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The Silk Route - World Travel: Mosaic, Otranto Cathedral, Puglia, Italy
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Italy: Puglia - Galatina, Otranto, Zinzulusa, Gallipoli
2009

Galatina Otranto Grotta Zinzulusa Gallipoli
fishermen, Gallipoli, Puglia, Italy

 

Magnificent frescoes, mosaics and a rocky coast in the Salento region of Italy.

Galatina

Basilica di Santa Caterina
Basilica di Santa Caterina

Galatina has two claims to fame. It is one of the few remaining places to practice tarantism, the cult ritual practiced to purge the venom of a tarantula spider bite with music. From this that the tarantella folk dance evolved.

However, it was the second claim to fame we had come to see - the beautifully frescoed Romanesque Basilica di Santa Caterina.

It has some very fine carving around the portal with above a line of Christ and his disciples.

Basilica di Santa Caterina
Basilica di Santa Caterina
Basilica di Santa Caterina
Basilica di Santa Caterina
Fine carving at the portal.

The church dates from the late 14th century, the frescoes from the early 15th century. Scenes of the Apocalypse, Bible stories, the lives of Christ and Mary cover the walls. The ceiling of massed ranks of angels is particularly beautiful.

Basilica di Santa Caterina
Basilica di Santa Caterina
Basilica di Santa Caterina

 

 

Otranto

Otranto
Otranto
Otranto
"Cayn & Abel"
Otranto

 

A major port for over a thousand years we came to Otranto principally to see the fabulous mosaic in its Romanesque cathedral. It covers the floor of the cathedral and is based on three great trees in which biblical scenes, fantastical animals, historical figures and more bizarre images are depicted.

Otranto
Otranto cathedral.
Otranto
Otranto
Alexander

Turks attacked the city in 1480 and massacred 800 inhabitants who refused to convert to Islam - their skulls are encased behind glass in the cathedral. It is amazing that the mosaic floor has survived so well considering that the Turks used the cathedral as a stable!

Otranto
Skulls of citizens executed by invading Turks.
Otranto
Otranto
Otranto
Otranto
Otranto
Otranto
Otranto
Otranto
Otranto

Otranto
In the cathedral.
Otranto
San Pietro
Otranto

 

We also visited the Byzantine church of San Pietro, thought to be the original cathedral. Inside the Byzantine-era frescoes can still be seen.

Otranto
Otranto
Otranto

 

Grotta Zinzulusa

puglia
Santa Maria di Leuca

From Otranto we drove down the coast from Otranto right around the tip at Santa Maria di Leuca - a very rocky coastline.

puglia
puglia
Grotta Zinzulusa
puglia

We visited Grotta Zinzulusa on the way - a sea cave with rock formations.

puglia
puglia

 

 

Gallipoli

gallipoli, puglia
gallipoli, puglia

We really liked Gallipoli on the west coast of the peninsula, not least because we had a really good meal here at Trattoria Scoglio delle Sirene. The tables are set on the ramparts right above the sea, as they say in their leaflet "...where the view is spectacular and renders this stop unforgettable." Orrechiette alla Gallipolina and grilled swordfish were both excellent.

gallipoli, puglia
Subterranean olive oil press.
gallipoli, puglia
Lunchtime view.
gallipoli, puglia
gallipoli, puglia
gallipoli, puglia
Torre Sant'Isidoro
gallipoli, puglia

 

Once an island, its Angevin castle facing inland, it is now connected to the mainland via a causeway.

Gallipoli had a thriving subterranean olive oil production at one time, reputed to be the best oil for lamps because it did not smoke.

The soft tufa rock beneath Gallipoli was easy to carve into rooms to house the presses, at a much cooler temperature than above ground. At one time there were around 35 presses in operation, one has been restored and can be visited.

gallipoli, puglia
Torre Santa Caterina

We made our way back to Lecce, spotting coastal watchtowers along the way.