Welcome to the Salento
The life cycle here is much as it has been for a long time. Things are closed from Noon until 3 or 4 PM. And I mean really closed. All the streets get quiet. The traffic dies down. It is a time to be home or otherwise taking your long midday break. As I mentioned yesterday, our first bit was exploring a number of the smaller towns that fill this area that is called Griko, that means Greek. We've learned that the Greek influence here is very strong and there are still areas where Griko is the predominate dialect.
We've also learned that this has been an area that has always been rich in agricultural wealth, primarily olive oil and wine. It produces something like 50% of all the olive oil in Italy. I wondered why most of the architecture seems to date from a much later era. I found out it was because for a long, long period it was at the crossroads to conflict, barbarians tearing down Roman civilization, then Byzantine influence conflicting with Islam and Turks and Normands for centuries on end. It was only when the Spanish took control at the end of the 17th century that a long, long period of three centuries allowed the natural wealth to flower in to civil stability and building.
Let's go to the pictures so I can give you a better feel for this place. Rather than go from town to town and site to site, I think I would rather combine the images into themes. As you move around these themes occur again and again so they begin to define the areas character.
It is not the Exterior, it is the Interior
Do you remember the Duomo of Florence and Siena?
Really spectacular buildings that spoke to one of the wealth and power of those that built them.
Looking at buildings here, both religious and secular, often the exterior hardly even catches your eye.
Here are some examples
Paintings - Light and Emotion
The paints we saw in the churches we visited covered the same time periods that we saw in Tuscany and Umbria - the Middle Ages through the Renaissance and slightly older.
There characteristic was completely different in terms of their color, the lightness of coloring and the depiction of emotion.
This one was clearly much more modern But still seemed to fit thematically with the older pictures
I am so thankful that our photography and Uffizi guides opened my eyes to looking at the detail of pictures
I could feel the emotion on the faces of these soldiers
And look at this Madonna and Child
I have never seen a woman who is so clearly expressing being a mother and the baby Jesus represented as a real child...see him grabbing his Mother?
My love affair with Byzantine art continues
You saw the treasure trove in the previous pictures above
Here is the detail
Almost every structure here is made of a limestone that has this yellowish golden color to it
The old towns - which are everywhere - this area was spared much action in WWII have tons of small streets whose limestone buildings give them a very different characteristic than the granite buildings further north.
A collection of old town shots
Retail establishments can be almost innocuous
What is this?
Oh a bakery
And this, a produce shop
Balconies, Messages, Decoration
We see these again and again and again
Images either announce who a person is who was the resident of a place or were allegories for virtues, or saints and historical figures representing characteristics or creatures to ward off evil
And to finish off our first day some miscellaneous shots
Pasta Salento Style
With sausage, tomatoes and hot pepper
With squid and shrimp - the squid was so tender
Like all the seafood pasta I've had in Italy, not terribly fishy flavored
A Palazzo in a painted style
Church ceiling decoration
We went to a castle. It was closed.
A man came up.
He asked if we were there to see the castle. He unlocked the door. He was the one man keeper. He took us on an hour tour of the castle, just Wife and I.
A church at sunset