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and defense from the incursions of enemy armies or "pirates", those of which traces remain on the territory or in historical documents all date back to medieval times, although it is probable that some of them were also built in previous eras, but no trace remains of these, those that remain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.

What are the procedures to follow when buying in Italy?

What are the procedures to follow when buying in Italy?

It is good to inquire and arrive prepared before carrying out a very delicate action such as buying a house. Precisely for this reason, we recommend that you always rely on an expert in the sector, real estate agents or real estate agencies that offer consultancy activities in the search for the property, manage the first contracts and can ensure assistance in the various stages of the sale which are:

• the negotiation or pre-contractual phase;
• the irrevocable purchase proposal;
• acceptance of the purchase proposal;
• the preliminary contract;
• the deed of real estate sale or notarial deed.

The customer or company coming from abroad must necessarily follow the regulations of the Italian law which imposes some fundamental requirements such as the possession of a tax code issued by the tax office, or it can be requested at the Italian Consulate (in any city of origin ) while for companies it must be requested directly from the competent Revenue Agency in Italy. The buyer, in the event that he cannot be present himself during the transition period, entrusts an Attorney with the task of following the necessary operations until the end, which will take place after registration.

Let's better define the points to follow:

- One of the most important phases is undoubtedly the negotiation, necessary to define the terms and details of a transfer, such as to be able to satisfy both the buyer and the seller. From here the payment methods are established, the limits with respect to the delivery of the property and the signing of the deed of sale, the notice by the buyer of the possible need to access a mortgage and the communications of any existing constraints on the ownership by the seller.

- The second phase concerns the purchase proposal that binds the party proposing the purchase after signing. However, it is not binding on the seller until he signs it. If at the expiry of the term of validity the seller does not accept, the proposal will be useless. Therefore, for both parties, it is advisable to include mortgage registrations or charges of any kind in the proposal. During the proposal it is right to read the main documentation relating to the property, as well as indicating whether you intend to take advantage of a mortgage or any other payment procedure.

- Acceptance of the proposal follows, accompanied by a non-interest bearing check which in the event of non-acceptance by the seller will be returned, on the contrary if the contract is concluded, with the approval of the seller, this sum will become a confirmation deposit. (Article 1385 of the Civil Code). All payments must be made through checks or bank transfers and must be kept until the notarial deed is signed. With the contract concluded, the Real Estate Agent has the right to receive the commission.

- The preliminary sale is a document that sees the commitment between the two parties to sell and buy, with a precise identification of the parties themselves (if there are more than one) and the object for sale. This can be drawn up with the assistance of a professional, who in Italy often identifies with the figure of the Notary, who will take care of the drafting of the final deed and will make an accurate assessment in the tax field, will carry out inspections of mortgage surveys. and cadastral, will verify the validity of each clause, will check the personal data, the exact identification of the parts and the property, the agreed price, the payment methods, the date on which the parties intend to stipulate the notarial deed indicating the chosen notary, of the existence or not of mortgage or other bonds. This is followed by the registration of the purchase proposal and the preliminary at the Revenue Office and the transcription of the preliminary at the Land Agency Real Estate Advertising Service.

- Finally, the signing of the final sale contract, or notarial deed which is the main sales contract, signed by the buyer and the seller before the Notary, chosen and paid by the buyer. The notary has the task of verifying that the property is full, not burdened with prejudicial formalities and of checking the identity of the owners and the identification of the property to be purchased. From that moment the asset will be transferred in all respects from the seller to the buyer.

What are the taxes to pay while buying a property in Italy?

What are the taxes to pay while buying a property in Italy?

When you buy a house you are subjected to the payment of certain taxes, such as VAT, registration tax, mortgage tax and land registry tax. Taxes may vary according to the destination of the property, that is, if it is a first home, and by the seller, for example if it is a private individual, a construction company or another company inclined to buy and sell real estate.
Let's analyze the possible hypotheses better.


If a private individual buys the house, the taxes to be paid are:

- Registration tax at 2%
- Fixed mortgage tax of € 50.00.00
- Fixed cadastral tax of € 50.00.00

If the seller is a construction company and the works have been completed for a maximum of 4 years, the following will be paid:

- 4% VAT
- Fixed registration tax of € 200.00.00
- Fixed cadastral tax of € 200.00.00

If, on the other hand, you buy from a construction company that has completed the work for more than 4 years, or if you buy from a non-construction company that is solely dedicated to the purchase and sale of the property, the taxes to be paid are:

- Registration tax at 2%
- Fixed mortgage tax of € 200.00.00
- Fixed cadastral tax of € 200.00.00


In this case the taxes to be paid change, if a buyer buys a property always for residential use but it is not a first home, there are two possibilities:

1) It is bought from a private individual, from a non-construction company, from a construction company after 4 years from the end of the works;

2) Or it is purchased from a construction company within 4 years.

In the first case, the following must be paid:

- Registration tax at 9%
- Fixed mortgage tax of € 50.00.00
- Fixed cadastral tax of € 50.00.00

For the second hypothesis instead:

- 10% VAT (20% if it is a luxury property)
- Fixed registration tax of € 200.00.00
- Fixed mortgage tax of € 200.00.00
- Fixed cadastral tax of € 200.00.00

But how are the values on which taxes are calculated?

It is of obvious interest to know how the aforementioned taxes are actually paid and calculated. They can be credited directly at the time of registration of the deed of sale. If a private individual is buying, the taxes are calculated on the cadastral value of the property. If the buyer is not a private individual or the sale concerns land, shops and offices, the calculation will refer to the price notified in the deed of purchase and not to the cadastral value. VAT is also calculated from the purchase price when the value added tax is to be paid. If, on the other hand, the purchase price is explicitly indicated in the deed, the buyer can clearly ask the notary that the taxes are counted on the cadastral value and not on the price paid. So even on the notary fee there is a discount of 30%.

Archeology of Salento: the hinterland

It is enough to identify Salento on any map to observe its geographical centrality within the Mediterranean Sea, universally recognized as the cradle of all Western civilization; observing the position of the Salento peninsula we immediately understand how this has been, over the centuries, an almost obligatory passage for the movement from east to west that characterized the history of ancient peoples already in the phases preceding the Greek and Roman eras. Starting from this consideration, it is easy to understand how the Salento area has been over time first a landing place and then a home for many peoples during their historical adventure, but what our adventurous predecessors left as a testimony of their life and struggle for the conquest of one's own identity? There is still much to see and for convenience and ease of reading we will tell you about it in two different posts on this blog: this one, dedicated to the Salento archeology of the hinterland and the next which will be dedicated to the archeology of the Salento coast.

The first appointment is on what is geographically defined as the "Messapian threshold", that is the splendid town of Ostuni, considered the northern limit of the Salento peninsula. The local Museum of Preclassical Civilizations houses the remains of Delia, also known as "the Woman of Ostuni", a hominid whose remains were discovered in October 1991 by the palethnologist Donato Coppola, in a cave at the local archaeological park. The remains date back to about 24,000 years ago, but the importance of Delia is given by the fact that together with it, or rather in her womb, the remains of a fetus in the terminal phase were also found, and therefore Delia is still today the oldest mother of which history has direct knowledge.

The journey continues "in the feminine" with the Venus of Parabita, two statuettes from the prehistoric era, found in 1965 by the team of prof. Giuseppe Piscopo at the local Grotta delle Veneri, which represent two pregnant women hugging each other: this type of works of art are called Paleolithic venus. The statuettes are carved from horse bone and have an age of 12,000-14,000 years. They are kept at the MARTA (National Archaeological Museum of Taranto).

Going up the thread of Salento history it is necessary to face the Messapian period. The Messapi were a population that in the classical era occupied a large part of the Salento peninsula since their arrival, dated around 700 BC. until the Roman conquest of the whole Salento area which took place around 260 BC. Their origin is uncertain, but the most plausible hypotheses consider them a union between the Illyrian and Cretan people, who met in the Salento area during their explorations towards the West. Speaking of the Messapi, if you want to know more about their history, it is essential to take a walk in the "Parco dei Guerrieri", a site brought to light in 1981 after the works by the University of Salento, in collaboration with the Ecole Francaise of Rome. The park today looks like an open-air archaeological area of about 20 hectares, distributed over an even larger area that goes from the town of Vaste to the Serre di Poggiardo, the natural hills on which the first Messapi settlements were born in Salento. Recent excavations have brought to light the remains of what must have been one of the most important cities of the Messapia; the path of the ancient walls, the foundations of the city and therefore of the huts that stood there and of which a faithful reproduction can be observed right at the Park has been recovered. Countless tombs still intact have also been unearthed, with all the funerary equipment and the remains of a pagan temple.

The Romans arrive in 260 BC. as we have seen, and this time the city of Lecce flourishes, with the Latin name of Lupiae, passing from a simple military station to a real "municipium", experiencing a period of absolute splendor that coincides with that of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, period in which it was enriched with the construction of a theater and an amphitheater and connected to Porto Adriano (today San Cataldo).

In the Middle Ages, the nerve center of the Salento area moved to Otranto, which remained so until the brief Ottoman conquest in 1480 and immediately ended the following year. Despite the brevity of the Turkish occupation, the event remains central to the identity of the town of Hydruntina, as evidenced by the impressive relics of the Martyrs of Otranto, which can still be seen today at the local Basilica of the Annunziata.