The real estate market in 2021

The real estate market in 2021

In February 2021 on this blog we tried to analyze the impact of the pandemic caused by the COVID 19 virus on the Italian real estate market, focusing in particular on the residential real estate market. A picture had emerged whose tints were less gloomy than expected, a 14% drop in overall transactions for the year 2020 was more than justified by the months of total lockdown, a slow recovery in the summer months of the same year. and again the decline due to the rise in infections and the consequent new restrictions contributed to creating a climate of partial confidence, conditioned by the outcome of the national vaccination campaign and the rebound of the general economic framework.

Now that over 80% of Italian citizens have received at least the first dose of the vaccine and the forecasts for the Italian GDP all travel around the value of + 6%, let's try to take stock of the situation again. To have an analysis as consistent as possible with that of last February, we will use the same sources, namely data from Istat, the Revenue Agency and Nomisma.


The general trend of the market

House prices rose in the second quarter of 2021: this is confirmed by the recent publication of the Istat Index, this rise in house prices is mainly due to the increase in the values ​​of new homes (+ 2%), while existing house prices (+ 0.1%). But also on the sales front there is an expansion in volumes, especially in the residential sector, as reported by the Real Estate Market Observatory of the Revenue Agency.
The growth is therefore double and concerns both "the cost of the brick" and the market, as the Real Estate Market Observatory of the Revenue Agency always reports: between April and June of this year, sales in the residential sector increased by 73.4% compared to 2020 (the latter period, which obviously suffered from the restrictions and difficulties associated with the pandemic period). According to Nomisma, the forecasts for the residential market for the next few years are also consistent with the climate of improvement and confidence in progress. The sales, as mentioned, will return to around 600 thousand in 2021, to reach 651 thousand in 2023, recovering the forecast levels of 2019. Purchase intentions (in particular, the purchase of the first house or replacement of the same) they have therefore experienced a surge: from 2.4 million to 3.3 million families willing to invest in the real estate sector in the last year.
Also according to Nomisma, the interest of Italians is clearly shifting towards the purchase of a home, prevailing over renting. 62% of the demand (6 percentage points more than the previous year) is represented by people wishing to buy a house and the average age of buyers is less than 45 years. The remaining 38% is oriented towards leasing.
Another fact to take into account that emerged from Nomisma's studies is the change in the valuation practices of properties, for example, among various factors, the assessment of the energy performance of the property has acquired a predominant importance, in fact a general repricing due to energy redevelopment interventions, in alignment with the provisions of the Superbonus, which provides for the jump of two energy classes.


Smart working effect

A paragraph of our article from last February was titled the same way, given the evident impact of smart working on workers' habits during the pandemic, but is there still a "smart working effect"? Yes undoubtedly, but beware, as a study by Cushman & Wakefield, one of the largest private companies in the world real estate market, highlights, the future of offices will not be binary: we will not only work in the office or only from home, but a hybrid model will prevail. The office as we have known it to date will not die completely, but its role in the workplace of many will undoubtedly be different and office work will be less frequent than before the pandemic. It is therefore reasonable to predict that the "escape from the city" in favor of the countryside and the suburbs will be a trend in the real estate market for a long time to come.


How is the measurement going? One year after the launch of the 110% Superbonus, again according to Nomisma's studies, it emerges that sworn interventions are growing, but not at the expected speed, especially due to regulatory uncertainty. In particular, there is a decrease in potentially affected families, compared to May 2020, and still a reduced rate of involvement of condominiums which, we recall, are the main realities for which the initiative was designed. For further information on the eco-bonus and other home bonuses, find other articles in our Blog section.

Financial benefits for large, medium and small businesses


What do the Facilitation Programs provide?

Finally, thanks to the notice of the official bulletin of the Puglia Region, large, medium and small businesses can apply through the online procedure "PIA TURISMO" made available at to take advantage of financial endowments made available provision for real estate redevelopment projects.

Let's better define who the beneficiaries are:

• Large-sized companies in the ordinary accounting regime which, on the date of submission of the application, have approved at least two financial statements;

• Medium-sized companies under ordinary accounting which, on the date of submission of the application, have approved at least two financial statements;

• Small businesses under ordinary accounting which, at the start of the request, have approved at least three financial statements from which an average turnover of not less than 1 million euros can be distinguished;

In addition to the subsidies, initiatives such as investment programs for the realization of:

1. Tourist-hotel activities, thanks to the physical and efficient recovery of unfinished structures, started in a legitimate way, destined for tourist-hotel activities;

2. Expansion, modernization and restructuring of tourist-hotel structures in order to raise quality standards and / or classification;

3. Construction of tourist-hotel facilities with a capacity of no less than 7 rooms to be consolidated, restored and / or rehabilitated any buildings of an artistic and historical nature, which at the time of submitting the application, the Declaration of interest was interposed cultural;

4. Consolidation, rehabilitation and restoration of rural buildings, farms, trulli, towers, fortifications in order to transform them into hotel structures with accommodation capacity of no less than 7 rooms;

5. Intervening on systems and structures to improve the quality of the property, such that it can favor tourism seasonal adjustment in the local area.

The costs allowed for those who choose the subsidy program:

The materials and expenses for the rehabilitation and construction must be used for the purposes of the program which is the subject of the request for subsidies. The eligible expenses are:

1. Purchase of company land and its accommodation within the limit of 10% of the investment in tangible assets;

2. Masonry and similar works;

3. New factory machinery, plants and equipment;

4. Purchase of patents, licenses, know-how and non-patented technical knowledge, new technologies of products and production processes, for the part in which they are used for the activity carried out in the production unit affected by the program, up to a maximum amount equal to 40% of the total investment.

In addition, expenses are allowed for:

• The acquisition of consulting services for business innovation and to improve the competitive positioning of local production systems concerning the environment, responsibility and ethics, business internationalization and e-business;

• Participation in trade fairs.

Bail-out vs bail-in

Why should you choose the investment of the brick?

A rule that entered into force on 1 January 2016 also in Italy, after the Chamber approved the "European delegation law" with (270 votes in favor, 113 against and 22 abstentions), provides that banks in default can draw from the accounts currents exceeding € 100,000.00 of account holders, including shares and bonds from customers - savers. This means that the bail-out, that is, the external bailout through the public coffers, is replaced by the bail-in, that is, the bailout of banks by drawing on internal resources. It is unacceptable to think that investors and shareholders can no longer rely on the concreteness of banks. From this it follows that investing in brick is the safest way to make a long-term investment.


The answer is yes.
The markets today are not in good condition, also given last year's statistics which see the decline of 2.5% (according to the brokerage firm Tecnocasa), but thanks to the depreciated properties, investors can now deposit their savings in this type of market which is constantly evolving. In central and southern Italy at the moment, brick is considered a safer investment. The ascent towards an interest-bearing real estate market will be slow and not without its pitfalls, but it is expected that this year and the next year the sale will increase.

The Lecce stone

“In Lecce even the poorest houses are tasteful. In no other city have I seen so many doors, windows, loggias, pillars, balustrades all made of stone. Stone is easy to work here. "
(George Berkeley)

George Berkeley, famous theologian and philosopher considered, together with John Locke and David Hume, the father of empiricism, wrote some splendid words about Puglia and in particular about Lecce which he, in his "Travel diary in Italy" (1717), he defined in no uncertain terms "the most beautiful city in Italy". The philosopher appreciated the architecture of churches, convents and noble palaces, as well as the surrounding landscape and also expressed convinced praises on the people who lived in the city, of which he wrote "civilized and educated people, it seems that they have inherited the amiability of the ancient Greeks who in the past inhabited these parts of Italy ", but as the quote at the opening of this article shows, only part of the beauty of local architecture escaped his gaze as a sensitive empiricist, beyond the mastery of the craftsmen who built them, it was also due to the quality of the stone used in the construction, the famous “Lecce stone”.

The Lecce stone, called in dialect "leccisu", is of calcareous origin, is part of the group of marly calcarenites and its formation was identified by technicians in the Miocene period, or about 20 million years ago. Among its properties is the presence, in the formation itself, of shell fragments, small fossils that geologically enrich the structure, but also of clays, quartz and minerals that fortify it and make it even more unique. It is straw yellow in color, but the particularities of its composition enrich it with infinite shades that make it even more intriguing and spectacular.

In addition to characterizing it on a visual level, the very nature of the stone makes it very sensitive to the action of natural atmospheric agents, such as humidity or water stagnation, and also to agents of human origin such as smog. To make it more resistant, the master sculptors of the Baroque era used to treat the rock with milk, in fact lactose, penetrating inside the stone thanks to its porosity, endowed it with a waterproof protective layer, without altering its aesthetic qualities. This treatment also made it easier to process. Today the lactose-based treatment has not completely disappeared, but is joined by other more technological and modern treatments. It must be said that the wear of time sometimes enriches the Lecce stone, adding to its natural beauty a further very fascinating and warm chromatic range, with colors ranging from beige to amber and even, in some cases, to deep pink shades. The ease of processing Lecce stone, known for some time as the quote with which this article opens, is a feature that has certainly contributed to the local and later worldwide success of this precious material.

Lecce stone is mostly extracted in open-air quarries found above all in the municipalities of Lecce, Corigliano, Melpignano, Cursi and Maglie, at a depth of up to 50 meters; the hardness of the stone varies according to the depth of the extraction point and while the one extracted at more superficial levels is used above all to create sculptures and decorations, from the deep, harder benches, the material to be used in construction is extracted, to make plans and is also used as a refractory stone for fireplaces.

Lecce stone is part of the soul of Lecce Baroque, the architectural style born in the Salento capital between the end of the sixteenth century and the first half of the eighteenth century, recognizable for its splendid decorations that characterize the coatings of the buildings. The style, influenced by the Spanish Plateresque, owes its birth to the work of local architects such as Giuseppe Zimbalo (1617-1710) and Giuseppe Cino (1644-1722). The fruits of this peculiar style to be absolutely known are the Palazzo dei Celestini, the church of Santa Croce, the Church of Santa Chiara, the Church of Santa Irene and the Duomo, we will talk more about it on this blog. The Lecce stone enjoyed great success during the Baroque era, but it was already appreciated in the classical and pre-classical era.

Among the sculptors who have used and still use the Lecce stone today, we point out the work of Stefano Garrisi, Renzo Buttazzo, Antonio Margarito and Andrea Serra.

The Porto Selvaggio Regional Natural Park

Ten kilometers away from the Municipality of Nardò and a little less than twenty from the Municipality of Gallipoli there is an obligatory stop for those visiting Salento: a natural oasis that includes the Cala di Porto Selvaggio, the Palude del Capitano and the Torre dall 'Alto, a natural area protected by regional law since 2006 and included in 2007 in the list of "100 places to save" of the Italian Environment Fund (FAI).

We said an obligatory appointment, for lovers of seaside resorts, sports and nature in general. You can get there by driving a few minutes from the Municipality of Nardò and after having parked in one of the stops used, you walk a few hundred meters and find yourself in front of a natural spectacle to rub your eyes, a long descent immersed in nature leads in fact to a small beach of gravel and pebbles with a crystalline sea, whose waters are particularly refreshing and invigorating, also due to a current of fresh and cold water that reaches directly into the bay. The beach is surrounded by a large pine forest, whose trees were planted in the 1950s to reclaim the largely marshy surrounding land.

Within this natural park, which is not limited to the beach area, but includes over four hundred hectares of land, of which over two hundred and sixty of pine forest, there are various itineraries and different possibilities to relax or play sports; there are in fact the surrounding cliffs, a little more inaccessible than the "pine forest area", but which still allow bathing, there are also the numerous paths inside the pine forest, usable for walks or picnics and which are also an unmissable appointment for lovers of trekking and mountain biking. Speaking of trekking, among the most remarkable views of the park, returning to Gallipoli, you can go up along the pine forest and admire the Tower of Santa Maria from the High, an ancient watchtower, located 50 meters above sea level, on a rocky spur overlooking the beach, from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the entire natural park. The tower was erected in the second half of the 16th century and was part of an elaborate system of defensive turrets spread over the entire Salento coast, communicating to the north with Torre Uluzzo and to the south with Torre Santa Caterina. This system of turrets represents a historical heritage of the Salento area, but in a certain sense it is also an emotional heritage for the local population, as each of these turrets marks the landscape of the Salento coast in a unique way, we will talk about it in more detail with another article on this blog.

Speaking of history, the Porto Selvaggio Natural Park, in addition to the landscape treasure and the possibilities for sports of various kinds, also offers unmissable opportunities for archeology enthusiasts: eight different archaeological sites in the cave have been identified within the park , a sign of presence first by Neanderthal groups and subsequently by Sapiens, and the territory of the Municipality of Nardò is the center of an extraordinary "district of prehistory", with a historical stratification ranging from Neanderthal and Sapiens frequentations to those left by Messapi and then later by the Romans, up to the baroque architecture of the historic center of the same municipality. The Museum of Prehistory of Nardò, located in the former convent of Sant’Antonio da Padova, preserves most of the finds from archaeological research conducted in the area.

This wonderful natural oasis is located on the side of the Salento coast that faces west and therefore those who are there at sunset will see the sun slowly sink into the sea, we therefore recommend that you end your day in Porto Selvaggio with an aperitif in one of the numerous bars or kiosks between the natural oasis and Gallipoli, you will end a simply perfect day at the beach.

The sentinels of Salento: the history of the coastal towers

The coast of Salento always offers a remarkable panoramic spectacle, whether you go up it towards the north of the region from the eastern part or towards the city of Taranto from the western Ionian part, or that you descend it towards the Capo di Leuca, the beauty of the glimpses is always worthwhile and it is difficult to resist the desire to stop and enjoy the view of the sea, the golden sunrises or the fiery sunsets.

Those familiar with these splendid landscapes will have noticed that there are often stone turrets, or the remains of these, to shore up these views, as if they had been placed there for aesthetic reasons, as if to act as a vertical counterpoint on the mainland to the horizon. fixed of the sea. They almost represent milestones in the economy of the landscape, they also constitute an emotional heritage for the local population that associates with the surrounding marinas, so much so that some of these towers over time have become part of the Salento toponymy, even if officially as a "locality", often these towers indicate places of their own, for an inhabitant of the area going to Porto Miggiano is different than going to Santa Cesarea Terme, despite Porto Miggiano being a "locality" of the Municipality of Santa Cesarea Terme.

But what do we know about these towers? When were they built and for what reason? It is interesting to answer these questions because the answers tell us a lot about the history of Salento and more generally of all of Southern Italy. The construction of coastal towers has an essentially military reason, they have always been primarily outposts for sighting and defense from the incursions of enemy armies or "pirates", those of which traces remain on the territory or in historical documents all date back to medieval times, although it is probable that some of them were also built in previous eras, but no trace remains of these, those that remain visible today date back either to the years of the 11th century or, in most cases, to the years between XVI and XVII centuries, the years in which Don Pedro Álvarez de Toledo y Zúñiga reigned over all of Southern Italy as Viceroy of the Kingdom of Naples, on behalf of Charles V of Habsburg.

The first coastal towers in Southern Italy were therefore built in the 11th century to defend the territories from pirate raids, but due to the continuous political changes that never allowed a stable administration of the territory, a real integrated and functioning defense system on the whole coast was never finished and the few towers built ended up becoming the property of local families, who used them to defend and guard their possessions exclusively. Things changed in the mid-fifteenth century, when the raids on the Italian territory of pirates and especially of the Ottoman invaders became more and more frequent, in fact the capture of Otranto by the Ottoman invaders dates back to the year 1480, who in reaching the Salento town did not they found practically no resistance, above all they were able to land on the Salento territory without being sighted and therefore without anyone notifying the citizens of Otranto.

Just following the tragic event, Don Pedro de Toledo, who became Viceroy of the Kingdom of Naples in 1532, decided to implement and operate the system of control turrets, which had to be enough to be able to monitor the entire coast of Southern Italy and since the the main danger was the increasingly powerful Ottoman Empire and therefore it came from the East, it was Salento, due to its exposed geographical position, that was at the center of this surveillance system. This type of enterprise, that is the construction of over 300 coastal towers, for the canons of the time was not at all trivial, also for a matter of costs, so the towers were often built with a rather innovative "procurement" system for the time , or rather the construction was entrusted to a private individual who in exchange for the work could boast the military title of "Captain of the tower". There was no shortage of unforeseen events, for example in some cases these private individuals, despite the precise indication of the Viceroy to use fresh water for the processing and laying of materials, used the salt water of the sea to save costs, but the towers built with the salt water suffered from erosion and collapsed in no time. Despite these unforeseen events, the work was slowly completed and the Kingdom of Naples suffered the Ottoman advance with less and less damage, until the decisive battle of Lepanto in 1571 averted the Ottoman danger for our coasts forever.

The heritage of architectural eclecticism in Salento: the Moorish palaces

In architecture, “eclecticism” is defined as a current that aims at mixing the best stylistic elements present in the various architectural movements. The movement was born in England in 1700, then in the following century it spread widely to the rest of Europe, eventually reaching southern Italy as well. In its initial phase, European architectural eclecticism drew its ideas from different historical periods, with the birth of neo-Greek architecture, followed by the neo-Renaissance and then by the neo-baroque, but over the years the interpreters of eclecticism sought the their inspiration not elsewhere in time but in space, in the architecture of distant and exotic places, hence the Neo-Moorish and Neo-Egyptian architecture, but there was also no lack of Chinese and Indian influences.

What we will look at more closely is the neo-Moorish style, which left splendid traces in the Salento peninsula, but which arrived in the West primarily in France, following Napoleon's expedition to Egypt in 1798, and later developed in England and in other European countries, also due to colonialism in the East. Among the most distinctive elements of Moorish architecture we note the presence of circular domes, generally surmounted by a pointed spire, the use of bright colors and a large amount of intricate decorative motifs.

One of the most shining examples of this style in Salento is undoubtedly Villa Sticchi in Santa Cesarea Terme, a splendid building set in one of the most beautiful corners of the entire southern coast of the Adriatic, majestic and immediately recognizable even from far away, for reasons functional as well as aesthetic: the imposing central pagoda, in fact, which makes its profile so unmistakable, at the time was also designed to reflect the sunlight and become a beacon for ships sailing off the coast. This private residence can be considered a real icon of the local area, it was completed in 1894 on the ambitious project of the engineer Giuseppe Ruggeri, who signed many other Moorish residences on the two coasts of Salento, including the one he occupied as his own residence. in Leuca, or Villa La Meridiana, with an octagonal plan and also unmistakable from the outside due to its lively red and yellow parallel bands.

Another very interesting case is that of the “Eclectic Villas of the Cenate”, which take their name from the place where they were built, the Cenate in fact. These stately villas were designed and built between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the next, in the midst of the "eclectic period" and we can admire them on the roads that lead from Nardò to the marinas of Santa Maria al Bagno and Santa Caterina. Walking or cycling through these country roads suddenly, in the middle of the characteristic olive trees, these precious baroque villas appear, in Art Nouveau style or even here in neo-Moorish style, as in the case of the beautiful Villa Saetta (now De Michele) and Villa Cristina dei Personè (now De Benedittis).

This desire to experiment and enrich the local landscape with exotic motifs and shapes was not limited to the coast but also took hold in the city of Lecce, only that while for the summer residences you could indulge yourself in the decorations, especially with the colors, city ​​eclecticism took on less pronounced tones. In Lecce, however, there are some examples of nineteenth-century villas resulting from the architectural eclecticism of the period, almost all along the avenues created at the end of the nineteenth century in place of the newly demolished sixteenth-century walls. Interesting for the variety of architectural characters is Villa Bray, in neo-Moorish style, with an inscription in Arabic characters under the cornice, decorated with horizontal yellow and red bands: on the first floor the windows have horseshoe arches, on the second the arches are Byzantines, on the pointed arch gate. Villa Indraccolo also has oriental-style decorations. Another example of eclecticism declined according to local taste is Villa Himera, whose friezes are carved in Lecce stone.

The farms in Salento

Throughout Mediterranean Europe, as well as in many areas of North and South America and also elsewhere in the world, there are large rural buildings, known by various names: hacienda, ranch, farm, baglio, the Catalan masia or precisely the masseria, typical of Southern Italy, which we will deal with in this article.

These buildings had common characteristics: large spaces, the presence of internal courtyards, very often used as an orchard and also used as a farmyard for poultry, stables and large spaces used for the conservation or production of food. Obviously, wells and cisterns could not be missing and often there were increasingly advanced tools and technologies, such as the oil mills that were supplied to many of these buildings in Southern Italy. Wells and oil mills were also often made available to inhabitants outside the farm, which therefore became the most important meeting and social center of all the neighboring areas.

From the fourteenth century onwards, after the first imports of tobacco into Europe and with the increasing diffusion of the various uses of this plant, tobacco factories, generally smaller in size and more elementary in their size, obviously spread across the continent alongside the farms. structure, but they too survived the industrialization of tobacco production and were reborn as valuable housing units. In Castrignano del Capo, for example, you can admire the Antico Tabacchificio local, dating back to the nineteenth century, with an enviable position, halfway between the town and the splendid seaside resort of "le Felloniche", and with an elegant architecture in full harmony with the surrounding countryside, a clear example of an ancient agricultural production center destined to become a residential unit of absolute value.

The fact that more or less buildings of this type can be found all over the world is due to their common origin, that is, the large landholdings, known to us as "estates", which for many centuries have been the only production model. farming around the world. The large owner, who often lived in the few inhabited centers that existed at the time, far from the cultivations, granted the peasants (in our case called "massari") the possibility of living in these buildings, which served as the final center of production and conservation of agricultural products. Sometimes, however, the owner lived on the farm together with the peasants and in this case the architecture of the building reflected the difference in status of its inhabitants, with the owner family who lived on the upper floors or in the central buildings and the peasants relegated to the lower floors. or in peripheral structures.

Where the historical events and the conflicts that followed required it, the farms were fortified and also became bulwarks against foreign invasion; in Salento for example, after the Turkish invasion of 1480, King Charles V decided to strengthen the defense of the territory, arranging the construction or renovation of existing buildings, equipping them with towers for sighting of enemies and fortified fences. In the Salento peninsula, therefore, there are several, the Masseria Torre Casciani, the Masseria Melcarne and the Masseria Torcito, surrounded by a very rich vegetation and much loved by the local citizens for the possibility of hiking and picnics, just to name a few.

A separate note deserve the farms in some way connected to the Roman Church or to ancient noble families related to it, which were entrusted and managed by monastic or knightly orders, in these obviously there was always a small chapel to await the daily religious functions. that marked the day. In the Municipality of Surbo the splendid Masseria Schiavelle survives the decay, of which one can still admire the severe architecture halfway between the residential and the military complex.

The production model based on large estates was the only one known all over the world until almost the twentieth century, when a progressive democratization of agricultural production and therefore also of the society that revolved around it, together with the evolution of production, conservation and of the commercialization of agricultural products, it has broken up and divided the estates making the farms and other architectures similar to them obsolete and useless for large-scale agricultural production; from this moment the destiny of these structures has changed, in some cases they have been condemned to a slow ruin, to abandonment or conversion into anonymous warehouses, but fortunately they have become more and more luxurious homes. , and gradually more and more appreciated and requested. The transformation was often easy, as the farms were built already from their origin taking into account a certain aesthetic and architectural taste, thanks to the skill of craftsmen and masons who worked stone, carparo or tuff. Very often these were buildings built with a view to functionality, to make life in the fields less difficult and therefore to ease the fatigue of the settlers, offer practical solutions and ensure maximum usability of the environments, respecting a certain balance between man and nature, between the building and the territory, but the aesthetic taste of the masters of the time always added something to these needs for balance and functionality, such as the façades whose solemnity can remind us of a church rather than an ordinary home. Many examples of this precious architecture can be seen around the Salento countryside, for example the Masseria Santa Barbara, which we recommend you admire on your next visit to the town of Otranto.

The Lecce Baroque: men and monuments

In a previous article on this blog we have already analyzed the historical origins of the Lecce Baroque, listing some events and circumstances that favored its birth and development, from the Spanish presence in the Kingdom of Naples to the end of the threat brought by the Ottoman Empire up to the Council of Trento and the vast availability of precious stone from Lecce; each of these circumstances had a significant weight in the development of the architecture that redefined the panorama of the city of Lecce from the mid-sixteenth to the eighteenth century, but alongside the favorable circumstances and historical events, the Lecce baroque owes its fortune also to the vision , to the perseverance and commitment of some historical figures of the Salento capital, such as the bishop Luigi Pappacoda or the architects Giuseppe Zimbalo and Giuseppe Cino.

Luigi Pappacoda in June 1639 was called to govern the diocese of Lecce and remained bishop until his death in 1670. He held two diocesan synods in the city in 1647 and 1663 and in 1658 approved the election of the saints Oronzo, Fortunato and Giusto to the patrons of Lecce, restoring the ancient cult. In 1659 he laid the first stone for the construction of the new cathedral and commissioned numerous other works from the architect and sculptor Giuseppe Zimbalo. On his death he was buried in the Cathedral of Lecce, in the sepulcher near the altar of S. Oronzo.

As we have seen, the figure of the bishop Luigi Pappacoda is linked to that of the sculptor and architect Giuseppe Zimbalo, known as "the Zingarello" (the nickname is none other than the Italianization of the dialectal term "Zimbarieddhu" or the little Zimbalo, probably to distinguish it from father Sigismondo, also an artist of the stone) was the most famous and imitated architect of the Lecce Baroque. In the Salento capital the artist created the lower façade of the Celestini Convent, the Cathedral, the column of Sant 'Oronzo and the Church of the Rosario.

As for the architect and sculptor Giuseppe Cino, he worked in the Salento capital from the mid-seventeenth century, continuing the stylistic research of Giuseppe Zimbalo, whose construction of the Palazzo dei Celestini, for example, was completed. Cino was also responsible for the construction of the splendid Church of Santa Chiara, the Church of the Alcantarine and the Church of the Carmine, on which he worked until his death. He also designed the Seminary on commission of Antonio Pignatelli, at the time the new bishop of Lecce.

The Basilica of Santa Croce, together with the adjacent former Celestini Convent, constitutes the highest manifestation of the Lecce Baroque. A monastery had already been built in the 14th century in the area of ​​the current basilica, but it was only after the middle of the 16th century that it was decided to transform the area into an entirely monumental area and to have the necessary space all of them were requisitioned. the properties of the local Jews, expelled from the city in the year 1510. The works for the construction of the basilica lasted for over two centuries and involved the most important Lecce architects of the time. The first phase of construction lasted from 1549 to 1582 and saw the construction of the lower area of ​​the facade, while the dome was completed in 1590. The next phase of the works, starting from 1606, during which the three decorated portals were added to the facade , is marked by the commitment of Francesco Antonio Zimbalo, then Cesare Penna and Giuseppe Zimbalo worked on the final completion of the work.

The history of the Cathedral is very similar: a first cathedral of the Diocese of Lecce was built in 1144 by the bishop Formoso; in 1230, at the behest of the bishop Roberto Voltorico, the cathedral was renovated and rebuilt in Romanesque style. Subsequently, in 1659, the bishop Luigi Pappacoda gave Giuseppe Zimbalo the task of rebuilding the church in the Baroque style. The construction ended in 1670. The bell tower of the Duomo was built between 1661 and 1682, again by Giuseppe Zimbalo; was built to replace the Norman one, wanted by Goffredo d '

Altavilla, which collapsed at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and has a height of 70 meters; from its summit it is possible to admire the Adriatic sea and on particularly clear days also the mountains of Albania.

Also in the Piazza del Duomo is the Palazzo del Seminario built by the architect Giuseppe Cino between 1694 and 1709, commissioned by Bishop Michele Pignatelli. In the atrium you can admire a decorated well, also the work of Cino, while inside the building there is a chapel from 1696. On the first floor of the building we also find the "Diocesan Museum" and the "Innocenziana Library", so called by the name assumed by Pope Innocent XII, who had been bishop of the city. The library contains over ten thousand volumes, including from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

The Church of Santa Chiara is located in the historic center of Lecce, in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. Its first foundation, wanted by the bishop Tommaso Ammirato, dates back to 1429; it was subsequently almost completely renovated between 1687 and 1691. The construction of the church, which remained without the upper pediment, is also the work of the architect Giuseppe Cino.

The Church of Sant 'Irene dei Teatini is located in the historic center of Lecce and is dedicated to Sant' Irene da Lecce, protector of the city until 1656. It was built starting from 1591 on a project by the Theatine Francesco Grimaldi and was completed in 1639, year of consecration by the bishop of Brindisi. The Church of Sant 'Irene was also at the center of important non-religious historical events: in 1797 it was visited by King Ferdinand IV of Naples, while in October 1860 it hosted the plebiscite operations to decide Lecce's yes to enter the Kingdom of Italy. In 1866 the annexed Convent of the Theatines was suppressed, but the church was still open to worship.

There are obviously many examples of the Lecce Baroque style also in other municipalities of the Salento peninsula, such as the Cathedral of Gallipoli or the Mother Church of Casarano.

The Lecce Baroque: history and origins


Whitely gilded
is the sky where
on the ledges they run
sweet-breasted angels,
Saracen warriors and learned donkeys
with rich ruffs.

A fast-paced game
of the soul that is afraid
multiply figures,
defends itself
from a sky that is too clear.

An air of gold
mild and unhurried
he entertains himself in that kingdom
of useless gears including
the seed of boredom
it unfolds its arrogantly witty flowers
and as for bet
a stone carnival
simulates infinity in a thousand guises.

(from After the Moon, 1956)

Vittorio Bodini was an established Apulian poet and translator, he was born in Bari but spent his childhood in the Salento capital, he translated into Italian several Spanish writers including Federico Garcia Lorca and Miguel de Cervantes. In his poem "Lecce" we find a splendid and exciting description of the Lecce Baroque and we start from here to talk about this architectural style which in two centuries, between 1550 and 1730, changed the face of the city forever and made it the jewel it is today, capable of attracting visitors from all over the world.
Let's start from the words of an established translator of Spanish works for a specific reason, the link between Spain and Italy is not accidental if we talk about the Lecce Baroque, this style is in fact very influenced by the Spanish Plateresque, an artistic style that flourished in Spain. in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, characterized by many ornaments and composed starting from the imitation of silverware works (in Spanish “plata”), from which the name of plateresque derives. A few decades after the Spanish presence in the Kingdom of Naples contributes decisively to the customs clearance of this taste for details and decorations and therefore to the birth of the Lecce Baroque. There are also other historical reasons behind this Baroque spring in the Heel of Italy, such as the outcome of the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, which considerably weakened the armies of the Ottoman Empire, making southern Italy less exposed to raids by pirates and invasions by the enemy. Finally, the Counter-Reformation, or a set of measures of spiritual, theological and liturgical renewal with which the Catholic Church reformed its institutions after the Council of Trent. Following these measures, many churches were re-adapted at an architectural level to be more functional to the new post-Tridentine liturgies, many buildings of medieval construction were "renovated", through embellishments with stuccoes, marbles and various decorations, which made them assume

these look like baroque churches. But the Baroque was particularly lucky in Salento also thanks to the quality of the local stone used: the Lecce stone, which we have already talked about in this blog, or a soft and compact limestone with warm and golden tones suitable for working with the stonemason.

The Lecce Baroque is immediately recognizable even to less experienced spectators, due to its gaudy decorations that characterize the coatings of the buildings: precisely baroque exuberances, floral motifs, human figures and mythological animals, friezes and coats of arms. All this richness of agricultural and floral decorative elements is a metaphor for the "grace of God" and the beauty of creation. Among the most common fruits are the pine cone, a symbol of fertility and abundance, the apple, a symbol of temptation but also of redemption, the pomegranate, a symbol of the Resurrection, the vine, an attribute of Christ.

This new style, which at first only affected sacred and noble buildings, then spread also in civil architecture and therefore its floral motifs, figures, mythological animals, friezes and coats of arms also triumphed on the facades, balconies and on the portals of private buildings.

Until then Lecce had been a fortified city, almost austere, gathered around the severe bulk of the Castle of Charles V, but in less than two centuries it changed considerably, becoming that "... stone carnival, which simulates the infinite ”recounted by Bodini in his beautiful verses. In the next article of this blog we will see to analyze in detail each of the buildings resulting from this admirable architectural revolution.