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San Vito dei Normanni, Province of Brindisi, Puglia

San Vito dei Normanni coatofarms Located in the beautiful Salento area 40 km from the Ionian coast and just 9 km from the Adriatic Sea, this town has a rich folklore and lively traditions in cuisine (based on eggplants, fava beans, typical cakes) and especially in the field of music. It is the hometown of baroque musician Leonardo Leo (1694 - 1744), the founder of the Neapolitan music school, and the seat of an important mandolin center, where the traditional playing techniques are still taught and practised.

Info

  • Altitude: 107 a.s.l
  • Population: about 20,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 72019
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0831
  • Patron Saint: St. Vito, celebrated on June 15
  • Frazioni & Localities: Conforto, Favorita, San Giacomo e San Vito Scalo.

History

As shown from archeological findings and tombs in the area called Mondescine, there were settlements already in the 17th century BC. In the 11th century BC the area was colonized py populations coming from Illyria, across the Adriatic, and later by Messapians coming from Crete, and belonged to the Messapian 12 towns until the Roman conquest in 267 BC.

The town rose in the Middle Ages, probably around a tower fortified by the Normans to defend probably a community of Slavic people who had taken refuge in the area to escape from the Saracens invasions, with the name of San Vito degli Schiavoni. Its feudal lords were the Altavilla, Sambiase, Orsini Del Balzo and finally Dentice di Frasso. Finally after the unity of Italy in 1863 the name was changed to San Vito dei Normanni.

What to see

  • The historical center, with almost all doors are covered with a "rezza" (from the latin retia, meaning nets) made of horizontal wooden tiles in different colors, used to protect the entrance from the sun but also for privacy.
  • The church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, with three naves, preserving inside the Nicopeia Icon, representing the Virgin Mary announcing to Pope Pius V the Lepanto victory on the Turks, and a precious silver statue of San Vito
  • The archeological site at Castello d'Alceste, with traces of settlements of the Bronze Age and later Messapian fortifications.
  • The medieval castle, still belonging to the heirs of the Dentice di Frasso family, built around the ancient square Norman tower established by Boemondo Altavilla in the 11th century, which dominates the whole territory. The castle was in those early times used possibly as a hunting residence for the court, since the whole territory around was covered with a thick forest
  • Cave settlements, especially used in the centuries when Saracen raids were quite commons, many of them excavated into the rock by basilian monks; among the most important of them is the San Biagio grotto, a byzantine sanctuary amid a whole village excavated in the rock, whose walls are covered with frescoes dedicated to both Byzanthine saints as St. Blaise, St. Andrew and St. Nicholas and Latin saints as St. John, St. James and St George, with inscriptions above all the figures in Greek with the exception of that on St Nicholas, which is bilingual in Latin and Greek, probably to point out the unity of the Latin and Orthodox churches.

Events and Festivities

  • 6 January: the "Focara", huge bonfire prepared before the Cathedral, accompanied by traditional songs and music
  • During Carnevale: a parade of allegorical waggons called "Farfugghji"
  • At Christmas time: a living crib in the caves around the San Biagio grottos.

Where to stay