This is Ceglie Messapica, located in the province of Brindisi, whose etymological origins can be found in the Greek word Kalos (beautiful), so as to be identified as “beautiful place”, which in the choice made by the Romans, who called it Caelia (eyelash) ) to be on the last hills of the Murge, where the Valle d’Itria flows gently into the Salento plain.
The pretty town of Ceglie Messapica is located at 310 meters above sea level (the old town at 303 meters) and has 21,000 inhabitants. The town enjoys an excellent climatic position, so much so that since the beginning of the last century the inhabitants of nearby cities (in particular Taranto), had chosen it as a summer resort for its healthy and bubbling air, and its undulating views and relaxing.
The Cegliese territory, which is 130.33 square kilometers wide, with an altitude ranging from 133 meters to 382 meters above sea level, presents itself with rolling hills and terracing with dry stone walls, and with the numerous trulli that are here called ” casedde “. Part of the municipal territory is located in the Valle d’Itria, the valley of the trulli par excellence, and just the splendid Ceglie Messapica marks the outlet of the valley in the upper part of the Salento plateau Altosalento. The territory presents numerous karstic cavities with splendid concretions, like the caves of Montevicoli.
Since the 1990s, the Messapian city has boasted the name of “city of art, land of gastronomy” for the many testimonies of its millennial history and for its typical gastronomy, appreciated and recognized throughout Italy. The typical gastronomic productions are ancient culinary traditions that represent the expression of the relationship between nature and popular culture.
The origins of the city are lost in the mists of time: the historical University hypothesizes that in the seventeenth century. B.C. the first Greek settlers found themselves facing imposing ruins that testified to a vanished civilization; some scholars argue that Ceglie was founded by Diomedes, returning from the Trojan war.
The certain news, however, date back to thirteen centuries BC, as handed down by Herodotus, a Greek historian of the fifth century BC. In the fourth and fifth century. B.C. Ceglie (Kailia) was the military capital of Messapia and was surrounded by four circles of walls. The city supported tough wars with Taranto, which for commercial reasons and prestige sought an outlet on the Adriatic. 473 BC was the decisive year that saw Taranto conquer and destroy Carovigno (Karpina), but the decisive battle was lost by the tarantini on the hills of Ceglie where the cavalry tarantina was pulverized by an inexorable slaughter, as Herodotus says, “never seen before”. The road of the Adriatic was definitively blocked in Taranto, which since then has not waged war against the Messapians. Of that victory the Messapians did not want to take advantage, it would have been easy to get down the plain and conquer Taranto.
Of that time there are archaeological remains including the messapic walls and the mirrors. Of the civilization ‘messapica there are many archaeological finds such as vases, oil lamps, coins, small statues and many inscriptions preserved in various Italian and foreign museums (Berlin, Brindisi, Taranto, Egnazia, private collections and a small part in the local Messapian museum).
The city declined after the Roman conquest, which called it Caelia or Caelium (eyelash), being located on the last high hill before the Salento plain.
In the Middle Ages the city assumed the name of Celie de Gualdo (Ceglie del bosco), becoming a duchy with the Sanseverino, a powerful Neapolitan family who fostered the economic and cultural growth of the city with the construction of palaces, the castle and churches.
Traces of the different population and of the attendance of the territory remain in various caves whose rooms have been partly modified and used by man: Grotta S. Pietro has provided artefacts certainly related to a lithic industry of the Mousterian type; the Grotta Abate Nicola has an access dromos dug into the rock and has returned votive material characteristic of the sacred areas; the Grotta S. Michele still preserves traces of frescoes of the Redeemer, of S. Michele and of the Madonna Orante; the Grotta di Madonna della Grotta is a cavity underneath the fourteenth-century church built by Domenico de Juliano with pale traces of Basilian frescoes inside; the Grotta del Trappeto is in the center of the town, used until a few years ago as a mill, has a series of branches never fully explored; the Cave of Monte Vicoli, explored in its main cavity 58 meters long, presents branches that are impracticable for the moment, suggesting that it is possible to continue.
In the historical centers the discovery is in every corner, in every alley; white houses around the castles, and sumptuous noble palaces with large portals surmounted by family crests.
The historical hill centers of Altosalento (Ceglie, Cisternino, Carovigno, Ostuni) are characterized by the alleys of chianche, the arches in stone, the succession of courtyards and squares; all wrapped in the whiteness of whitewashed white houses. That white that led Ostuni (which is only 11 kilometers away) to be known worldwide as the “white city”.
Similar to the historical center of Ostuni, but less known by tourism, and therefore more authentic, is the Messapian and medieval historical center of Ceglie Messapica: the messapica kailia. A walk through the alleys of the historic center immerses in an ancient and surreal atmosphere that ranges from the time of the Messapi to the medieval era.
The Messapian hill-acropolis was accessed by a steep staircase, still existing even if modified in the Middle Ages, “the hundred steps”. At the top of the hill, where the castle is located, were the public offices and the temples of the most important deities; the agora has been identified in the current Piazzetta Ognissanti in the center of the ancient village. Today the historic Messapico-medieval center is dominated by the fifteenth-century “Castello Ducale”, notable the crenellated square tower symbol of the city. Opposite is the 16th century Collegiate Church, not far from the baroque church of San Domenico of the Bernini school. The central Piazza Plebiscito, with the characteristic “Clock Tower” closes the medieval old town and opens to the nineteenth century.
Gastronomy is an element of strong tourist attraction. The cuisine of the Altosalento is homemade and genuine, over time it has not undergone substantial alterations; the recipes have been handed down from generation to generation, up to the present day. It is a popular cuisine, whose characteristics are far from those of fast food and food globalization. It is no coincidence that there is a slow food association Alto Salento, which offers “slow eating” to enjoy the pleasures of good food. Ours is a land to be tasted, where the beauty of the territory is combined with the taste of life, a “slow life” that brings back the meaning of life.
The town is the undisputed capital of the gastronomy of the Altosalento with numerous awards already in the 50s and more recently with various prizes awarded to “artisans of taste and good food”. Many restaurants are listed in the main food and wine guides, the wood-fired ovens produce traditional pastry and bakery products distributed throughout Italy, the Cegliese ice cream conquest, in a past edition, the absolute second place at the Rimini fair in the Salone International Ice Cream Shop.
Typical dish par excellence is the homemade pasta, “stacchiodde” and “strascinati” (orecchiette and macaroni of durum wheat semolina), seasoned with tomato sauce, basil leaves and ‘cacioricotta’ grated. Of this dish there are variations with meat chops and grated pecorino cheese, or with cooked vegetables (turnip tops).
Our cuisine is deeply linked to the products of the earth, and follows the rhythm of the seasons; it is extremely varied due to the influences that Altosalento has received during its long history: Messapi, Greeks, Romans, Normans, Arabs, Saracens, French and Spaniards have succeeded each other over the centuries. Here are some examples: the “frize” have Greek origins, the “gnummarieddi” are Roman, the “ragù” is Norman, the “cupeta” and the “dried figs” are of Arab origin. The frize (link with baked products), prepared with mixed flour of hard wheat and soft wheat, are presented as donuts of toasted bread and are stored for weeks; to taste them you have to dip them in water, to make them soft-crisp, and season them with tomatoes, oil, salt and oregano. The gnummarrieddi are grilled lamb rolls. The cupeta, similar to nougat, is made with almonds and sugar. The sweet symbol, based on local almonds (a variety of almonds called cegliese is used which is characterized by late flowering that escapes from the cold winter), is a brownish-shaped cube-shaped pastry filled with jam: the “cegliese biscuit” “, whose original recipe with the right dosages and cooking times is jealously guarded by a select few. The figs, divided in half, are dried in the sun above characteristic hedges, then they are joined in pairs, depositing inside each part a peeled and toasted dried almond, seeds of wild fennel and lemon zest, then they are baked: here the “marinated figs” (almond figs).
Among the cheeses stands out the “cacioricotta”, it is a tender and tasty cheese produced in the hot season and obtained from the processing of sheep’s milk and goat’s milk; it is used grated to season any kind of pasta with sauce.
Legumes, vegetables, vegetables and fruit are local productions used for simple and nutritious dishes respecting the healthy Mediterranean diet. Fava bean puree is an ancient dish, typical food of the farmers, rich in protein; dried unshelled beans are cooked and mashed like pasta, eaten with a drizzle of raw olive oil or accompanied by wild vegetables. For cooking, pottery vessels were used made in the nearby Grottaglie, like a “a pignata”, shaped like a pitcher.
The Altosalento is the geographical area not only to the north, but also to higher altitudes of Salento (high-Salento precisely) and has similar physical, cultural, social and economic characteristics, but at the same time different from Salento and Lecce. Murge of the Bari and Taranto hinterland. Ours is a territory that over the centuries has consolidated its identity, made unique by the clearly visible traces of our peasant civilization based on the “stone” and which has produced a unique rural architecture. Altosalento is the result of an organizational evolution of the territory, whose central fulcrum is represented by the five municipalities dealt with on this site, already already united in an inter-municipal consortium.
The Ducal Castle is the symbol of the city. Opposite is the sixteenth-century Collegiate Church of the Assumption with its majolica dome and, inside, a unique 18th century fresco depicting a biblical scene with a perspective view of Ceglie as it was in 700 .
Not far from the baroque church of San Domenico, of the Bernini school, which preserves some valuable works of sacred art. In the historic center there are numerous noble palaces, in particular near the fourteenth-century “old square”, the ancient city center in medieval times. In the ancient historical center, Messapico-mediaeval, it is possible to enter from the nineteenth-century village and from the gates of Giuso and Monterrone with pointed arches.
Center of the city of Ceglie is Piazza Plebiscito with the nineteenth-century clock tower that represents a unique part of the civic towers of Southern Italy, as it is formed by four quadrants; artistically it refers to the neoclassical style interpreted in a particular way by the local masters who carried out the works.
Worth noting is the ancient basilica church of Sant’Anna with a large 16th century fresco of the saint’s death, the church of San Rocco built on the remains of an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo and the church of San Gioacchino with its large dome.
In the territory churches Basilian crypts, remains of the Messapian civilization and numerous examples of rural architecture.
There are, therefore, many and many testimonies of art so much to deserve the city the nickname of “city of art and land of gastronomy”.
The Ducal Castle of Ceglie Messapica is the symbol of the city. It is a castle that dates back, the oldest tower, 1000 years, but the construction, as we see it today, dates back to the fifteenth century by the Sanseverino family.
The access is characterized by a large portal with a round arch and an entrance with an ogival vault that leads into a large atrium; from here striking staircases lead to the halls embellished with 16th-century frescoes. In the atrium, particular, the well with two Corinthian style columns.
The ducal apartments overlook the internal park which, protected and enclosed between the wings of the castle, preserves the originality of the medieval gardens.
A distinctive feature of the castle is the crenellated tower, which stands out on top of the hill; it is 34 meters high and was built in 1492.
The photo, taken in the fifties, shows a view of the most classic monumental Ceglie with the clock tower of Piazza Plebiscito, the eighteenth-century white Palazzo Lamarina with the balcony in stone, the dome of the mother church and the ducal castle that dominates its impressive size.
Behind the manor is the Messapico-medieval historical center, still authentic and enjoyable, with its narrow alleys and white houses, in the reassuring shade of the castle, as in medieval times.
TYPICAL PRODUCTS OF MESSAPIC CHECKS
it is a pastry made in Ceglie Messapica of brown color made from toasted almonds, with cherry jam and, just, lemon fragrances; they are covered with an icing made of sugar and cocoa. The almonds used are exclusively produced by almond groves of the Altosalento, they are a particular variety called “cegliese” that stands out for its semi-hard shell.
The Cegliesi biscuits were produced by our farming families on the occasion of important feasts and wedding banquets. They are sold, in particular, in all the ovens, bars and confectioneries in Ceglie, as well as being offered in all the Cegliesi restaurants. The Cegliese biscuit is a candidate for the recognition of a typical DOP product.
similar to tapered frisoles are seasoned with honey, sugar or cooked wine (must concentrate obtained by cooking). Cardiddate means twisted, are in fact strips of pasta obtained from the mixture of flour, oil and white wine, a couple of centimeters wide, curved and rounded for the length of 15-20 cm. They are sweets typical of Christmas.
obtained from the processing of sheep’s and goat’s milk, it is produced in the summer. It is a soft, white cheese, produced in molds of about 200 grams. It is grated to flavor the dishes of orecchiette (it is an essential element to enjoy this typical Pugliese dish), however, it is good for every type of pasta.
minced almonds and kneaded with caramelized sugar and honey.
they are particular donuts of bread, hard and dry, they are kept for weeks. To eat them, they get wet with water to make them soft and they are seasoned with tomatoes, oregano, oil and salt. On sale in all the ovens, delicatessens and supermarkets of Salento.
called marictic figs (married figs) in dialect jargon. These are fruits cut in half and left to dry in the sun on reeds (sciaje); then they are joined in pairs to form an eight (they marry) by inserting inside a toasted dried almond and fennel seeds then they are baked. The almond figs were the candy of today for the children of yesterday highs.
classic baked goods, are taralli with wild fennel seeds.
Green olives with lime
They have a slightly salty olive flavor, with a faint taste of fennel, myrtle and bay leaves.
Extra virgin olive oil “hill of Brindisi”
our green gold, known throughout Italy, does not need presentation.
grain crushed in a mortar to eliminate the outer part more fibrous, the grain of wheat must still appear whole for the preparation of particularly tasty dishes.
characteristic of this bread is the use of mixed flour of soft and hard wheat with the addition of natural yeast. Cooking takes place in stone-fired ovens. The brown loaves can be kept even for a week, keeping the original fragrance.
Pecorino of masseria
sheep’s milk cheese with an intense and spicy flavor, aged cheese, with a delicate taste of fresh pecorino cheese.
similar to meatballs, they are obtained with a mixture of durum wheat flour and boiled potatoes to be fried in boiling oil. They are typical of the winter period (Christmas in particular).
in dialect jargon, it stands for focaccia, excellent as soon as it is baked in a wood oven. Among the ingredients in addition to soft wheat flour and our extra virgin olive oil DOC hill Brindisi, essential black olives, strong ricotta (Asckuante) and onions.
large Easter tarallo covered with melted sugar (typical of Ceglie)
local cherry tomatoes preserved in bunches for winter use (excellent for seasoning the frize). The tomatoes are picked still green, and a bunch of 50-70 cm is joined together by twine in the characteristic pennula.
in the dialectal dialectal jargon it stands for spicy; the taste is spicy but at the same time delicate, excellent to spread on bread or on frize.
home-made liqueurs in a simple and ancient way, particularly the strawberry tree rosolio.
they are local orecchiette, prepared with the “maccaruni” (macaroni). The orecchiette can be found all over Europe, but pay attention to the numerous imitations and industrial productions that have nothing in common with the traditional Pugliese or Altosalentine orecchiette in particular.
It is a fresh pasta that uses raw flour with bran (whole wheat flour to translate, but not exactly exact). They are sticks 4-5 cm long.