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Dolmens and Menhir

Crossing the sunny roads of the Salento you can see a lot of dolmens and menhirs Dolmen "Li Scusi" near the inhabited centres or in the country, hidden by the macchia mediterranea. The two words derive from the Breton, "dol"= table, "men"= stone, and "hir"= long: the dolmen is a composed structure of a series of rocks lying vertically on the ground and there is another stone on them; the menhir is a square monolith, some meters tall also fixed into the ground. Generally the opening of a dolmen and the widest faces of the menhir look at East-West, so they might have had an astronomic meaning and been closely connected to the cult of the God Sun. In some cases (Stonehenge or Carnac in MenhirFrance), the astronomic reference is clear since these monuments point out the direction of the rising of the Sun in the solstices and in the equinoxes, the positions of the moon in the different months of the year and, according to some researchers, even the eclipses of Sun. For most researchers these special buildings had a religious value and were connected to the cult of the dead, or to human sacrifices. In Europe this phenomenon spread out between 4500 and  1800 B.C. during the  Bronze Age, especially  in Sardinia and in Apulia, where there are around 150 megalithic monuments (north of Bari, Taranto and Lecce). These constructions can be seen above all  between Lecce and Otranto,  Giurdignano and Minervino of Lecce. In many cases the Catholic Church has tried to oppose to the left pagan cults linked to the menhirs and dolmens, putting a cross on these stones.  




"Pariti" and "Pajare"

One of the main characteristics of the Salento is the presence of long dry stone small Pajara dipped in the typical landscape salentino  walls that bound the fields. The constructive techniques are the same of those of the past: two rows of stones  constituted the base; other smaller stones were put into the central band. The height could be different and it was connected to the function of the wall, defined "parite" at Leuca: in fact, these small walls not only marked the borders of the fields, but they were often built to protect the trees from the wind and, in the coastal places, from the saltiness. The Apulien rural landscape has got another characteristic element: the "trulli", called by the populations of the Salento "pajare." They are generally dry-stone buildings  conical-pyramidal  shaped made with the same stone used  for  the small walls mentioned above. The constructive technique was not very dissimilar, except for the dimensions of the base, that could reach three meters of thickness, and the use  of small quantity of earth to fill the central air space and cementAtypical Pajara the whole structure better. The thickness and the care with which they were built transformed the "pajare into authentic shelters above all in the summer time, when the temperatures are very high. These special buildings were never used as permanent residences. Only in particular periods of the year, usually when the harvests were abundant, the farmers lived in the "pajare" for  some time; the time left they were a deposit for the tools. Unfortunately the job of the "paritaro" , that is who builds the "pajare" has disappeared : due to the increasing mechanization of the country, the small characteristic walls are now abandoned and many of them have been replaced by common bricks   whose maintenance is easier. In the last few years there has been an inversion of tendency but it is still very difficult to  find some skilled manpower.  


The "Masserie"

A Masseria is a typical building of the Salento: it was usually built in the open country and was inhabitated by the "massaro" , that is the man who managed the lands Particular of the surrounding wall of the Masseria  Celsorizzo of Acquarica del Capobelonging to the owner of the masseria (just a  few hundreds of hectares). It could be made of simple rooms  or of articulated structures that looked like those of the urban  architecture, so in some cases they can be defined  monuments of the country civilization of the Salento. The farms represented the only form of rural permanent installation.  Due to the physical characteristics of the territory, the elevated fragmentation of the land ownership, the frequent  raids of pirates and gangs of brigands, the country residences were concentrated  in small  centres, and  the farmers used to go everyday from their residences to the country. This is the reason for which in the masseria there were only the massaro, his family and those who had to prepare and sell the milk. Quite the type of  economic activity influenced  the plant of the masseria: in  Lecce and in Brindisi, where the main activity was the production of oil , you can still find a lot of subterranean oil-presses called by the people of Salento "trappeti," while in the area around Nardò and Taranto where the sheep-breeding was widespread inside there were  big enclosures. In the most southern part of the peninsula, finally, above all between  Ugento and Leuca, the farm did not have a particularly complex structure Zanzare Masseria of Porto Cesareo  since people were poorer. One of the most characteristic aspects of the masserie near the coast is their strengthened appearance that often makes  them similar to the towers of defence. Indeed the were fortified because of the frequent piratical raids that  uninterruptedly went on from the fifteenth century to the nineteenth one. The Turks attacked Gallipoli  in 1430 and in 1524.  In 1480 they razed to the ground  conquered Otranto killing 800 inhabitants; in 1537 Castro, Marittima and Tricase were destroyed; in 1543 Presicce was besieged to. The population were always frightened and the fear was so strong that still today it  is possible almost to perceive it  in some dialect expressions ("mamma, gli Turchi" that means "Oh my God! The Turks"). So above all in the sixteenth century, the fear that these raids could lead to an abandonment of the country villages, induced  the nobles to invest at their own expenses in the defence of their lands since the Angevin, Aragon and Norman defensive systems was not efficient. The typical structure is that of the tower made of two or three floors, with masonries that in some cases are three meters large. The upper floors were isolated Celsorizzo Masseria  of Acquarica del Capothrough a ladder lowered  from the trap doors  in the floor ( in the simpler structures), or with suggestive staircases in external masonry whose final floor was represented by a drawbridge (in the more complex buildings). There were some trap doors from which the  besieged they could throw stones or boiling oil and they were connected with doors or windows. Sometimes there  were some  underground passages that allowed the besieged to run away from the masseria and hide in the surrounding country. In case of alarm, the fortified masserie  constituted the link of conjunction among the towns  and   the coastal towers. These constructions, even if they are not as complex and rich as other similar buildings present in other regions of Italy, prove how much the dominant classes Inside of the Dovecot Tower of Acquarica del Capo  (religious and secular)  of the epoch were rich. In fact, at the beginning  the masserie were built almost exclusively for agricultural and defensive uses, but later they became the summer residences of the most well-to-do classes. For this reason they were decorated with many  architectural  elements as the Giudice Giorgio Masseria in the territory of Nardò, that looks like a castle. In the Salento there are about two hundred fortified masserie and they can be seen above all near Lecce,  Nardò and Leuca. The dovecote towers were frequently associated to the masserie. Externally they had much in common with  the coastal towers: the "palombari"  represented a substantial part of the income of the owner, but they were above all what we call today "status symbol", since it gave a great  social prestige, particularly for the use of the pigeons during the shooting. Frederic II loved this activity a lot and many nobles got fond of it. This type of towers were protected by a some laws and nothing could be dome without the authorization of its owner. In the sixteenth century the Earl of Palmariggi, because of his several debts, was forced to abandon his farm, and as he did not want to give someone else his tower he made it demolish. In the XVI century the Celsorizzo Masseria of Acquarica del Capo  construction of towers increased a lot above all for the good economic situation of that period, so the noblemen decided to invest a lot of money for . Many testimonies in this sense could draw it from the registrations that are on the entries of the towers, like that of the tower of the Celsorizzo Farm in the territory of Acquarica del Capo of the Head, dated 1550. The dovecote towers have got usually a circular or square plant and can be seen above all near the "Neretina"  zone and  in the hinterland of Lecce, Otranto and  Leuca. They have loopholes and a superior battlement that, however,  is substantially conceived as a roost for the pigeons. These special buildings are marked by the presence of some niches,  big enough to let the pigeons stay there. It was easy to arrive at these niches thanks to a helical staircase that was made of a stone different from that of the wall. The external Zanzare Masseria of Porto Cesareo  walls were always painted white in order to attire the pigeons and there were some drinking through for them as well. The care with which they were built was closely connected to the big economic value :  a dovecote tower  could house one thousand  couples of pigeons that reproduced four or five times a year, and   therefore they constituted a conspicuous reserve of fresh meat. Besides the guano of the pigeons was rich of nitrogenous elements so it could be used as a fertilizer. Now there are eighty dovecote towers more or less and they were abandoned some years ago, but they are still a great evidence of our past.  




The coastal towers

From the XIV century the raids and the attacks of the Turkish pirates and of those of Roca Towerthe African coasts along the coasts of the Salento increased and a lot of people had to leave their houses and took refuge in the hinterland. In the XII century the first system of coastal  defense was built: the towers could easily be seen  and they communicated the danger of an invasion  with the smoke during the day and  the fire during the night. when the alarm ceased the towers were completely abandoned until the arrival of the Turks.  The viceroy Don Pedro Toledo made a lot of new towers build in order to protect the Tower near Santa Cesarea  coasts from the continous attacks of the ennemies: nonetheless because of the threat of an imminent invasion   the sovereign could not pay the workers, and what is more the quality of the materials was not good; that is why after only thirty years  the coastal towers were already damaged or  collapsed. But the  construction of the new defensive system caused the increase of the fiscal pressure and the discontent of  the subjects, above all of those people who, living in the hinterland, did not fear the Turks. Two different types of towers were built: the Cavallare Towers (for the alarm) and those for the defense; the first were so called because there were some men riding a horse, the "cavallari," that used to patrol the villages of the Salento. They went from tower to tower and they played the  English  horns or they fired off a shot to Tower Harbor Miggiano  announce the incumbent danger. They went to  the hinterland as well, to the small inhabited centres, and informed the farmers of the danger and told them to take a refuge near the towers or in the woods. The “cavallari” were elected openly by the local administration and the governor of the territory in which the tower had been built; their assignment lasted three years and were divided into “ordinary” and “extraordinary”: at the top of the hierarchy there was the “sopracavallaro" (the leader) that did not take part in the alarm operations. The salaries varied from four dukedoms per month (to the ordinary “cavallari”), to six a year (to the “sopracavallaro”). Their job was more fatiguing prevalently from the spring to the summer, when the threat of raids Torre Vado increased because that was the most favorable period for the navigation. As in the other months of the year the vigilance could decrease, the cavallari had to pay a fine for each “inefficiency”. The low salary often led them even to betray their own people and form an alliance with the pirates. The technique of construction of the tower was very similar to that used for the pajare: the structure was built without scaffolding or framework, only predisposing some earth and stones corresponding  to the volume of the available room. Then the farmers built a circular or square wall and the dome; after that they built another wall that was filled with stones. The ground floor was completely closed, there was only  a trap door from the upper floor. This room was sometimes a jail, but often it was used as a store where to preserve the cereals or as cistern of water. The terrace was the zone of sighting: there were a small room where probably the torriero took refuge during a storm or a fighting and wide trap doors Tower of the Serpentfrom where the torrieri threw the stones or the boiling oil. You could enter a tower only through an inside wooden ladder. The external staircases as that of Porto Cesareo, were built some years after when the pirates had stopped to attack the Salento. The most ancient towers built in the sixteenth century are cone-shaped and can be seen above all to south of Otranto, while the towers built later were square-shaped and they are especially near the Neretina area. They were usually twelve meters tall, ten-twelve meters long outside and five meters. The circular towers were erected at the end of the XVI century, as the Tower of the Dead Omo of Leuca or that of Salignano.  





The coastal towers in the Salento

Departing [adriatica] from the coast, they from the boundary with the province of Brindisi meet:  

Commune of Lecce 

·        Specchiolla Tower, three meters above the sea level

·        Rinalda Tower, one meter above the sea level

·        Chianca Tower, two meters above the sea level

·       Venneri Tower, three meters above the sea level

·        St. Cataldo Tower, five meters above the sea  level


Commune of Vernole 

·        Specchia Ruggeri Tower, five meters above the sea level


Commune of Melendugno 

·        St. Foca Tower, five meters above the sea level

·        Roca Vecchia Tower, four meters above the sea level

·        Dell’Orso Tower, sixteen meters above the sea level

·        Sant'Andrea Tower, situated eleven meters above the sea level


Commune of Otranto 

·        Fiumicelli Tower, five meters above the sea level

·    Santo Stefano Tower, fifteen meters above the sea level

·        Del Serpe Tower, thirty meters above the sea level

·        Dell’Orto Tower, thirty-four meters above the sea level

·       Palascia Tower, situated to eighty-two meters above the sea level

·        Sant'Emiliano Tower, fifty meters above the sea level

·        Porto Badisco Tower, fifteen meters above the sea level


Commune of Santa Cesarea 

·       Minervino Tower, sixty-six meters above the sea level

·        Specchia La Guardia Tower, one hundred and fifteen meters above the  sea level

·        Miggiano Tower, fourteen meters above the sea level


Commune of Diso 

·        Diso Tower

·       Capo Lupo Tower, Head Wolf, one hundred and five meters above the sea level


Commune of Andrano 

·        Andrano Tower, seventeen meters above the sea level


Commune of Tricase 

·        Sasso Tower, one hundred sixteen meters above the sea level

·        Porto Tower of Tricase

·        Plane Tower, fifteen meters above the sea level


Commune of Tiggiano 

·        Naspre Tower, one hundred and twenty-nine meters above the sea level


Commune of Corsano 

·        Torre Specchia Tower, one hundred twenty-seven meters above the sea level

·        Ricco Tower,  sixty-two meters above the sea level


Commune of Gagliano del Capo 

·        Porto Novaglie Tower, eight meters above the sea level

·        Montelungo Tower, eighty meters above  the sea level

·        Santa Maria di Leuca Nuova Torre, situated sixty meters above the sea level


Going from Santa Maria of Leuca to the Jonica Coast you can see:


Commune of Castrignano del Capo 

·        Degli Uomini Morti Tower  (or of the Omo Morto), eleven meters above the sea  level

·        Marchiello Tower, twelve meters above the sea level


Commune of Patù 

·        San Gregorio Tower, twenty-four meters above the sea level


Commune of Morciano di Leuca 

·        Vado Tower, two meters above the sea level


Commune of Salve 

·        Pali Tower


Commune of  Ugento

·        Mozza  Tower or Fiumicelli, two meters above the sea level 

·        St. Giovanni Tower, one meter above the sea level


Commune of Alliste 

·        Sinfono Tower, sixteen meters above the sea level


Commune of Racale

·        Suda Tower, ten meters above the sea level


Commune of Gallipoli 

·        Pizzo Tower eight meters above the sea level  

·        St. Giovanni la Pedata Tower, four meters above the sea level

·        Sabea Tower, six meters above the sea level


Commune of Galatone 

·        D’Alto LidoTower, seventy-one meters above the sea level


Commune of Nardò   


·        Fiume Tower, four meters above the sea level

·        Santa Caterina Tower, thirty-two meters above the sea level

·        Santa Maria dell’ Alto Tower, forty-nine meters above the sea level

·        Uluzzo Tower or Crustano, thirty-two meters above the sea level

·        Inserraglio Tower or Critò, three meters above the sea level

·        Sant'Isidoro Tower, three meters above the sea level

·        Squillace Tower, two meters above the sea level

·        Chianca Tower, two meters above the sea level

·        Lapillo Tower, two meters above the sea level

·        Castiglione Tower, three meters above the sea level


Commune of Porto Cesareo 

·        Porto Cesario Tower, two meters above the sea level