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Journey through the Villages of the Taranta - part two

Thursday 09 august 2018

We are in the Grecìa salentina, the Hellenistic linguistic island of southern Puglia. Exactly nine municipalities where one still speaks a neo-Greek dialect, just more those involved in the consortium between institutions.

Journey through the Villages of the Taranta - part two

And so, since 2007, thanks also to the support of the European Community, to the original municipalities were added three others not really Hellenophones: Carpignano Salentino, Cutrofiano and Sogliano Cavour. All this includes a strip of territory located in the middle of the Salento peninsula, with 60000 inhabitants involved. However, the centers that lost lost the elderly citizens remained to speak the griko. On the other hand, Sternatia, Martignano, Calimera, Corigliano d'Otranto, Zollino and Martano are the most faithful to these linguistic traditions. The Greek of Salento, however, what language is it? A little bit of history.

Here the Greeks arrive both in the Greek era and with the Byzantines, the latter now due to the iconoclastic persecution now thanks to the Mediterranean expansion policies of Emperor Basil I. These are the communities that continued to profess the Greek Orthodox faith. And to cultivate their language. With many difficulties over the centuries, under the numerous and various cultural dominations suffered in the South. In June 1990 the consortium was founded and once and for all it was decided to protect this ancient Greek-speaking parliament. Evident also the tourist purposes. In 2001 the Union of Municipalities of the Grecìa Salentina was established. Thus a great cultural patrimony was defended, which over the centuries, even for religious reasons, had experienced its difficulties. Also of political nature. >Think of the unity of Italy. With the Risorgimento, in fact, the minorities were silenced. Every dialect was banned, let alone that belonging to other cultures. And so until the seventies and eighties of the twentieth century. Today, however, the number of speakers stands at 10,000, even if almost all elderly people. A language that has clearly made changes over the centuries, with obvious influences from the various dialects succeeded in Salento itself up to the natural neolatine contaminations. Rome recognized the Lecce Greeks as
"Linguistic minority of the eric-Salentine ethnic group".

Let's start now for a short tour through the various countries interested in the Grika area and that will host events included in the Taranta billboard.

We go to Cursi, in the center of Salento, 30 km from Lecce. Cursi is famous for its stone, a material with which so many buildings and structures have been raised here. The famous Lecce stone is therefore extracted above all here. But not only. Leccesi and cursiati keep to specific differences.
The local Ecomuseum of Lecce stone, with a direct background of the limestone quarries (tuff) and various nature trails, explain this history and geology.
Of particular artistic and historical interest is the Basilica crypt of Santo Stefano, with frescoes from the 12th century.

In Zollino you can not miss the taste of "scéblasti" bread, in griko that is "without shape", typical peasant bread. Rossiccio, comes from a mixture of flour, water, yellow pumpkin, olives, onion, zucchini, oil, chilli, salt and capers. At the beginning of August, a festival celebrates this traditional product. In the village there are also many underground oil mills. To see the famous votive column in honor of St. Peter.

Calimera, a town devoted to San Brizio, is one of the most important centers of the Salento Greca. Here the greatest scholars also of all the historical glottological aspects.
In the city (7000 inhabitants) also a well-kept Museum of Natural History of Salento, equipped with a Wildlife Observatory. The mother church is large and austere, as are the religious structures with precious Lecce stone altars. Extraordinary, as well as already in Cursi and other places of Salento, the megalithic testimonies: dolmen above all.
Nomen omen: Castrignano de 'Greci has its clear legacy from the beginning. In all senses. In the streets of the village you will find churches with works of art from important signatures (from the nineteenth-century painter Francesco Saverio Altamura to the 17th century sculptor Giuseppe Zimbalo), the baronial castle of medieval origin and then rebuilt in the 1500s, just outside the walls the crypt of Sant ' In Castrignano curious pozzelle, characteristic reservoirs for water collection.

Sternatia boasts the famous Palazzo Granafei, baronial residence of the homonymous family of feudal lords of the place. In Baroque style, it is attributed to Mauro Manieri, a seventeenth-century architect from Lecce. The sixteenth-century walls of Sternatia were designed by Evangelista Menga and Stefano da Putignano, respectively the most famous military architect and sculptor in the South of the century. Celebrate the rites of the Holy Week. It is also remembered for the so-called Guglia di Raimondello, 40 meters high and visible from afar, wanted by Raimondo Orsini del Balzo to communicate its power. It is adjacent to the collegiate matrix of Maria Santissima Assunta. Also interesting is the sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie, attached to the convent of the Friars Minor.
The Church of Santo Stefano, a 14th century Greek-Byzantine building with a late Romanesque portal, surmounted by a beautiful rose window and a gothic bell tower, can be admired for its beautiful Byzantine style frescoes. Here he captures all the Last Judgment, truly evocative. Soleto has much more to tell, especially at the archaeological level: it was an extremely important and territorially impressive area. In Taranto there is a large map of Soleto, the oldest western "map" of the classical period. In 2001 also the discovery of a rustic Roman villa. Not to mention the "Corà" of Soleto, in the historical center: district of Renaissance noble houses and baroque palaces salaries.

And Melpignano? The city seat of the Big event of the Taranta is part of the Associazione Comuni Virtuosi, for the eco-sustainable management of the territory. In the city center many churches. We point out that of the convent of the Augustinians, restored to a design by the aforementioned Zimbalo. There are also numerous churches in the countryside, as well as underground oil mills. The marquis palace was commissioned in 1636 by the Albanian patriot Giorgio Castriota-Scanderbeg. Particularities in Melpignano the Renaissance portico of Piazza San Giorgio, almost rare in Puglia. The structure attests the mercantile vocation of this town. An area that gives back to the current user also many megalithic structures: menhirs and dolmens.


Martano is instead the city of the aloe, a very cultivated plant here. Formerly strategically important center at the road level, it has some historical libraries and above all an interesting picture gallery, with works by classical painters from the Apulian and Neapolitan area, but also by Gioacchino Toma from Galatino and gallopolino Guido Pagliano, an artist whose container (also equipped of collections of numismatics) is entitled. The Widespread Museum of Lecce stone sculptures is also delightful, with works distributed directly between the streets of the center. The master church, dedicated to the Assumption, offers, among others, works by Cesare Fracanzano (seventeenth century) and Oronzo Tiso (XVIII). Alessandro, Cesare's father, is instead present with a Pietà in the church of the monastery of San Domenico. Alcantarino and then Cistercian the convent of Santa Maria della Consolazione, on the road to Borgagne (fraction of Melendugno). Martano is full of "court houses", typical of Greece Salentina: several houses with the courtyard in common and also sharing the granaries, cisterns and large stacks in stone for laundry. There are also many historic and impressive buildings here, the baronial one, formerly the Aragonese castle. The menhir of Teofilo (or Santu Tòtaru) is instead the highest monolith of the whole Puglia (4.70 m). Even the Specchia dei Mori is the largest in Salento. What are the mirrors? Limestone slabs overlapping one another and taken from the stone removal carried out in the area.

Typical rural buildings of Lecce. Apigliano is increasingly known as a medieval village, today an archaeological site. Historically linked also to the neighboring Zollino, it was inhabited from the XII century, with settlement primitives already of the VIII. It was suddenly abounded for reasons still unknown to historians.

Corigliano d'Otranto

The castle of Corigliano d'Otranto is unmissable. Great, imperious, fascinating. It is the castle de 'Monti, a medieval birth but a Renaissance figure, sanctioning the passage from square towers to roundabouts. Superb.
Like in Otranto, even here in the mother church of San Nicola a mosaic floor of the Arbor Vitae, but much more recent: it dates back to the 19th century.

Sogliano Cavour was only "Sogliano": then, with the Unification of Italy, here is the tribute to the Piedmontese statesman. Who knows. The change of name to stand out from a homonymous center in Forlì.
The baroque and neoclassical church is the mother church of San Lorenzo, dating back to the 17th century, the Agostiniani monastery and dating back to the baronial palace as early as 1100.
The church of the souls of Sante del Purgatorio rises on the basilic caves dedicated to San Trifone, also revered in Alessano and in the Bari area of ​​Adelfia.

In Carpignano Salentino the famous Byzantine crypt of Santa Cristina (IX-XI centuries). It is the first testimony of the Byzantine Greek rite in the area and holds some of the oldest frescoes in the whole of Southern Italy. Very well known that of the Christ of Theophilatus. Ippolito Borghese, an Umbrian painter active between the 16th and 17th centuries, is present in the sanctuary of the Madonna della Grotta, another pride of Carpignano.

In the hamlet of Serrano, from 18 to 20 August each year, the Festa de lu Contadinu takes place, which is now very much crowded by natives and tourists. And then L'Olio della Poesia, an event that annually awards an artist of national importance with a quintal of extra virgin olive oil. Three kilometers from Serrano, in the ancient fief of Stigliano, here is the small church of Santa Marina, dated 1762.

We are now in Martignano, the city of the illuminist economist Giuseppe Palmieri, to whom a park is dedicated, a large reception area and tourist promotion, with a library and media library. Thousands of visitors each year. From here, guided tours for all the Salento. Here the musical tradition of the pizzica is very widespread: there are always many popular groups that propagate the verb of the famous dance of Salento. >To visit the sixteenth-century master church of Santa Maria dei Martiri and that of San Francesco d'Assisi. Among the historic buildings, definitely the Palmieri. Lastly, in Martignano, finally, the wells for water collection.

We close with Cutrofiano, also near the area of ​​Maglie and Scorrano.
The city is the most important center of ceramic production of the lower Salento. A medieval tradition. In August, as early as 1973, the great annual exhibition of terracotta was held. To visit the Museum of Ceramics, in the Municipal Library, with medieval but also prehistoric finds. The master church, dedicated to a widespread cult in Salento, that of the Madonna della Neve, dates back to the seventeenth century. To quote a painting by Francesco Solimena and a XVII century wooden Crucifix. Among the palaces, above all the Filomarini, of the '600, attributed to Francesco Manuli. Also worthy of a visit is the crypt of San Giovanni Battista, about 1 km from the center. Here a small rock church and a small medieval necropolis. The Fossil Park is of great interest in Cutrofiano, on the road to Aradeo, at the crossroads with Sogliano. Housed in a former clay quarry, it is a real historical site, 12 hectares large.
Here are visible several marine geological strata with fossils and very interesting finds. A quarry much studied in the scientific environment and that however experienced a long period of abandonment in the 80s, when it even became an illegal waste dump. Now the situation is much better: 8000 trees have also been cultivated along the edges. In addition, the area has been reclaimed and thus the borders. And history is saved. A story to be appreciated, known and protected.

The history of Cutrofiano, the history of all the villages of the Taranta.

Read the first part of this journey...

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