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and defense from the incursions of enemy armies or “pirates”, those of which traces remain on the territory or in historical documents all date back to medieval times, although it is probable that some of them were also built in previous eras, but no trace remains of these, those that remain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