Oriental fortresses


Archaeological sites, cathedrals, palaces, villas, farmhouses, fortresses represent the most typical images of Puglia. Do not miss visiting castles, to be won over by their charm and darkness of a thousand legends that lurk within their walls. Arose largely in the Middle Ages, their presence has been gaining over the eminently defensive function, to take on the connotation instrument of political power aimed at control of the territory.

If most of the castles dating back to the Norman – Swabian, were the Spaniards to fortify the coast with the most modern defense canons, making use of military architects such Evangelista Menga and Gian Giacomo dell’Acaya, and often readapted even existing castles making them impregnable.

Spanish is the fortress of Lecce, impressive in the heart of the city, which opens the doors of Salento. The castle consists of two concentric bodies: inside there is the most ancient, the medieval one, while the outside was built by the architect Gian Giacomo of on behalf of Charles V.
Further down along the Adriatic coast, we arrive in Otranto, whose manor recalls secular threats suffered by these beautiful coasts from the Turks and the terrible massacre of 1480. In fact, the castle was built right in the aftermath of the 800 idruntini martyrdom on remains of a pre-existing fort from the Byzantine period, to better protect the town.
Currently the Castle of Otranto is considered one of the largest and most majestic buildings of Salento along the Adriatic coast, close to the sea and surrounded by a wide and deep moat still visible. The defensive walls were reinforced by three circular towers, Hippolyta, Alfonsina and Duchess. Even the tower to “Spearhead”, jutting out into the sea, was built by the Aragonese. The main façade presents the coat of arms of Charles V and the Viceroy Don Pedro da Toledo.

Upon entering, you are surrounded by history and imagine the life of the time inside the fortress as it is described in the famous novel “Castle of Otranto” written in the eighteenth century by English Horace Walpole: on the vault of the entrance hall there is a slit narrow and long, from which it was lowered in the past the iron gate. Of guns even in the circular rooms of the towers while the lower rooms are full of shortcuts, underground and escape routes. Lately the castle, home to interesting artistic events, has been renovated and have been brought to light the ancient moat and a drawbridge.

A Otranto you do not expect is that of Tartufi & Funghi (Via Idro , 32 – Otranto – info: +39 393 2516511 – giulianoborgia@gmail.com), restaurant in the city center to sample dishes all made from local truffle that Giuliano Borgia, with his father and thanks to the instinct of their dogs, collects in the woods and pine forests that smell of the sea. To sleep in the green tranquility close to the sea, north of Otranto at the Alimini Lakes, there is the Residence Altair (Location Serra Alimini – Otranto – info: +39 0836 801 166 – www.residencealtair.it – info@residencealtair.it), a oasis of peace in which even our four-legged friends are welcome: spacious suites equipped with every comfort, a lot of vegetation that provides coolness and awakenings to the sound of birds, a large swimming pool and private beach for guests.

Deeply connected to the history of Otranto castle is the Castro fortress, defined strategic importance for the defense of the kingdom by Charles I of Anjou. The city was also invaded by the Turks in 1480 and after the sacking of Otranto, the castle was partially destroyed. It was the noble family of Gattinara, in the sixteenth century, to make rebuilding the castle on the ruins of the ancient fortress, building a new plant to quadrilateral defensive structure, with four bastions and an embankment. The structure was later strengthened by the Spanish viceroy Don Pedro de Toledo, while the Sienese architect Tiburzio Spannocchi planned the construction of the rampart to protect the Porta Terra, the massive south tower, called Torre Catalano, and a characteristic fortified wall hexagonal system stretched, equipped with bastions and curtain towers at strategic points. The structure was fully restored in recent years, has a conference room and hosts, in the halls and in the corner of the east tower, the Civic Museum “Antonio Lazzari” with the permanent archaeological exhibition “Castrum Minervae: between Greeks and Messapi”, which allows to admire the many and various finds from the recent excavations carried out in the historic center of the town which has reserved the wonderful surprise in the summer of last year, the discovery of the statue with finely draped dresses that represent the goddess Atena- Minerva which was dedicated the temple mentioned by Virgil in connection with the landing of Aeneas. And here so it definitely puts the matter related to the debate on where Aeneas, fleeing from Troy destroyed, had landed arriving in Italy. So far, in fact, to contend for this landing were Porto Badisco near Otranto and Roca Vecchia in the territory of Melendugno. But between the two litigants, as often happens, it has the third and is now historically established that the Trojan hero call was right in the town called by the Romans  Castrum Minervae.

To stay a few days in this strip of land where the protagonist is the myth, our advice is to stay at Hotel Piccolo Mondo, (lit. Castro – Santa Cesarea Terme – Castro Marina – info: +39 947 035 0836 – www.piccolomondo.it – info@hotel-piccolomondo.it) on the road to Santa Cesarea Terme: overlooking the sea, it stands out among the rocks and the Mediterranean, right next to one of the wonders of Salento, the Cave of Zinzulusa (read more: http://www. cittameridiane.it/la-blue-route-da-otranto-a-castro/) . And to relax, swim in the large pool with sea water that avoids the trouble of the steep ascent between high and jagged rocks.



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