Short history of Salento
Salento is a geographical area that is identified with the southernmost part of the Puglia region. The geographical identity is flanked by another of a historical nature. The Salento land has been the site of great human and historical movements since the most ancient centuries. Place of passage and residence for populations from all over the world, as testified by the mother of Ostuni, by the Venus of Parabita, by the graffiti found in the cave of the Cervi in Otranto or in the Romanelli cave in Castro.
Or, again, from the graffiti present in the famous Grotta della Poesia and from what still today the countless dolmens and menhirs present throughout its territory tell us. A territory already inhabited in the Paleolithic, then, but which subsequently saw the Messapi as protagonists, who were able to go north towards Peucezia (Land of Bari) and west towards Calabria and Basilicata. It was the Messapi who clashed with the Tarantini when Taranto was still under the Magna Graecia, and it was they who allied themselves with the Tarantini against the Romans. A disagreement that in fact paved the way for the conquest of the Romans, which took place in 260 BC. And so the Romans arrived, built their splendid streets, such as the Via Appia, which ended in that of Brindisi, where for a long time it was possible to see the two “terminals”
Today one is still in Brindisi, the other has left for Lecce, where it has stood out in Piazza S. Oronzo for a long time. In short, the Land of the Two Seas really has a lot to tell. But the story goes on. After 476 A.D. when the Western Roman Empire falls, Salento, as indeed also all of Puglia, becomes the object of conquest by many and different populations from all over: Goths, Byzantines, Lombards, Saracens.
After the Byzantine domination, which led to the formation of what we now refer to as the Grecìa Salentina, a linguistic enclave where legacies of language but also of folklore and Greek rite survive, it was the turn of the Normans and the Swabians, with the famous Federico II of Swabia, which as everyone knows has left an indelible trace of his being so mentally open, curious, cosmopolitan, especially for his times. Do not miss a visit to the Frederick castles, such as Castel del Monte, but not only. And then we cannot fail to mention the Principality of Taranto, which included the county of Soleto and Lecce, up to Matera and Polignano. An extraordinary reality that lasted until 1465, and which saw as protagonists two nobles who in turn left an indelible mark on the Salento territory: Raimondello Orsini del Balzo and Maria d’Enghien, but also Giovanni Antonio Orsini del Balzo, son of Raimondello.
Thanks to these characters, the Terra d’Otranto actually survives the Kingdom of Sicily, then the Kingdom of Naples and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, maintaining its own independence and identity. It should also be remembered that only in 1861, with the unification of Italy, the Province of Terra d’Otranto became the province of Lecce, in turn divided into 4 districts: Lecce, Brindisi, Taranto and Galipoli. The province of Taranto, called the Ionian province until 1951, was born in 1923. In short, a large peninsula with a great history.
Toponym of Salento
It seems that the toponym Salento derives from the name of a Messapian king who was called Sale, even if in Messapian Salento means sea. In Latin, on the other hand, salum means land surrounded by the sea. As you can see, there is no shortage of explanations and they all make sense. Other scholars think that Salento derives from the Cretan settlers who came from the city of Salenzia.
Territorial areas of Salento
Salento can be divided according to its provinces which are Brindisi, Taranto and Lecce. But not only. Each small area within it has unique characteristics of its kind in terms of geography but also cultural history, which then make the entire peninsula very very special. They are:
- Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto, as mentioned
- Cape of Leuca
- Salento Greece
- Magna Grecia
- Riviera dei Trulli
- Salentine greenhouses
- Land of Arneo
- Terra d’Otranto
- Land of the Messapi
- Land of the Gravine
- Lands of the Primitivo
- Valle d’Itria
- Valley of the Cupa
The typical cuisine of Salento and the typical products of Salento
The typical cuisine of Salento is made up of many little great flavors that dot, so to speak, the moments of the day of the Salento people. The African, for example, is a sweet made with zabaglione similar to a meringue, to be enjoyed in the morning as an alternative to the classic pasticciotto from Lecce, a shortcrust pastry filled with cream. If it’s summer, you can drink a good coffee on ice. For an aperitif or instead of dinner it is possible to enjoy a fried calzone or a rustic Lecce, or even a puccia, stuffed with Martina Franca capocollo or cooked meat. Even during table parties there is no shortage of representative dishes: cartellate, Easter donut and struffoli are some examples.