Acaya is a small village, with less than one thousand inhabitants, in the province of Lecce. It is located in the heart of the Salento sub-region, just 5 Km from the WWF oasis of Le Cesine on the Adriatic coast and 20 minutes driving from Lecce, the capital of the province. It has an immense historical and architectural importance as it is one of the few fortified villages left in Italy.Originally named Borgata di Segine (township of Segine), at the end of the 13th century it was given by Charles II d’Angiò to the Acaya family which had arrived in Puglia from Greece.

Acaya CastlePhoto Credits: Flickr-raschiapedane

The family ruled the village for over three centuries. During the following two centuries the whole region of Puglia was repeatedly attacked by the Turks and in 1535 the Emperor Charles V decided to fortify the village by giving the project to the magister Gian Giacomo of Acaya, a “royal military engineer”. It was also in that occasion that it was renamed Acaya.

Gian Giacomo rebuilt the village following his utopian model of the “ideal town” and providing the village with a solid defensive structure: he continued his father’s work, by building the perfectly rectangular city walls that still surround the village today. He also strengthened three corners by building rampants and bastions into the perimeter walls. The fourth corner was occupied by the castle that his father had built 29 years before.

Acaya, Salento 2013Photo Credits: Flickr-Giorgio Guerrieri

He also added the moat to the castle and a walkaway for guards along the higher part of the surronding defensive walls. Finally he reconstructed the parish church along with the bell tower and built the Convent of Minori Osservanti, dedicated to Saint Antonio.

In 1570 Gian Giacomo passed away, Acaya was sold and a period of inevitable decline began. In 1714 Acaya was invaded and destroyed by Turks but the village still retains the original architectural style and is today at the centre of a great restoration and recovering activity which aims to bring the whole area to its the ancient splendour. As part of this restoration, a new 18-hole golf club has been established here in Acaya.

AcayaPhoto Credits: Flickr-Simonluca Laitempergher

Leave a Reply