Those who follow us for some time know that our firm conviction is that every place, even the smallest, has something beautiful and interesting that can be told. This is one of the reasons why we have decided to visit all of the 258 municipalities of Puglia, from capitals to small centers, from the borders of Daunia to the extreme farthest part of Salento, from Manzanarre to the Rhine – no ops this is another history !, from the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea, and to include the story of the visits on our blog.
Many of these countries boast overwhelming and wondrous wonders with baroque or linear embroideries and imposing Romanesque or more hidden monuments such as frescoed caves and crypts.
In Ortelle the political manifesto of the Roman Catholic Church
In our last tour in Salento we have been to Ortelle, a quiet and sleepy village that extends between the ancient Messapic cities of Castro and Vaste.
If the country has its pretty size gathered around the main square where are a menhir and the Mother Church dedicated to the protector San Giorgio, its true jewel is hidden beneath the earth.
This is shown by the President Pro Loco, Dr. Luigi Guglielmo, who waits for us in Largo San Vito, where besides the precious Santa Maria della Grotta crypt we are about to visit, there is also the church of Santi Vito and Marina.
Below this church there are the ruins of another rock building that still has traces of frescoes and ancient pillars and a hypogeum then used as a tombstone pit.
But the most interesting testimony of the rocky medieval settlement that occupied most of the large space that today is largo San Vito is undoubtedly the Marian crypt excavated entirely in the rock which is accessed through two vaulted stairs.
The interior, very impressive, is divided into three aisles with frescoes dating to the Middle Ages that are hidden in more points from the subsequent Baroque decoration of the apses represented by the altars and the frescos Sant’Eligio, Madonna and Santi Medici.
The attention is focused on the right wall where the most enigmatic image of the entire pictorial decoration of the crypt lies: a 15th century fresco filled with figures representing a political manifesto of the Roman Catholic Church, which is a symbol of the Latinization process of Salento territory, traditionally linked to the Greek culture and rite, wanted by the Princes of the Balzo, the lords of the Castro County of which Ortelle was part.
In the fresco, the images of the Eternal Father are clearly visible between two fluttering angels and two female figures holding a drape with three circles depicting the passion of Christ: the Flagellation, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.
The recently restored frescoes tell us a well-trained and sophisticated representation of the values of the Catholic faith with many similarities with the depictions of the most famous Basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Galatina and Santo Stefano in Soleto.
This is the right time to schedule a visit to the town because from Thursday 19 October to Sunday 22 October Ortelle becomes the capital of the pig during the Fair of San Vito, one of the oldest in southern Italy, attracting tens of thousands of visitors every year from every part of the south. The event, which is part of the “Regional Fair Demonstration” award, has become an unmissable appointment for exhibitors, producers and, above all, admirers of pigs reared in Ortelle and Vignacastrisi territory with old breeding techniques, the meat of which is prepared and served in delicious recipes, from the most traditional to the most original.
To sleep go to the hamlet of Vignacastrisi, a small town where it seems to return to Italy in the 50s of the last century. In the center of the main square and in front of the Madre church named after the Immaculate, stands the imposing Palazzo Guglielmo, of which we were guests and have already told you in the post https://www.cittameridiane.it/en/invitation-to-the-court/.
If you decide to stay for dinner to enjoy a delicious local menu recipes served in the cozy and romantic restaurant room of the palace, do not give up then take a stroll through the streets of the hamlet, engraved with colorful flower pots and the signs that they remember the years past, when in the small but very well-stocked stores of the village everything was from bread to toothpaste!