MELENDUGNO

Half way between Brindisi and Otranto, along the beautiful Adriatic coast of Salento, is where one will find Melendugno, a cultural chest which preserves precious treasures in its territory.

Its history begins during the Neolithic era and is testified by the presence of Megalithic Dolmen (Placa and Gurgulante) and then moves on to the Rocavecchia locality, where the first inhabitants settled during the Bronze Age (17th-16th Centuries BC). These inhabitants erected walls to fortify there habitation, therefore showing a civilisation which was very advanced for the time.
On the same spot, after the previous City was burnt down, another settlement grew under the Messapians (10th Century BC), a population originally from Illyria.
This mysterious population left written testimony in the Poesia Piccola cave and in a recently found Necropolis.
The Romans called it Lupiae and recent digs have brought to light an extended habitat with houses, streets and temples. It was probably abandoned and left open to sea forces and Barbaric hordes. Today, Lupiae shows little testimony of its ancient strengths.
During the Byzantine period, after the Barbaric invasions (5th Century AD) and the Ostrogoth Reign period (496-535), Basilican monks arrived here in escape from iconoclastic persecution enforced by the Eastern Roman Empire (7th Century) and settled in the numerous caves throughout the territory.
It was only with the advent of the Normans (11th Century) that the monks could feel secure to openly preach. The Abbey of San Niceta was erected in Melendugno in the 12th Century.
During Angioina domination (13th -14th Centuries) in the south, a castle was built in Roca, under the wishes of Gualtieri VI of Brienne (14th Century AD), but with the arrival of the Turks of Mohammed II (1480), the City yielded after resisting numerous sieges over the years.
It then became a true and proper Turkish base, as they were now owners of Otranto. It was raised to the ground by the wishes of Emperor Carlo V of Hapsburg half way through the ‘500s. Its inhabitants transferred out and founded Roca Nuova hinterland.
The Torre di Guardia (Watchtowers) were constructed in 1570 and are still visible today. They were equipped with defensive canons and good visibility in case of enemy attack.
In 1809, Melendugno became a commune which included the neighbouring rural houses of San Foca (Towers from the 17th Century), the Specchia Towers, Orso Towers and Saint Andrea Towers.
In 1860, a plebiscitary vote sanctioned the union of the Lands of Otranto into the Reign of Italy (1861).
In Melendugno, other than the beautiful coastal area of Roca Vecchia, rich in historical-cultural testimonies, one can visit the Amely Baronial building (16th Century), a feudatory seat which for centuries gave power to the City and the abbatial church of San Niceta.
Not to be missed: a visit to nearby Bargagne, where one can admire the Petraroli Castle and the beautiful Parochial Church (1611).

MELENDUGNO
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Puglia (Apulia) region of Italy

 

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