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 real estate market during and after the pandemic

The pandemic caused by COVID 19 has already changed our lives in unimaginable ways until a year ago and despite collective efforts to implement mass vaccination as soon as possible, the disease is still with us and we do not know how long and how the its aftermath will continue to influence our society. Analyzing the impact of this historic event within the universe of markets and in particular the real estate one is obviously not a simple exercise, but having already passed almost a year since the first tragic deaths in Europe and the first containment measures from governments, we are starting to have enough data to develop credible analyzes, focusing mainly on the residential real estate market.
For the drafting of these forecasts we used data from Istat, Nomisma, Scenari Immobiliari, and Corriere della Sera.

The general trend of the market

Obviously there has been a slowdown, but less dramatic than expected, in fact there is a general decrease in the price of houses, but a limited decrease, with the new market going against the trend as evidenced by the IPAB index (House Price Index) of the Istat, which reports price increases for the first three quarters of the year. On the other hand, by analyzing the number of transactions, a drop of 14% emerges in 2020 compared to the previous year, a significant but not dramatic number, if we consider the two months of lockdown in which it was not possible to visit the houses or obviously conclude the transactions. , just think that in 2012, considered a tragic year for the brick market, but without the tragedy of the pandemic, the reduction was 24%. According to the Nomisma and Scenari Immobiliari study centers, after a slow recovery during the summer of 2020, due to the arrival of the second wave of infections also in 2021, this slight decline will continue and we will be able to speak of a real recovery only in 2022 and 2023, but this positive scenario is closely linked to the hope of a rebound in the general economic situation and to the success of the national vaccination plan.

Smart working effect

As Corriere della Sera points out in an analysis of its economic insert of January 2021, the real game changer of the residential real estate market could be the so-called smart working: working from home is a novelty for Italy and certainly has significant advantages. for workers, but also for companies that could reduce their operating costs, it is therefore easy to predict that alongside many workers who will return "in presence" once the pandemic is behind us, there will be others for which will go back further and will continue to work from their home, also benefiting from the imminent arrival in Italy of 5G connections. What does all this mean for the real estate market? First of all, a progressive shift from the city to the suburbs, from large urban centers to locations located in the hinterland or in tourist resorts, many second homes will become main homes. From this also derive the forecasts that see the real estate market of large Italian cities still in difficulty, with the exception of Milan, a city with a generally more dynamic market and which in 2024 will host the Winter Olympics. Also as a result of smart working, the demand for large and comfortable homes will grow, with spaces to be used exclusively for work from home and with a strong demand for homes with outdoor spaces. A good example of this trend are the data that provides on its website about the real estate situation in the province of Lecce, as in Salento the number of transactions and the value of the properties generally follows the values of the rest of the national territory, but putting the magnifying glass on the dynamics of prices and on real estate prices divided by type of house, it clearly emerges that the type that recorded the greatest percentage appreciation is made up of farmhouses and farms, whose prices show an increase of about 5% in the last 3 months, closely followed by detached houses and houses, growing but with minor increases. An increase of this magnitude achieved during a period of pandemic means that the famous Apulian farms, which have long been protagonists in worldly magazines and guides to luxury and well-being, are no longer seen only as fairy-tale ceremonial locations or luxurious tourist destinations. , but as real assets on which to build the future of one's family.

Watch out for the Ecobonus

While the new homes will be designed to meet this new need of buyers to have homes that are also comfortable work environments, it is also foreseeable to bet a strong increase in interest for all used, old or currently disused properties. for which works and renovations are planned facilitated by the 110% bonus (topic that we will soon discuss in more detail, with a dedicated article on this blog).

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.