhabitants of the surrounding village insisted on building a church. The prince, in order not to have to submit to the constant requests of the inhabitants made a pact with Satan, so that he would build the church in one night and in exchange he would offer a host consecrated to a goat (symbol of Satan). The church was erected but the prince did not keep the covenant and Satan was furious and caused the church to collapse, generating the Rio Canal. Obviously it is only a legend, but what is certain and objective is the beauty of Marina Serra. The site is dominated by rocks, fjords and, of course, by the vegetation of the Mediterranean scrub, which overlooks clean and crystalline waters. Travelling along the stretch of the coast, you will come across a spectacular cave (Grotta Matrona), accessible only by sea, which offers a spectacle of water reflections that paint the walls in various shades of blue. To the east of Torre Palane, one of the many coastal watchtowers, there is the Grotta di Acquaviva, so called due to the presence of underground aquifers, which make the water fresh and clean, especially near some sources of fresh water, clearly visible in the hours of low tide.
The small marina of Tricase, set on the coast, still has an intense fishing activity that has characterized its colors and views (from typical boats to nets). The coast is mainly low and rocky, full of caves and small inlets. In one of these there is a port dating back to the fifteenth century which has been joined by another smaller one for pleasure boats. Some beautiful noble villas overlook the sea, blending naturally with the simple landscape of the place, recreating a unique and relaxing atmosphere.
Santa Maria di Leuca is the southernmost tip of Salento and represents the limit of the emerged lands. Its important basilica, under the majestic lighthouse, is in fact dedicated to Santa Maria De Finibus Terrae, to indicate a territory that establishes the last term of the boot. Furthermore, Leuca represents the point of separation between the Adriatic and the Ionian; between Punta Meliso and Punta Ristola, in fact, the two seas meet, marry, blend by mixing their waters. Sometimes it is also possible to see the ripple formed by the opposite waves of the two seas colliding. Leuca has an important tourist port and a fabulous promenade, full of palm trees and oleanders with numerous nineteenth-century villas in Liberty style, often mixed with a particular Arabian style. Also characteristic is the Monumental Waterfall, a work built to celebrate the end of the works on the Apulian aqueduct, of which Santa Maria di Leuca is the final term. Santa Maria di Leuca is a tourist destination worthy of a visit as it is capable of combining sea, history, sociability and fun.
One of the many marinas of Salve, with its wide coastline about 4 km long, represents a corner of paradise kissed by the sun. An expanse of fine white sand constitutes a wide beach protected by wonderful dunes covered with spontaneous vegetation of acacias and white lilies that separate the crystalline sea from the rest of the world. The shallow waters and the islets that emerge from the clear waters recall distant exotic atolls so much that they deserve the name of Maldives of Salento.
Another marina in Salve represents the classic landing on a human scale: a sandy beach close to the houses, a marina for mooring small boats and a good choice of accommodation and services. A long beach of fine white sand distinguishes the village up to the characteristic tower. From here the coast becomes rocky and low, ideal for snorkeling in a seabed, rich in sea urchins and molluscs, which continues to the Isola della Fanciulla, so named for the legend of the girl killed by the Saracen pirate Dragut. The ancient sixteenth-century tower, built to defend the territory from pirate invasions, was once connected to the mainland. Today, however, partly in ruins, it is completely surrounded by the sea, a detail that makes it particularly fascinating and unique in Salento. Torre Pali was formerly called Marina di Sant’Antonio because of a small church dedicated to the saint built by some fishermen. Subsequently, following the many finds of wooden poles pushed back to the shoreline by storm surges, the current name of Torre Pali prevailed.
Dimora Salentina di Charme
Corte Manfredi 5
73031 – Alessano (Lecce)
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