There is a Salento of small villages, quieter and less known, away from the sea but surrounded by lush countryside. Among these villages we are fascinated by Ruffano, a somewhat deserted country in the center of Italy’s heel, in the low Salento.
Ruffano and Torrepaduli: Salento of small villages
One of the peculiarities that immediately jump to the eye of the land where the country rises is the “serre”, a sort of little hills.
The same village is not as flat as most of the Salento’s centers but it is inert on one of them, as it is visible as if it were a thick coat of arms, it is the one to the right of the village bordered by a holm oaks and oak forest.
A mysterious charm emanates the old historic center, with its alleyways, palaces and portals. On the main square overlooks the matrix church, magnificent baroque building of 1705, while next to Brancaccio palace stands 1626, adorned with sculptures and joined by Licci palace, of the same period.
We did not expect such magnificence in a small village in the Salento countryside…
Noteworthy is also the Casa a corte Giangreco, characterized by a rich ‘mignano’, a balcony located in the facade of the house, detached from the rest and accessed by a staircase. It was a very feminine space: from there, women, taking the air, participated in the life of the community without staying in the street.
Another surprise was to find a somewhat sleepy but very lively center rich with many craft activities.
Every year the Paisiello theater organizes a contemporary dramaturgical review, ‘Kairos’, which features works set up mainly by local and apulian companies.
With regard to handicrafts, the flagship is certainly the ceramic since Ruffano has been since the antiquity renowned for this activity. And besides the traditional “puteche ta crita” (clay workshops) there are today refined workshops like Pamela Maglie’s where to browse among paintings, clay and papier artefacts, ornaments and elegant ceramic realizations in raku technique.
Products related to tradition are also tambourines. In the hamlet of Torrepaduli, the kingdom of Pizzica, master Rocco Luca builds his instruments, the famous Tamburelli of Torrepaduli. Produced entirely in handicrafts with kid’s or bigger ones, goat’s. The frames are made of beech wood and treated only with natural oils. And those are the ones played by “The Tamburellists of the Torrepaduli”, the group set up by Rocco in the late 1980s and soon became famous, not only in Salento.
The name of the small hamlet originates from two elements: the three towers, or the only tower as some claim to, which constituted the ancient fortress, and the surrounding marsh.
Coming from Ruffano, you will be in front of the San Rocco Sanctuary, on the shrine of which every year the characteristic Sword Dance is held, in the night between August 15 and 16. The dance consists of a ritual complex accompanied by the sound of harmonics with the mouth and the inevitable tambourines. The movements want to mimic a fight with the knives, which, as it is said, seems to have been really used one time. Only two dancers are involved in the dance, which are replaced one by one by the public. Folklore performances continue throughout the night, from the sunset of the Ferragosto Day until the dawn of the 16th.
Always at Torrepaduli is a must visit from Kiasmo, headquarter of Vincenzo d’Alba (designer), Francesco Maggiore (creative director) and Mauro Melissano (Ceo) who from 2011 develop their concept of creativity completely designed and hand-made, which rotates around plates, tiles, and vases with a black and white graphic immediately recognizable.
Here the search for traditional themes comes to a more contemporary look not only of ceramics but of fashionable design with the production of essential, clean and very chic T-shirts, stockings and handbags.
Diving in the past guaranteed, however, with a visit to the Museum of Peasant Civilization housed on the ground floor of the eighteenth-century Palazzo Pasanisi: 10 rooms to tell the interesting journey within the peasant civilization of Salento from the late 1800 until a few decades ago. During the “journey” you can have the chance to discover the ways, uses and traditions that still retain their charm. But the museum has not only the function of storing objects, utensils and even toys, it is also the venue for cultural events and shows.
At Ruffano there is one of the best restaurants in Salento and Puglia, “La Farmacia dei Sani”. The restaurant, named after the fact that it is right next to what was once the pharmacy of the country, we are talking about trust for now because we have not had this time to taste the cuisine proposed by Fabio and Roberto Rizzo, together with sister Valentina, who is the very best chef. We soon postpone the tastes of their delicacies that we hope to be able to tell you soon.