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Italian and Apulian culture
Patron Saint Holidays
people of Lecce pour the best of their technical and artistic skills into
the preparations for the saints' feast days. On these spectacular occasions
the towns and villages come to life with decorations, coloured paper balls,
lights, fireworks and musical bands, which in turn are exported all over
the world. Some of the more important festivals include Sant'Oronzo in
Lecce (August 26); Sant'Anna at Vernole (July 26); the feast of the Assumption
at Martano (August 14); the processions to the sea in Otranto (1st
week-end September) and in San Foca (August 21), occasions on which the
true character of Salento comes to the surface. These festivals are characterised
by the special Salento flair for aesthetics, theatricality and the spectacular,
the ancient essence of this peninsula's culture that, despite all the
intervening social changes, has been preserved with the traditions over
the centuries. The atmosphere of the popular festival brings out the authentic
Salentine spirit, a blend of wisdom, wit, cordiality and irony.
Times like these are also the best occasions for sampling the products
of a unique cuisine: sweets, with strong Oriental flavours, such as fruttoni,
mostaccioli or copeta (almond and honey nougat); meat dishes such as roasted
lamb entrails, turcinelli delicacies of horsemeat with sauce, moniceddhi,
that is snails collected during the underground hibernation period, thus
still covered in a whitish secretion (mpannate). These and many more dishes
are served in the "putèe", the typical Salento restaurants
where the traditions of popular cuisine are preserved. The San Giuseppe
tables form part of another culinary tradition that is still alive in
villages such as Surano and Giurdignano. This devotional practice which
has been handed down within families entails days of preparation for a
speciai menu. The dishes are surprising: home-made spaghetti, cakes with
honey and accompanied with fried fish, a complex, dried salted cod sauce,
round bread rolls with mysterious insignia, pod-shaped honey cakes that
allude to ancient Egyptian divinities.
All of these dishes have borrowed directly from cultures
of the Mediterranean Basin and beyond, attesting to Salento's role as
the meeting point of the most ancient of civilisations.
Click below to visit the photogallery of
THE CITY OF LECCE - THE GRECIA SALENTINA - THE SALENTINE COAST
Legends and Rituals
fascino (the word means charm) and the laùru are two examples of
the popular credences involving traditions, superstitions, or ritual practices,
most of which are connected to specific days. The fascino is the belief
in certain individuais' powers, often unknown to them, to provoke harm,
illnesses and deaths by way of a simple glance or by invocations cloaked
in well-wishing words. Children are often favourite fascino victims and
this explains why one should never say to a child: "What a lovely
child!", without adding immediately "Bless the child!",
maybe even with a hint of irony. The Iaùru concerns a type of imp
and its name derives from the laurel groves (laureti) where the little
spirit used to live. The laùru was given to visiting and even moving
into other people's homes, where by night it dedicated itself to disturbance
and vexation. Laùrus liked to clatter pots and saucepan lids, to
plait horses' manes, or to sit on the stomachs of sleeping people. One
story tells of a tormented soul whowas
driven to move house in an effort to free himself from the Iaùru.
He loaded his cart with all his household belongings and set off. When
he came to a fork in the road a passing acquaintance asked him, "Where
are you going, friend?". The answer came from a little voice at the
bottom of a saucepan that said, "We are moving house!" Religious
and mithological rituals that are common to all the Mediterranean cultures,
from the Greek to the Arab civilisations continue to survive in the festivals
Superstitions and Bonfires.
In Salento it s customary to light bonfires for speciai
occasions. Such fires are intended both to propitiate and to purify, the
purpose being to ensure a good harvest, yet they also recall the burning
of witches at the stake, thus the cleansing of the iIls and afflictions
that the ancient rural world ascribed to these witches. On January 17
in Novoli the "focara (fire) burns 40.000 bundles of vine branches
and reaches a height of 40 metres. The fire is a spectacular sight and
the celebrations are accompanied by offerings of local dishes, arts and
crafts, concerts and, rnost irnportantly, firework displays.
and Dance in Salentine Tradition
use of music and dance for both ceremonial and therapeutic purposes is
one of the distinctive features of this ancient culture, and probably
dates back to before the arrival of Greek influence. These arts are imbued
with rich iconographies that hark back to distant archetypal myths common
among many other Mediterranean civilisations.
Dionysism is the underlying force in tarantism, which is
probably the most mysterious and intriguing phenomenon of Salento folk
culture. This ancient exorcist practice dating back to the Middie Ages
has not yet completely died out. Men and women who believe they have been
bitten by the tarantula go on a pilgrimage to Galatina on the San Paolo's
feast days (June 28 and 29). The tarantula's bite induces a mortal languor
and the pilgrimage liberates the victim from these effects, as does the
use of colours, music and dance. Thus
the role of the small orchestra-the main instruments are the traditional
guitar, violin, mandolin and tambourine is all important. The band goes
to the victim's house and incites the bitten one to dance, sometimes for
days on end. Recourse to St. PauI is explained by Christianity's effort
to provide a substitute for the ancient pagan cult of serpents. The tarantula
might also represent a totemic animal whose origins are lost in the mists
of time, prior to the cult of Menadaism, Corybantism, or the Dionysiac
festivals which tarantanism evokes with its hedonist and frenzied traits.
The superb rhythmic music leads the victims towards their liberation,
with sounds that range from the gloomy to the poignant, culminating in
an extraordinary crescendo.
This music is now played by various revival groups and offers
an interesting example of the survival of Salento folk music.
Crypts and churches
to the hermit-byzantine crypts, they are linked to the iconoclastic fight
sparked off by Leone III, the emperor of Byzantium, in the 8th century,
when a multitude of hermits stramed to Salento. Leading an ascetic life,
the hermits first occupied the caves along the coast and then the ones
spread in the hinterland, converting them into small churches and lodgings
for the night. In those places a miracle happened: the apses and walls
were covered with marvellous frescoes showing saints from eastern countries
and scenes from the gospel. Many of them preserve their whole beauty still
today. In addition to the crypts, the churches, jewels of art and faith,
increase Salento's broad heritage. Some of them date back to the lower
middle ages under the Byzantines first (S. Peter's in Otranto) and the
Normans then in Veglie and all the others that you fìnd in the
Salento (S. Nicola di Casole), to discover all the passion and enthusiasm
which the anonymous frescoes put in giving life to their colours.
The baroque deserves more attention since it represents the
most dramatic point of contact between faith and art; it reaches its highest
Ievel in the architectural eccentricity of its renowned world capital:
Santa Croce Basilica alone is worthy of a trip to Salento from the farthest
places in the world. Lecce is the triumph of baroque and of Lecce stone,
starting from the magnificent facades of its churches, monasteries, public
buildings and private houses till the humblest of its balconies and portals.
The megaliths are spread
all over the province and can probably be dated back to the Bronze Age,
they are therefore chronologically later than the analogous and impressive
megalith phenomenon which developed along the Atlantic coasts of Europe.
Menhir, dolmen and specchie (mounds) represent one of the most spectacular
and also most mysterious moments of old Salentine history placed as they
are between legend and supposition, in the mortifying absence of certainty.
Menhirs are stones, roughly squared and placed vertically in the ground,
of various dimensions and rectangular section, they are located mostly
in isolated places and positioned with the wide prism tace towards the
sun. This last detail suggests that various ritual elements were interwoven,
for example the phallic cult and worshipping the sun with a more practical
and necessary function, linked to the changing of the seasons, e.g. use
as an astronomical observatory or as a meeting place at certain times
of year to take important decisions. There were those who believed in
the mythical idea that they served as severe guardians of precious coins
and fabulous treasure.
Dolmens, on the other hand, are constructions made up of
horizontal covering slabs with a series of stone blocks supporting them
forming a large burial room, giving credence to the hypothesis that they
were funeral monuments or in any case destined in some way to celebrate
the Journey to the hereafter. A
common element of nearly all the Salentine dolmens is their entrance,
which faces east.
As the first civilised and
organised inhabitants of the area now occupied by the
provinces of Lecce, Brindisi and Taranto, the Messapians created a civilisation
that was very advanced for its time, evidence of which, sometimes very
impressive evidence, has come to light in recent years, during the numerous
excavations that have taken and are taking place all over the area.
Archaeological and epigraphical heritage of great interest
can be admired at Lecce's Provincial Museum (the oldest in the region),
Gallipoli's Civic Museum, Alezio's Archaeological Park, Ugento's Civic
Museum, and for an overall picture in Tarantos National Museum, tull of
statues, Messapian vases, fibulas, craters, painted and glazed pottery,
lamps, imported and local terracotta.
ACCOMMODATION IN OTRANTO
GUIDED TOURS AND CULTURAL ACTIVITIES
ABOUT THE REGION AND THE TOWN
UTILITIES & SOCIAL
Tina and Lionel fron London
Lionel and I loved the school because:
- They have a nice, professional, dynamic team and they are very flexible, they can adapt their lessons to your needs.
- They are located in Otranto, it's a beautiful, very interesting and incredibly rich in history part of Italy…read more >>
Maryse et Sylvianne from Belgium
Nous voici bien rentrées de vacances, un peu mélancoliques d'avoir dû abandonner l'Italie.
Nous avons été enchantées des cours que tu nous a donnés et entretenons notre italien en lisant dans la langue: nous ne voulons pas perdre les bénéfices obtenus…read more >>
Annie from France
...Nostro gruppo ha avuto un'insegnante particolarmente competente che ha tenuto un corso tanto interessanto e vivo. Con la tua contribuzione entusiastica e grazie alle visite, ho possuto discoprire una regione tanto bella e particolare che non conoscevo, e la cultura affascinante della Grecia Salentina…read more >>
Lorenza from Austria
...É stato molto bello da voi; colma di ricordi, che adesso vanno raccontati e saranno ben conservati.
Il vostro entusiasmo per la vostra terra, la possibilità di avvicinarsi e aprirsi di più a questa grazie alle vostre spiegazioni e gite, la cordialità della gente, la luce e il caldo - tutte esperienze bellissime…read more >>
Kitty from Singapore
...Vorrei ringraziarvi per tutto. Mi sono divertita ad Otranto.
Veramente, é un paese bellissimo. Non dimentico mai come ospitale la gente locale lì... Anche mi sono piaciute tantissimo l'escursione organizzate da voi.
Eravate così appassionati e le spiegazioni erano chiare e interessanti. Adesso, so un po' di piú dell'italia…read more >>
Cynthia from California
Dear Barbara: I am back in California and I enjoyed seeing the beautiful images on the CD you gave me. Thank you! The memories of those special places are etched onto my soul. Thanks again to you and Angelo for being so gracious and hospitable. I truly mean it when I say that we are friends…read more >>
Anna from Sweden
I have had a wonderful summer, I got to know a lot of new people and got a lot of new friends.
I was staying two more weeks in Italy before I went home to Sweden, I went to St Benedetto del Tronto, Verona and Venezia, but I must say that I liked Otranto and Salento much much better. Thank you Barbara for everything. It has been the best summer in my life!read more >>
Carla, David and family from Boston
...the experience unforgettable for people of all ages. Attending the Scuola Porta d'Oriente is the opportunity of a lifetime and the school has my highest recommendation on all counts. If you travel the world, you will not find a more enchanting place or…read more >>
Madeleine from Swiss
Mi é piaciuto molto il mio soggiorno a Otranto, il tipo di scuola mi conviene perfettamente. Per quanto riguarda la qualità dell'insegnamento, l'ho trovata excellente. E importante per me, ringraziare le mie professoresse. Le loro competenze pedagogiche, la loro pazienza e il loro entusiasmo mi hanno permesso d'imparare velocemente…read more >>
Sylke from Germany
...ora e esattamente un anno fa, che io ho fatto un corso d'Italiano nella Scuola Porta d'Oriente. Nella questa settimana ho imperato molto di nuovo sulla regione e in Italiano. E per le conversazione nelle lezioni ho potuto pratticare la conoscenza nuova. Nella nostra regione si deve cercare a lungo per queste lezioni…read more >>