Ceglie Messapica is a pretty town in the province of Brindisi. It is located on a hill about 11 km south of Ostuni, half way along the road between Brindisi and Taranto. According to legend, Ceglie was founded by the Pelasgians civilization who came from the East in Puglia; remains of this civilization would be the “specchie” (mirrors) and other megalithic constructions.
With the arrival of the Greeks in 700 BC the city was named Kaila. The name Ceglie derives from Caelia, this is how it was named in the third century BC when it was ruled by the Messapi which during that period also ruled other cities like Brindisi, Ostuni and Lecce. For a long time they opposed and fought to the Greeks who dominated the Taranto territory and tried to create an outlet to the Adriatic Sea. They tried to resist for a few decades but Taranto finally prevailed over them in 303 BC.It was during the Messapian period that the city became an important cultural and military centre.
There are still several Messapian remains in the town and scattered across its countryside, the most important are the four fortification walls (remains of these walls are called Paretone in the local dialect). They are 5 km long and confirm the defensive function of Ceglie from the Greeks of Taranto.
Ceglie dominated the surrounding area from its Acropolis: the new town was built during the Medieval Age around the original Acropolis and today it still retains its original appearance and some ancient buildings.The town is dominated by the presence of the Castle, built in the 15th century on the same site of the Hellenistic Acropolis and main Roman temples. On its left there is the Norman tower which forms part of the original castle, built about 400 years earlier.
The surrounding area, as the whole Itria Valley, is characterized by the unmistakable presence of trulli and masserie. Remains of 19 specchie (mirrors) have also been found in its countryside: they are basically pile of stones of elliptical shape and various sizes, it is believed that some (the larger) were once used as lookout towers and others (the smaller) were used as tombs as few of them contained many funeral objects.
Spectacular are also the caves of Montevicoli with stalactites and stalagmites and a well designed path for the visit. At Christmas time a famous live nativity scene is set up inside of this beautiful structure.
The town boasts a well-established culinary tradition, and since the fifties has received several awards, especially for the ice cream, pastry and bakery productions. Among these, the “cegliese cookie”, which has been candidate for the PDO recognition (Protected Designation of Origin): it is a cookie made with toasted almonds, lemon and black cherry jam, covered with a glaze made of sugar and cocoa (called “scileppo”).