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
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
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
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