San Vito dei Normanni
San Vito dei Normanni (Santu Vitu in local dialect) is an Italian town of 19,947 inhabitants of the province of Brindisi in Apulia. The inhabitants are called Sanvitesi (or Santuvitisi in dialect) and the town is sometimes referred to as San Vito.
The town is located in the northeast of the Salento plains, not far from the Itria Valley. The geomorphology of the land is flat, slightly undulating on the border with the municipalities of Carovigno and Ostuni. It is located 9 kilometres (6 miles) from the Adriatic coast, the port nearest beach Specchiolla, a historic marine residence of San Vito. San Vito also is 5 km (3 mi) from the Torre Guaceto, located in Serranova, a nature reserve, accessible by foot or bicycle (Pennagrossa Point), and 12 km (7 mi) from the tower which gives its name to the protected area. The Ionian Sea is about 45 km (28 mi) away. Its altitude is around 100 metres (328 feet) above sea level precisely between 57–146 m (187–479 ft). The highest point of the city center is located in Contrada Castello d'Alceste, 1,190 m (3,904 ft) asl.
The nature of the San Vito soil is limestone. The landscape is characterized by cultivated fields with oak and olive trees and divided by stone walls used to separate farms.
Based on averages of thirty years reference (1961–1990), the average temperature of the most cold month January, stands around 9.5 °C (49.1 °F), while that of hot month, August, is around 25 °C (77 °F). Precipitation averages, less than 600 mm (23.6 in) per year.
The name of the city once included the words "degli Schiavoni", meaning "of the Slavs". To escape the persecutions of the Saracens, they migrated from Slavonia to the opposite coast of the Adriatic, settling in late 963 in the fertile regions of Apulia. After that the town was called simply St Vitus, or St Vitus of the Slavs, or else San Vito in Terra d'Otranto. In 1863, after being returned to the Kingdom of Italy, which had been formed in 1861, the name of San Vito degli Schiavoni was changed and it assumed its current name of "San Vito dei Normanni" in honor of the man who is considered the founder of the medieval village, Bohemond of Hauteville (1050–1111), son of Robert Guiscard.
Archaeological remains of a tomb in the Mondescine area contain the remains of thirty burials and various ceramics dating to 1800 BC - 1700 BC, show that the area was inhabited during the Bronze Age. Also prehistoric settlements (18 - 9th century BC) have been found belonging to Messapi quarters in the Castle and Paretone area.
The village dates back to the Middle Ages (late 10th century), presumably by a colony of Slavs (emigrated from Slavonia) escaping the persecutions of the Saracens, and decided to settle in the fertile areas of San Vito founding "Castro Sancti Viti".
Some scholars believe that the city was founded by the Norman Bohemond of Hauteville ( 1050 - 1111 AD), son of Robert Guiscard, who, to satisfy his love of hunting, ordered the construction of a square tower, which still exists today.
The small village originally grew in the late Middle Ages when the Normans ensured security from the constant attacks of the Saracens. This relative calm gave the opportunity to develop Sanvitesi trade, and to dominate the surrounding territory. It was in the 15th century that the town was organized as a commune, though feudal servitude continued. The commune belonged to the Altavilla, then to the Sambiase, then Raymond Orsini of the Balzo and then the Dentice Frasso. From the 15th century onwards, the city began to widen, extending north and east. In 1484 it was sacked by the Venetians. In 1571, during the Crusades, a handful of Sanvitesi took part in the Battle of Lepanto against the Ottoman Empire. In honor of the victory won, they built the Basilca Santa Maria della Vittoria and then dedicated it to the Madonna della Vittoria. In 1799 it joined the Neapolitan Republic; the population during the 19th century the city was the seat of various participating circles to the Carbonari.
During the Fascist period it experienced remarkable urban development. There were many important buildings built such as The Circle Elementary School, the seat of the Municipality, and the post office. In 1927, the province of Brindisi was established which includes San VitoI. In 1943, it hosted King Victor Emmanuel III which was trying to escape to liberation, with Marshal Pietro Badoglio’s government. In the early 1960s, the petrochemical industry in addition to engineering companies and Aeronavali of Brindisi San Vito have moved many workers from working the fields to the assembly line. The opening of the San Vito dei Normanni Air Station into a strategic focal point during the Cold War, simultaneously created the work between the locals and received thousands of American workers. It closed after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today San Vito is marketing to develop tourism.
Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria
Santa Maria della Vittoria, simply called the "Mother Church", is the most important religious building in the city. The largest church in the city shows evidence of previous wars from the fist-sized holes that can be seen in and around the exterior. Built in the shape of a Latin cross with three naves, a transept and a deep chancel. Inside valuable paintings such as the icon of Nicopeia, depicting the Virgin Mary, announcing to Pope Pius V the victory over the Turks, and a silver statue representing San Vito. On the right side of the basilica there is the Holy Door, opened in October 1995 during celebrations for the fourth centenary of the church, beginning at the Holy Year Jubilee of the Church. Also the occasion was marked by the presentation of a new wooden altar, together all the furnishings of the sanctuary, of Flavio Pancheri. On October 26, 1996, Pope John Paul II, during a special audience called on the Archdiocese of Brindisi-Ostuni, and solemnly crowned the icon of Our Lady Nicopeia. The pope proclaimed the church a papal Basilica on December 30, 1998.
Church of San Giovanni Evangelista
St. John the Evangelist presents the Baroque style. The façade, enlivened by four pilasters with Corinthian capitals are in Lecce stone, which is very soft, allowing for striking decorations. In the church there are six paintings, two of which placed in a wooden structure which includes frame and canopy, the other four are on the sidewalls. The church, was "sold" by the Dentice Frasso family of the symbolic sum of 10,000 lira to the City of San Vito.
Chiesa Santa Maria degli Angeli
The "Old Church" was built around the 15th century. Subsequent modifications took place in 1696 and 1763. It has a simple façade, marked by six pilasters with an elegant portal and an oval window with projecting cornices. In its interior are side altars of stone, an altar in polychrome marble, a wood crucifix from the 16th century and an 1809 painting made by Domenico Carella.
Church of Santa Maria della Mercede
"The church of St. Francis" dates back to 1735 and was commissioned by Prince Fabio Marchese Belprato. At the end of the 19th century, with the arrival of Mercedarian Order, there was installed a significantly larger cupola, sanctuary and adjoining convent. The façade has four pilasters with Ionic capitals, two niches in which there are statues of Our Lady of Mercy and St. Francis of Paola. Inside are chandeliers in wrought iron and the statue, in wood, of St. Francis.
Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
The "Monastery" is so named because until 1868, it was next to the convent of the Franciscan Friars Minor. It was built in 1586, at the behest of Prince Palagano Lucius II, with a single aisle. Then, with a subsequent action in 1700, it was added a second, and in 1898 a third. The façade is very simple, and has only two windows in the portal and central. In the interior, there are nine altars in the side stones and paintings depicting the Crucifixion. Moreover, in the aisles, there is the Pietà by an unknown author, the Providence and San Salvador from Orte by local artist Giacomo da San Vito.
Church of the Annunciation
Also called the Church of San Domenico, due to the presence of the nearby convent of the Dominicans until 1809. The church was built around 1584 on land donated by a devotee. It has a cusp façade with two side pilasters, window and central portal by a local sculptor. In 1984 the collapse of two aisles caused the closure for restoration work that lasted a decade. Today, reconstructed, it has reopened for worship and there restored the six side stone altars of the 18th century and a tapestry from 1769 depicting the Annunciation by artist Domenico Carella.
Church of San Michele Arcangelo
Built in 1928 by Concetta Carlucci, who in a vision was invited to awaken the worship of the saint in the city. The structure is very simple, has been enriched by a bronze portal surmounted by a lunette with a bas-relief depicting St. Michael the Archangel, by the sculptor Cosimo Giuliano Latiano and a statue depicting Concetta Carlucci.
There are many rock art sites within San Vito made by Byzantine monks that fled from eastern Europe as they were persecuted because of their faith. Such sites include:
- San Biagio which is located near the Jannuzzo farm, is a monastic Byzantine sanctuary placed in real rock. The Orthodox rite is drawn inside a cave. It also presents the cells intended for monks, but over time has undergone significant transformations. Like all churches carved out along the last stretch of the Via Francigena, the sanctuary of San Biagio presents votive frescoes dedicated to Saint Blaise, St. Nicholas, St. Andrew, St. George, St. James and St. John. The inscriptions on the iconography, are all in Greek except one, that of St. Nicholas, which sets in Latin as a sign of religious unity between the Orthodox Church and the Latin Church.
- St. Nicholas in the San Nicola-Malpasso, is located halfway between San Vito and Serranova. The crypt and the four adjoining caves are located in a small valley, partly carved in rock, partly built in tuff. Inside is the image of St. Nicholas and traces of frescoes can be seen in the walls of tufa.
- Crypt of San Giovanni is a settlement with several rock caves, some partially collapsed, in which two small cells were found with traces of graffiti. Another, almost completely underground, is divided into seven side branches that converge into a central corridor. The crypt presents a pillar around which rests three arcs. Parts of frescoes, dating back presumably to the 13th century, are in the central apse.
- Crypt of St Mary the hamlet of St. James is situated in an old farmhouse, which was abandoned in the 15th century. Inside the church has a fresco of the Virgin with Child.
Rezza (from Retia in Latin, meaning network), is a sort of tent located in front of the door of almost every home to protect itself from not only the strong rays of the sun, but by winter storms. The "safety" is composed of thin plates of wood placed horizontally and parallel to each other, leaving only a few millimeters of space. The shade, may be of different colors: purple, green, yellow, brown and beige. San Vito tradition uses the term "Vecchia cretu la rezza" (older woman behind the safety) to express the wish to see, indeed spying, without being seen.
In the 1990s, just outside the town, specifically in Contrada Castello d'Alceste, were found traces of buildings dating back to Iron Age and, following excavations, a large Messapii settlement presumably dating from the period between the seventh and 4th centuries BC. That site could become the first Archeodromo of Italy. The archaeological site was the subject of several excavations made by the City Council of San Vito dei Normanni, the Archaeological Superintendence of Taranto and the University of Salento's Department of Cultural Heritage.
Castle of Dentice Frasso
The Medieval Castle of Dentice Frasso, opposite the Town Hall with its ancient square tower, overlooks the main town’s piazza. The original access was via a drawbridge which was from the box located on the door of the Chapel The first building was undoubtedly the tower, believed to be Norman and dating from the 12th century. Built by Bohemond of Hauteville in the 11th century, in a strategic position on the road that passed through the hamlet of San Vito and came to the old road for Oria. It is perfectly intact, still dominates the area of San Vito. The tower has Guelphs and Ghibellines-like battlements and narrow openings that allows indoor lighting. There is a large courtyard that overlooks the cinquecento residence, characterized by a series of elegant rectangular boxes around the tower. The castle was probably built originally as the residence of hunters, as once the territory of San Vito completely covered by forests. The entrance to the building consists of a pointed arch, on top is placed a crest of the Dentice family. The stairway leads to a stone porch column, on which rest three round arches. Inside retains decorated suites, paintings, hunting trophies and the town archive. The castle is privately owned and inhabited by descendants of the Dentice Frasso family.
The Villa Comunale
The only green space of the city is the Villa Comunale, called the Pinewood due to the presence of large marine pines, and also many palm trees. The park is at the center of the city and surrounds the primary school.
A few kilometers from the city is Torre Guaceto (Guaceto Tower), a World Wildlife Fund nature reserve of the State whose extension is approximately 1,200 square feet (110 m2) and a sea front which stretches for about 8,000 mt. The marine area is represented by a perfect rectangle, with an average depth of 3,000 meters, crossed and divided by State Road 379. The reserve can be visited only on foot or by bicycle.
The Tarantismo in San Vito
The Tarantismo (a type of Tarantella) blends pagan and Christian tradition. In the past it was believed, that women who showed forms of hysteria, were infected by the bite of the tarantula. The only known remedy was to dance continuously for days, so that the poison did not take effect. Through music and dance to give healing to taranta (the tarantula bitten), creating a real exorcism of musical character. Each time a tarantata exhibiting symptoms associated with Taranto, the drummers, fiddlers, mandolin, guitarists and accordionists went in the house of taranta and stakeholders to play the music from at a frantic pace. Now the Tarantismo dance and sing for hours until they are exhausted. The belief, that while their energies were consumed in the dance, even the tarantula is consumed and destroyed. San Vito retains a remarkable tradition of pinches that, unlike that of Lecce, appears free as a therapeutic repertoire and musical found only in this town. In the 1950s at least thirty players could be involved in the care of the tarantati.
The sanvitese cucina is characterized by local traditional agricultural products. Local cuisine includes stuffed aubergines (maranciani chini), and traditional specialities made with the beans with and vegetables (favi e fogghi). Other cuisine includes summer dishes "frise" with the cherry tomatoes, olive oil and oregano and also there is "gnummarieddi" or "turcinieddi", tasty meat kebabs. Sweets include the mustazzueli, chocolate dolcetti, sweet Carteddàte] Christmas cakes in the shape of thin pastry rosettes fried in hot oil, the cupeta cake with almonds, and very soft pettole balls of dough fried in hot oil. The municipality is a member of the olive oil coalition Collina di Brindisi and the wine coalition called Appia wines, which also includes the municipalities of Brindisi, Ostuni, Latiano and Mesagne. Almond milk is achieved by creating in an infusion of water with finely chopped almonds, and then squeezing them to bring out all the juice. Puglia Region has entered the almond milk in the list of traditional Italian food products. Limoncello is a liquor made from the peel of fresh lemon and enriched with water, sugar and alcohol to be enjoyed both as an apéritif and as a digestive after meals.
The territory of San Vito produces wines such as the Aleatico di Puglia Doc, Doc Ostuni, Puglia IGT. Along the road of the municipality, there are indigenous varieties of grapes, the Negroamaro, Primitivo, and Malvasia, which have been joined over the years by crops of white grape vines. Malvasia Nera di Brindisi is a grape of Greek origin and now widespread in most Mediterranean countries. Its wine, called Malmsey in English, is sweet with a golden hue. In Italy its cultivation has spread from Piedmont to Puglia. Vinified properly, it can also make a dry white wine. Sangiovese is a red grape variety, among the most widespread in Italy. Negroamaro Novoli vine that also called "tears", has a special ability to produce rose to its chemical characteristics. Ottavianello leaves are pentagonal green, smooth, opaque and the lower surface light green.