An inhabited centre in the
Salento peninsular, in the area facing the Ionian Sea, is
where one will find Ugento immersed in land cultivated with
olives and vineyards.
It was a Messapian centre called Ozan, founded at the end
of the Bronze Age (XV Century BC). The presence of man on
its territory however, is testified at the end of the High
Palaeolithic period (14.000 years ago) in the villages of
Bocca, Pozzo Zecca and Cesira. From Neolithic times, there
is the Menhir of Terenzano and finds uncovered in the grottos
of Artanisi and Don Cirillo.
The centre enjoyed its maximum splendour with the Messapians,
as shown by the extension of the Ciclopiche Walls (Cyclopean
Walls - 9 kms long, of which 5kms are still preserved) and
the fact that Ugento minted its own currency.
During this era, the City became one of the principal ports
of the Mediterranean and crucial node for merchandise exchange
Beginning in the VI Century BC, a process of Hellenisation
began with customs geared to the rise of the powerful Greek
colony of Taranto; with which the Messapians were frequently
at war and often victorious.
Faced with the newborn power of Rome, the two enemies became
allies as the Greek-Messapian League, and called Pirro, King
of Epiro, to face the Romans. The King brought back weak victories,
which became proverbial but saw his early return home, leaving
freedom to the Romans (270 BC).
Devotion to the new power could not have been immediate however,
if the arrival of the leader Hannibal in Puglia saw the population’s
support of this invader (end of III Century BC). For this
reason, it was harshly punished by Rome, which anyhow later
granted the status of Municipium to the City after the Civil
Wars (82 BC).
The end of the Empire brought devastation through Visigoth
and Vandal invasions and Ugento was also destroyed by the
Ostrogoths in 545 during clashes with the Byzantines of Belisario
It was conquered by the Byzantines (553) and suffered weak
political administration, favouring Eastern territories at
the expense of Puglia.
In ‘842 and 924, it was besieged and plundered by the
The arrival of the Normans coincided with the siege and conquest
of Ugento. The new nobles saw construction of the Castle on
the site of the previous Roman Castle in ruins.
Ugento passed firstly under the Swabians (1194) and then the
Angioini (1269), which saw its economic decline that lasted
In 1430 it was destroyed through orders from Queen Giovanni
II of Naples.
The 4th August 1537, saw the City become a victim of Turkish
attack from the sea. In defence, the Spanish sovereigns decided
to erect numerous lookout towers, which today still characterise
the territory and coast of Salento.
The coastal area suffered a process of submersion, determining
its abandonment by the population, who moved further inland
to higher ground.
Ugento was then owned by numerous nobles until the abolition
of feudality in 1806.
Ugento is dominated by its Castle with a trapezoidal plan
(XIII Century, then re-adjusted during the ‘700s) and
by a beautiful Cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption (1745,
later rebuilt after destruction by the Turks).
The Benedictine Monastery (‘500s), S. Anthony of Padua
(‘400s) and the Madonna of the Light Sanctuary (1576),
complete the visit to the main religious monuments of Ugento.
From the City’s old splendour, one can admire the Messapian
Walls and the Acropolises, first nucleus of the City.
There are two buildings worth mentioning and visiting in the
City: Palazzo Gigli and Palazzo Colosso, which hosts a collection
of archaeological finds.
Outside the City, one can enjoy an interesting visit to the
Basilican church of Santa Maria del Casale (XII Century).