Vernole lies south of Lecce and includes in its territory one of the most striking features of the Adriatic coast, including Le Cesine reserve, a natural beauty oasis of rare beauty currently managed by WWF, and the fortified citadel Acaya, dating to the sixteenth century. The village also incorporates the villages of Strudà, Acquarica di Lecce, Pisignano, Vanze and the marinas of San Cataldo and Torre Specchia.
Walks between nature and history
In the small town to visit the hypogeum crusher Caffa in the belly of the main square and accessed through a staircase that leads to a main setting where there is the tank for squeezing the olives around 1500, and on the sides the presses of the “Calabrian” and “Genoese” type, dating back to 1700. The stable with the animal grower and the storage rooms for oil and untreated olives used until 1898 were also completely preserved. Abandoned and filled with soil, it is has been recently recovered, and preserves the charm of ancient times unaltered when underground, for six or seven months they worked, without ever tracing on the surface because they were afraid of possible theft, crusher.
Inside, the crew was called a crew and the squad was nachiru, as a shipwreck like a ship: it was he who owned the owner and controlled the hard work of those who produced soap oil, then embarked for Genoa and Marseille, or for the lamps, which departed for Northern Europe. The terminology used for the work of the mills resumed terms related to the navy, because those who in the winter mourned the olives, worked on the boats for a long time in the summer.
For nature lovers, is indispensable the visit to the natural reserve Le Cesine, oasis that encloses in its territory a wide variety of natural habitats, hiking trails and observation huts to admire its fauna and flora, pine forests, Mediterranean vegetation and animals that inhabit them. In the walk, eye to recognize some of the plants that characterize this area: sea gull, plantain, marine fennel, Phoenician juniper, lily and seaweed.
But the true symbol of the territory of Vernole is the fortified town of Acaya, built to combat the Turkish invasions of the 16th century. It is a true self-sufficient citadel, in fact, between its walls there is a well of spring water for sustenance, a hypogeous crusher and dozens of silos excavated in the rock for the collection and preservation of foodstuffs. The castle was built in 1506 by Baron-architect Gian Giacomo and represents the clear will to transform the small and old village of Segine into a true city-fortress.
What makes the town unique in the apulian landscape is that it can rightly belong to the list of “ideal cities” on Italian soil such as Pienza, Palmanova, Monteriggioni, San Leucio and others.
What is an “ideal city”? It is an urban structure designed with geometric patterns, a small architectural gem stemming from a utopia or the vision of a gentleman, as in this case Baron Gian Giacomo dell’Acaya, who also worked on the design of Lecce and Crotone castles.
Acaya has the shape of a square, with its sides 250 meters long and at the four corners the “spearhead” ramparts. At the extremities of the north-south diagonal are the Castle and the Convent of the Franciscans. In the center of the city, right after the monumental arch of access, there is the square with the Matrix Church.
The entrance to the city is surprising for its importance with Porta Terra, on which stands the coat of arms and dedicatory epigraph to Carlo V.
Its gradient structure culminates in the statue of Sant’Oronzo, while in the double arch lie hiding systems such as the losers. To the left, the Castle is a superb bastion with the moat, the pointed bastion, the imposing circular towers, the façade and the courtyard with the entrance deck.
The entrance hall is in the courtyard overlooking the residential premises, the noble apartment, the noble hall, the stables and the beautiful frescoed Dormitio Virginis.
If they close their eyes so much that they do not pay attention to the cars parked on the square seems to be able to live in the first person those days when Gian Giacomo received here, in his Acaya, Salento nobility, literate and men of sword, proud of his little town and his dream come true.
If the stomach bites bring you back to reality, do not hesitate to reach Trattoria Acaya (Via Rugge 13 – +39 0832 861104 – +39 347 4084175 – firstname.lastname@example.org) to taste, greeted by Oliviero in the garden of an ancient 18th-century court with scented lemon and mandarin trees, typical Salento flavors like chicory, ciceri and tria, tajeddha (potato with rice, mussels and zucchini) and horse stew with sauce. The time is slow and it is pleasing to hear the history of this tavern indissolubly linked to that of the country so much that its name is resumed and for more than twenty years it is a reference point for traditional Salento cuisine.
(Cover photo by Lucilla Cuman)