Carovigno has been called a precious architectural synthesis. It is enough to walk through the streets and small squares of its historic center to realize how apt this definition is: to an attentive observer the signs of the past carved in the stone do not escape.
Churches, alleys and towers in the village
From here Messapi, Greeks and Romans passed. Then came the Visigoths, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Lombards, the Normans, the Swabians, the Angevins, the Aragoneses, the Venetians, the Austrians, the Bourbons and the brigands.
And everyone has left a trace in the lines of architecture as well as in history. And, attached to the track, culture. Along with the flavors and saints, who still live in popular traditions like the one linked to the cult of the ‘Nzegna of which we have been direct witnesses and which we will tell you about in the post Carovigno to live.
We only anticipate that the Nzegna show is dedicated to the statue of the Madonna del Belvedere on the day of the festival, with the colorful drapes thrown with dexterity by the flag-wavers who are called battitori here.
From the main square, Piazza ‘Nzegna, where one of the events that commemorates the ancient tradition of the flag takes place every year, you plunge into the whiteness of the village, coming across small and narrow streets that very often have no way out and end in small courtyards, called coorti, in which the daily life of entire families developed.
The tangle of narrow streets and small squares certainly had the purpose of better defending the village in case of attack or invasion of the enemy, as well as the entrance of the houses almost always placed on the first floor and connected to the road by the vignali, the steps which were accessed to the gates.
About invasions are found everywhere the passages that remain in the style elements of houses and decorations that preserve a Greek, Romanesque and even Venetian flavor, which are found in precious portals hidden in the dense fabric of the historic center.
The Venetian gothic of a house located just a few meters from the Archi Del Prete, a sort of walkway created in the thick walls, is recognizable: here stands a balcony with corbels ending with four heads of young girls who seem to look at anyone passing underneath.
After crossing the arch, a section of the medieval walls appears in front of it and the round tower called gironda is immediately visible. While a clear element of Arab importation are the fragrant orange groves that pop up behind the high curtains of tuff.
Looking up is necessary to identify the magnificent rose window that adorned the main door of the original building of the Mother Church dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua, one of the few elements left after the enlargement and the opening of the main entrance on Via Cattedrale.
Other important remains that remain of the fortified village are the doors. Porta Brindisi overlooks Piazza ‘Nzegna and leads towards the Cathedral. Its peculiarity is that it actually consists of two doors, an internal one dating back to the Angevin period and an external one, wider and fortified, of the Aragonese age. Next to it stands the Civic Tower, on which today a large clock is displayed.
Between the wonderful Castello Dentice di Frasso and the church of Sant’Anna is Porta Ostuni, above which a walkway was built at the beginning of the 20th century to connect the manor to the sacred building.
The castle emerges imposing and beautiful on the highest part of the town. The original fortification, dating back to the Normans, was incorporated into the constructions of the following centuries and what today appears to the visitor is a sort of architectural puzzle, due to the fact that each feudal lord wanted to carry out expansion works and added buildings to the fortress, until imposing restoration that gave it to us as we see it today and that is due to the Dentice di Frasso family.
In the 1400s the almond tower was built, a hallmark of the castle, perhaps designed by the well-known Sienese-born military architect Francesco De Giorgio Martini. The tower is a mirror of the times that Carovigno lived at the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries: the new Saracen techniques of assault from afar with firearms imposed new defensive ways such as the almond tower, precisely, with the narrow part facing the sea and the elusive curved walls to dodge the blows.
Of the restoration carried out between the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, Gaetano Marschiczek, the architect from Lecce, took care of this, endowing the manor with harmonic and more modern elements, starting from the floor, a grit similar to the Venetian terrazzo floors, characteristic of the patrician houses of the lagoon city.
The large fireplaces were embellished with coats of arms and symbols that recall the sea and the activity of Count Alfredo Dentice who was Admiral of the Navy and founder of the San Marco Battalion of Venice. It was to the count and his wife, the Austrian noblewoman Elizabeth of Schlippenbach, that the castle was donated on the occasion of their wedding. And the couple lived happily here until a few years before the outbreak of World War II: she died in 1938 in a car accident in Trieste and the count followed her two years later due to a plane crash.
We were fascinated by the story of this love that won over the moral of the time: the countess who had married a Hungarian noble in a first unhappy marriage, fell madly in love with Alfredo, reciprocated, and in order to live with him she gave up her only son. She will not have any with the count, so the castle passed into the hands of their nephew Luigi who sold it in 1961 and is now owned by the Province of Brindisi. Granted in use to the Municipality of Carovigno, today the monumental complex of the Dentice di Frasso castle is a place that belongs to the entire community with a museum, a library and the municipal archive.
Not only does the fortress deserve a visit but also the gardens to which the counts Alfredo and Elisabetta accessed through a short tunnel, now walled up. Together with the terraces of the castle, in fact, the park today open to all, was the favorite destination of the walks of the noblewoman who, passionate about greenery, wanted a veritable botanical garden inside her.
Castle Dentice di Frasso
Via Sant’Anna 2
Visits organized by the Le Colonne Association
Open: 09:30 – 13:00, 17:30 – 21:30
In collaboration with the Municipality of Carovigno
With the support of Banca di Credito Cooperativo di Conversano