It is often said, when you go towards the center of a city, which you will reach the heart of the same. In the case of Mesagne this is even more true as the old part of the town has just the shape of a heart, once surrounded by high walls and open outwards through two doors. One, Porta Grande still exists and acts as a monumental access to the historic center. Porta Piccola instead was demolished in the last century and later was added a third gate, Porta Nuova.
Mesagne, which owes its name to the fact of being located halfway between Brindisi and Oria, along the Via Appia, is also known as the “city of the 50 churches.” Above all, for majesty and elegance, imposes the Chiesa Matrice, a baroque jewel that is distinct from the Lecce baroque for rigor and linearity. Another gem is the church of Santa Maria with a facade reminiscent of the Santa Croce in Lecce. But the symbol of the city is the castle, in a first time the Norman-Swabian castle, then transformed into a noble residence and refined by its owners like Giovanni Antonio Orsini del Balzo, the most powerful feudal lord of the Kingdom of Naples, in the first half of 1400.
Mesagne has never focused on tourism, satisfied up to now by internal productivity ensured mainly by agriculture with products such principles as the artichoke PGI, olive oil and wine. But now it wants to be known and to appreciate for its architectural gems from the Castle, where is the seat of the Information Centre and Tourist Mesagne (Info: +39 0831 738898 – firstname.lastname@example.org – email@example.com), where we were greeted by the smiling manager Anna Chionna and well prepared Elisa Romano who guided us in the visit and fascinated us with stories of history and legend around the castle built by Roberto il Guiscardo and then donated to the Teutonic Knights. Its stories then binded to Manfredi, son of Frederick II, who besieged and destroyed it. It was later rebuilt by the Anjou although we can see the remnants of the ancient tower, from which the visit starts, you have to Giannantonio Balzo Orsini who built it impressive and surrounded by a deep moat. Inside Elisa points out the presence of prisons that are accessed via steep stairs, a spring water well, loopholes, cabinets and large fireplaces. The restoration has also access to the tanks where the oil was kept clear and power. The tour continues in the most “new” castle, now real mansion with eighteenth-century stucco wanted by feudal lord Giuseppe Barretta, the airy loggia, the fireplaces and the beautiful doors painted with the technique of faux marble.
From the big windows overlooking the charming Piazza Orsini del Balzo, designed by Francesco Capodieci to whom you owe the entire system of baroque Mesagne: in the background Palazzo Cavaliere and on the right the magnificent church of St. Anne, built by Vittoria Capano, the widow of Prince De Angelis, to fulfill the vow made to the Holy for the renewed health of her son Carmine.
On the ground floor there is the Museum “U. Granafei” with the remains of ancient messapica civilizations: trozzelle, tintinnabuli as the little horse in terracotta chosen as a symbol of the Museum and, at the end of the visit, the reconstruction and the extraordinary support of a monumental semi-chamber tomb.
Near the castle two culinary stops that we of Città Meridiane we did not miss. The first, with traditional cuisine and ambiance, to Giudamino (Via dei Florenzia 62 , +39 738 653 0831 – +39 329 6605271 – +39 348 0585210 – firstname.lastname@example.org) we were greeted in a warm and friendly welcome from Fabrizio Dipietrangelo, while the second to the Osteria del Vicoletto (Vico Quercia 1, +39 0831 1720678 – +39 328 1894343 – email@example.com), where Giovanni Dell’Atti prepares dishes with local produce and creative touches like pappardelle mixed with chestnut flour and seasoned with white ragout of lamb and turnips. Continuing on the gastronomic side, in front of the restaurant is the wine bar Giùdamino (Piazza dei Commestibili, +39 0831 738653 – +39 393 8745327) , in which Bruno, son of Fabrizio, offers in a peaceful atmosphere, as outside time, great choice of wines with small plates of cheeses and meats, hot flat breads and bagels.
Walking through the cobbled streets of the old town, very “lived” by all, young and old, they will find very specialized shops as Meghy Costumes D’epoque of Ramona D’aloisio (Via Albricci 7, +39 0831734402) when browsing and feel immersed in other times of knights and ladies! In the modern part of town, however, it is the temple of gourmets: Macelleria Carone (Via Nino Bixio 38, +39 0831 777399 – +39 346 6346509) active since 1951, offers quality food, exquisite cheeses and all kinds of cut of meat local and not. If you enter you can not come out empty-handed. To rest mind and limbs we chose a structure outside the country, Masseria Baroni Nuovi (we talk in Sogni d’oro: https://www.cittameridiane.it/masseria-baroni-nuovi-charme-su-misura), surrounded by green fields of artichokes and olive groves: coming in the evening you bring another dimension of time and of space. It seems, in fact, between rows of cypress trees and minor banks dense fog, to walk the streets of the Tuscan countryside. We are in Puglia, instead, a part of Puglia today less known but was once a crossroads of cultures and great traffic thanks to its strategic position placed almost in the middle between the Adriatic and the Ionian coast. Come and find out!
(Thanks to IAT and Promocultura Mesagne for some photos posted in the gallery).