Welcome to Grecìa! This is not a spelling mistake, but the i is accentuated to indicate that this is exactly what it says. Because we are not talking about the notorious Greece, but of that area in Salento, south of Lecce, called Grecìa Salentina, a rough but cozy earth, exotic but close, an island of contrasts, beginning with the spoken language, the griko, an idiom of hellenic origin handed down for centuries at the oral level.
Kalòs ìrtate stin Grecìa Salentina
We have divided the route between the small villages in half, so in this post we will tell you five of the nine countries that fall into this area.
The journey can only begin with Calimera, which in Greek means good morning. This small town feeds in summer with the Lampioni Festival announcing the hottest season during the solstice. This year we also participated in this event that animates the lanes and streets of the old town with large “lanterns” of various shapes: giraffes, big stars, ships, bells, clocks or even clowns.
The Lampposts are real light sculptures, created by artists who work with poor materials, according to tradition and hang on the streets of the old town that thus acquires an air of wonders.
We have taken advantage of not only to visit the village and to participate in the festive party but also to browse among local handicraft items and clothing, bijoux, soaps, accessories and much more strictly handmade, exhibited in the historic Palazzo Sabella Tommasi by the Accademia dei Volenterosi for the fourth edition of “Creatività in mostra”, promoted by the founder and president Giusi Portaluri.
Another important moment Calimera lives during the Easter between ancient olive trees and ancient forests. The Angel’s Monday is in fact in the little church dedicated to San Vito, an ancient and singular rite: the passage through the perennial stone.
In this church, built in 1648, the center of the nave is a large rounded stone, about a meter high, with a hole of 27 cm in diameter at the floor level. Tradition wants people pass across the hole. The rite consists in passing through the stone hole and magic is accomplished at the moment of passage: it is believed that rock moves its qualities of strength and power, thus ensuring good health to all, in particular strength and virility to men and fertility to women.
Now Sternatia is waiting for us, the heart of Grecia, where griko are still spoken as dialects among local people. And in fact, feeling them talking does not really understand anything! Even before entering the country, you must pass Porta Filia, the door of friendship and peace, passing through its arch near which is located the door leading to the hypogeum Granafei crusher.
We find with astonishment and excitement that this mill, one of the oldest in the province, was excavated in the fifteenth century during the feud of the Acquaviva, which besides the Dukes of Nardò and Counts of Conversano, our city, were also Barons of Sternatia. And the emotions do not end when they enter the crusher underground. You can imagine the sweat, the fatigue of men and animals, the life lived below by entire families: there is even a room for eating meals with seats and table engraved in the stone.
Continue to visit the town of Sternatia with the stop in the square on which the Palazzo Granafei, impressive seen from the outside and looking out from the inner courtyard.
Martano is the largest and most populated village in Grecìa, where look out over the cobbled streets skip like ancient noble women houses dating from the 16th and 18th centuries, squares overlooked by modern and geometric sculptures, hidden and precious churches, imposing castle with the particular curious walls with windows that open to nothing.
A place to be discovered on foot, possibly slowly, between glimpses of palaces and palaces, fresh and tree-lined inner courtyards, or gathered well-kept and well-groomed court houses.
Everywhere there are beautiful and mignani lodges, sort of balconies that can be seen in the street without being seen, such as the one embroidered in the stone of Palazzo Andrichi Moschettini.
Just outside the country is worth the walk the Specchia dei Mori known in griko as Segla u demonìu, the Specchia of the Devil. It is one of the great specchie of Salento, a typical phenomenon exclusively of this area, consisting of boulders of different sizes, stacked one on the other, to form a cumulation, a specchia precisely, used most likely as a sighting structure.
Located on a hilltop, from the top of specchia, six meters high, today dominated by a large fig tree, you can extend the look beyond the country’s borders. It has its name in a legend that tells that the specchia was built by imposing Moors, who wanted to reach the sky to “touch” the gods. But the gods did not look good at this business and, as they did to Babel, they destroyed this rudimentary way of communication between heaven and earth, buried underneath even those who wanted to build it.
In Corigliano d’Otranto the protagonist is the castle. In spite of the transformations that have taken place over the years, it has even been a tobacco factory until a few decades ago. It is still impressive in the center of the village with the magnificent circular towers and the vast balcony that serves scenic support to statues in the three niches representing at the center the lord De Monti, and on the side Charity and Justice.
Another highlight is the arch “Lucchetti”, a portal dating back to 1497 which, in its rich embroidery carved in stone, tells the story of man and woman called to form a family and to find their weight, but always under the auspices of a good star.
Spell in spell we come to Castrignano dei Greci and its park of Pozzelle, where we are told the story of a country that no longer exists and its water resources, precious and ancient in a thirsty Salento.
Morfeo calls: goodnight or, as you would say, kalinifta!