Village of Specchia
Municipality of Specchia
Province of Lecce
Altitude centre: 131 m s.l.m.
the Municipality is part of:
I Borghi più belli d'Italia
Unione Terra di Leuca bis
Municipality of Specchia
Via San Giovanni Bosco 6 - Specchia (LE)
Tel. +39 0833 536293
The village of Specchia owes its name from the accumulation of dry stones that the Messapians used as defense works and watch stations. In the Middle Ages, Specchia was called Speda de Amygdalis and over the centuries had also been called Specchia Mendolia. The name indicates that in the past the area of Specchia was rich in almond trees. An almond tree which grows on a mound of stone is represented, in fact, even on the civic coat of arms of the village. According to the legend, Specchia was founded by the Roman matron Lucrezia Amendolara, to whom is dedicated the main street of the village. The full name was "Specchia Preti", but after the Unification of Italy people felt the need to clear the epithet "Preti" (priests) and King Vittorio Emanuele II welcomed the request in 1873.
The first news about the existence of the hamlet of Specchia date back to the XI century when, probably, a small nucleus of peasants and shepherds, to shelter from the frequent Saracen raids, occupied this hill that was high enough and far from the sea. The hill began to be surrounded by large walls, towers and other military works, but nothing remained. In memory of that, there is only the name of two roads: Mura di Ponente and Mura di Levante. As for the fifteenth-century towers only two has remained, even if they are incorporated in subsequent constructions.
The old town centre is the highest expression of life and history of the population, and the one of Specchia is considered the most beautiful of the Salento area. Still today, it reveals a medieval system enclosed in a 700 meters long circle, that corresponds with the perimeter of the ancient walls. Around the primitive nucleus, constituted by the castle, a series of houses and roads were slowly built around it, as the population increased significantly. The most striking thing is the one placed behind the castle. Here the steep nature of the place transformed the streets in stairways creating a prospective game and a scenography that you can't see easily in the rest of Salento.
Everywhere you can see short, narrow streets that sometimes reveal glimpses of the plain below and other times end in alleys or open up onto courts, almost like small squares, with stacks made with the local stone to wash clothes, with the common tank and the cultivated flowers. These courts represent the ancient lounges of the people, who spent great part of the day outdoors and came into the house only to eat and sleep.
But the old town centre of Specchia does not only hide great things on every street corner, but also below them. You must absolutely visit the undeground olive oil mills, that date back to a period of time between 1500 and 1800.
They were built underground for two reasons: the simplicity of excavation was more convenient than building on the ground level; moreover, it was easier to keep a constant temperature of about 20°C degrees: this is the optimal temperature for the separation of the so-called santina from the oil itself.
Another expedient was to place the mouth of the mill to south, to defend themselves better from the north winds.
The story tells that during the Kingdom of Naples, Salento had the supremacy in the olive oil production; in fact, Capo di Leuca is full of these architectural structures that are now abandoned.
Olive oil mills were the fundamental economic resource of this land.
NOTE: distances are set as the crow flies.