I’m among the children who have lived the “vacation”. We were eagerly awaiting the end of school to leave, every time almost a move, including cats, red fish and tartarugins, for the family villa in La Selva di Fasano, a space of memory that for me cares the essence of childhood and adolescence.
The slow pace of the vacation
A place in those times still immersed in the uncontaminated peace of nature, where life was running slowly and the events were represented by the visits my aunts received or who had to return to their friends who lived in huge villas from shady parks.
For us kids to spend the summers at Villa Cofano meant to live the first adventures in autonomy: after the noisy lunches in the blinding light that came from the large windows of the room with the table always set, it was always planned to pennichella, but we always found the way to get away. I, sleeping in my private trullo, came out of the low window to play protected from the pine trees during the hot afternoons. Then, towards the dusk, after the snack with the little breads prepared for us by the half-sweet wife tasted of freshly picked tomatoes or with an egg drunk directly through a hole in the still warm shell because taken directly from the chicken coop, went on foot or by bicycle at the Masseria Torremoscia to buy the milk just moistened to enjoy the morning afterwards for breakfast.
Remembering these moments really seems like another life, lived by lost communities… That villa still exists, but we do not go back longer and from this year belongs to others. Somehow it is better to have gone that way, because the memories remain as they are, without the removal that is born of disenchantment linked to adulthood.
Spending a few days at Le Cenate at Villa Teresa (Via Taverna 14, Nardò – +39 347 9188102), an ancient house dating back to 1870, reminded me of those summers, long and suspended over time. This place, like La Selva, was a holiday resort that arose to escape the torrid heat of houses in the village, including Cenate Vecchie, the oldest villas, and Cenate Nuove, with villas built over the past two centuries, and it houses numerous old-world dwellings in a context of secular gardens.
Three hypotheses about the name of this location. The first one leads its back to a hot sulfur water source called “Cenata”. The second, most enjoyable, is related to the memory of dinners and banquets in the villas of the lords. But the most credited is the one that comes back to the wine-growing area, in particular the cultivation of an “acinata” grape.
Although a few miles from the sea, walking through narrow country roads that flank these houses, baroque, in Moorish or Liberty style, there is an absolute peace between the chanting of the cicadas during the day and the sound acute and strident of the horn howl in the night.
A real oasis for those who like us want to enjoy the sea during the day, but then back to the evening, will come back “home” to rest between the cool trees and old walls.
Villa Teresa offers its guests also refreshing bathrooms in a large swimming pool at the back of the house where, away from prying eyes, enjoy the warm sunshine in tranquility.
On the road leading to the b&b comes the tall wall of Villa Taverna, the oldest of Cenate, an imposing mansion that seems to date back to the 15th century and originally was probably a station of change for horses and hostel for travelers, as it was built on the ancient road that united Taranto to Leuca, whose signs in the rock are well visible, excavated for millennia. The linear facade is crowned by the concave and convex arch wall, and embellished by Baroque portal and balconies.
Among the largest in the area is also the Bishop’s Villa, a summer residence of the bishop of Nardò, from the neoclassical style, but with Baroque elements found in exuberant decorations under the windows of the ground floor.
In the area there is also a huge trullo of Alberobello, which, as one would say, “doesn’t fit” but is now part of this landscape almost to challenge the magnificence of noble dwellings. Behind the Posto di Blocco, a supermarket that inherits its name from the military control center in World War II, you will reach Villa Venturi and Villa Maria Cristina, which hosted the Allied Command.
In the required villas, British officers and their troops managed the Jews stay at the concentration camp and Villa Muci, now Fonte, was a refectory and a meeting room for refugees. Built in 1896 on a 17th century farmhouse, it has simple features with a classical pronaos and columns with Ionic capitals. Pity has been in complete abandonment for so many years and almost unhappy with its beauty to anyone who goes by the way to the sea.
After this fast ride between the past and the present, it is obligatorythe bathroom in the fresh and clean waters of the Porto Selvaggio Park and the Palude del Capitano (see our previous post: https://www.cittameridiane.it/en/clear-fresh-and-soft-waters/).
And then an aperitif or dinner at sunset at Santa Maria al Bagno with a good glass of local dry white wine and the indispensable octopus meatballs!