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Galatina, Province of Lecce, Puglia

This fascinating center in Salento, midway between the Ionian and Adriatic Sea, is a rich wine-producing area, and has an ancient history going back to the earliest Greek colonization of this area of Italy.

Info

  • Altitude: 78 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 27,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 73013
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0836
  • Patron Saint: Saints Peter and Paul, celebrated on 29 June
  • Frazioni & Localities: Noha, Collemeto, Santa Barbara -- Official Website: http://www.comune.galatina.le.it/

History

The foundation of the town goes back to Greek times, and as shown by the little owl still represented in the coat-of-arms, a bird sacred to goddess Minerva, who was especially worshipped in thie area of Magna Graecia, called Japigia. The town maintained Greek traditions, religious rites and dialect until very recent centuries.

The name is recorded for the first time in a manuscript of 1188, where the name of "St. Peter in Galatina" is mentioned; actually, an undocumented tradition tells of the evangelisation of the local people made by St Peter on his journey from Anthiochia to Rome, after which the name was for many centuries "San Pietro in Galatina", and was changed back to the Hellenic original only in 1861.

What to see

  • The church of Santa Caterina d'Alessandria, a national monument since 1886, a true jewel of the Apulian Romanesque style, with its 3-pointed facade and 3 magnificent portals, all decorated in carved stone. Above the portal a wonderful rosewindow gives light to the whole central nave. In the 15th century, after the death of feudal lord Raimondello Orsini del Balzo his wife Maria d'Enghien married king Ladislaw Anjou-Durazzo becoming the queen of Naples, and from her new position ordered the frescoes that cover the walls, made by a number of painters of different schools, which give the unique feeling of visiting a historical art gallery. The paintings represent scenes from the Old and New Testament, the lives of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and St Catherine, and include a great many figures of angels and saints.
  • The Chapel of St. Paul, the place where the traditional-magic celebrations called "tarantate", performed until very recent years on 28 and 29 june. Inside the chapel there was a well (walld today) whose water was believed to heal those who had been bitten by "Tarantula" spider (whose name came from the town of Taranto), undeservedly ill-famed since it was believed that its bite caused an histeriac condition that could be relied with a magical dance (known as the tarantella). The "tarantati" used to drink the water of the well and then vomited, and this was belied as a sign of healing, so every year afterwards they used to come back to give thanks and performed the ritual dances.
  • The walled historical center, with the 3 original doors, Porta Luce to the west, near to the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Luce with in the center the coat of arms of Galatina; the Porta San Pietro or Porta Nuova, which opens along the northern side of the medieval walls, and the Porta Cappuccini, to the east.

Events and Festivities

  • on the 3rd Sunday of each month, an antique market is held in piazza Alighieri
  • on the morning of Easter Saturday, a tradition Procession of Dead Christ along the streets of the medieval center
  • on the 4th Thursday after Easter, the Fiera della Madonna della Luce, a market of pottery items
  • 28-30 June: Patron feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

Where to stay