Cartapesta: Lecce’s Artistic Legacy

Discovering the old tradition of Cartapesta in Lecce with Victoria | #PugliaByMe

A craft very unique to Lecce in the Salento region of Puglia is cartapesta, papier-mâché. No, not the papiermâché you did in elementary school… papier-mâché as an art form! In fact, especially here in Lecce you will find many spectacular statues and even a ceiling in one of the churches is actually papier-mâché e! And trust me, you would never suspect it unless it was pointed out to you!!

Castles in Puglia

The strategic location of Puglia has often made the region vulnerable to attacks by several civilizations from both the sea and the mainland. Over the centuries, all the emperors and families who have ruled this land have always fortified the region with the construction of towers, castles and military fortifications. More than 100 imposing castles are scattered throughout the region, located in cities, countryside or rural areas


One of the symbols of the countryside in Puglia and of high importance for the landscape in the Murge area is definitely the Masseria (manor house), an old building that for its architectural style recalls the Roman villas. The Masseria is in fact closely related to the concept of Latifondo (large land used for pasture and often abandoned by the owner).

masserieThe Masseria looks like a small fortified and autonomous town where daily life develops around a courtyard inhabited mainly by farm-workers and sometimes by the massaro (landowner). It was surrounded and protected by massive walls and only a large heavy door was used for the entrance. This large rural construction also included home for farm-workers  stables and crop storage areas. A typical characteristic building whose architecture and use has changed during the transition from the medieval to the modern economy.

The historical period that marks this change is the 18th century, when the rural organization started changing. Social relationships between owners and workers changed and by the end of the 19th century there was a clear separation between town and country. It was then that the Masserie started to be abandoned.

Designed as Manor Houses for the ancient bourgeoisie, the Masserie represent today a splendid example of ancient architecture. Usually surrounded by towering walls, on the inside they often hold examples of sculptures, few of them can also have small private chapels. More and more Masserie are being bought and upon renovation they are becoming luxury B&B and charming hotels.

There are many Masserie in Puglia, mainly located in the provinces of Lecce, Brindisi and Taranto and the Itria Valley. They are often surrounded by large land and forests and are chosen by tourists who like to spend an holiday absorbed in the nature and quietness.

Egnazia Ruins Puglia - Archaeological Site

Along the Adriatic coast between Monopoli and Savelletri is where the Archaeological Park with the ruins of Egnazia is located. This site that occupies 40 hectares of land is today the most important archaeological site that has been discovered in Puglia. The ancient Gnathis was a very important Greek-Messapian town which dated as far back as the 13th century BC.

EgnaziaPhoto Credits Flickr

The first human settlement dates as far back as the 13th century during the Bronze Age when a simple village of huts was built. In the 11th century BC during the Iron Age it was invaded by a civilization coming from the Balkans and called Iapigi. In the 8th century BC it was occupied by Messapians who ruled it until the arrival of the Romans at the end of the 3rd century BC when they declared it a municipality.

It was during the Roman domain that the town prospered and grew reaching its peak and prosperity. It played a strategic role due to the favorable position it occupied: the town could easily expand its trade when the Romans built the Traiana Road linking Rome to Brindisi and also improved the port facilities making Egnazia an important seaport.

egnazia ruins 4Photo Credits Flickr

Egnazia survived after the fall of the Roman Empire but suffered few attacks from Visigoths, Saracens and Turks. The town became very vulnerable and lost its importance; it was finally abandoned during the 10th century AD becoming a dead place.

An intense research activity started in 1912 and as of today only few sections of the area have been excavated. It is a beautiful and fascinating site to explore and a walk through these beautiful ruins will take all visitors back in time to a remote and unknown past. The archaeological park is open every day for visits and guided tours.

Many remains have been found from the Roman period as well as the Messapian era, many are well preserved. Lots of ceramics and vases are kept in the Museum located in the park. Remains from the Messapian period are the original defensive walls surrounding the whole urban area of about 40 hectares and the necropolis. Walls are 2Km long and 7m high. Scattered all over the park are also many foundation stones of ancient houses and roads; a cemetery with many graves and tombs decorated with fine frescoes.

Egnazia amphitheatre 2Photo Credits Flickr

There are also considerable remains of the Roman period: tracks of the Traiana Road, the Amphitheatre, the Forum and two Christian basilicas.

The Archaeological Museum of Egnazia located inside the park is house to many remains and documents the history of this town through the centuries.

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