Thursday, 30 October 2014

Otranto, the mystery of the Pantaleone's mosaic

Otranto is a border town.

Otranto is the most easterly town of Italy.

I visited it few weeks ago. 

Otranto is one of the tourist capital of Apulia. 

And I would add that it fully deserves to be considered like that, both from an artistic and historical points of view.

So, I leave Brindisi early in the morning. 

However, I plan to stop by Torre dell’Orso, few miles before Otranto.

Torre dell’Orso, is one of the most amazing beach of the Adriatic sea.

So after having been there, I definitely endorse this belief.

Therefore, I strongly recommend you to visit it. 

Of course, not in July or August, unless you like to stay squeezed like a sardine.

Torre dell’Orso has a fantastic sand. 

And the sea…what a beautiful sea, so transparent, so clear.

I have been swimming there for 15 or 20 minutes. 

While swimming, a miracle happened: I saw underneath me a pod of huge sea basses.

I am not used to swim among fishes, so I got so full of energy and surprise that I yelled: “Yeeaahhhhhh”. 

At around 4 pm, I quit Torre dell’Orso. 

The journey resumed.

I remember that it was just so beautiful to drive along the way to Otranto. 

I passed by Laghi Alimini, another wonderful area of Salento. 

Finally, I arrive in Otranto.

I park the car outside the city center. 

I walk for ten minutes before seeing the seafront.

I desire to see l’albero della vita (the tree of life), a mosaic devised by Pantaleone, an Orthodox Basilian monk.

The mosaic is held in the cathedral. It is the biggest mosaic in Europe. It was realized in 1163. 

The tree contains a welter of images such as Adam and Eva, Solomon, Noah etc.

However, there are other images that one would not expect to find in a Christian church such as King Arthur, images from the game of chess, from Scandinavian mithology,  and so on.

What did Pantaleone mean through the mosaic? It is still a mistery.

At that time, a couple of miles from Otranto there was the Monastero di San Nicola di Casole, which hosted one of the biggest library in Europe. 

Pantaleone was settled there.

The mentioned Monastero was a Theological laboratory where Greek and Latin rites coexisted, with mutual respect and dignity.

Probably, what Pantaleone meant by the mosaic is that "the tree of life" sucks sap from any the culture.

This reflects the fact that Otranto was a junction of cultures and religions.

Most of the themes depicted in the mosaic have been represented in the Holy Comedy

As the mosaic is prior the Dante Alighieri's book, some researchers have supposed that Dante had studied the tree, or at least had spent some time at the Monastero del Casale.

In the 12th century, Otranto hosted one of the biggest Jew community in Italy. 

There were around 500 Jew families.

Otranto is famous on worldwide basis due to the 800 martyrs.

In other words, in 1480, an Ottoman fleet of 10.000 soldiers reached Otranto. 

Then, after two weeks of siege, Otranto had been conquered.

The Ottomans kidnapped 813 native men, ordering them to embrace the Muslim religion. 

At their denial, the Ottomans beheaded all of them, a praxis which nowadays is sadly notorious.

Due to this sad event, Otranto has been declared by UNESCO as Site Messenger of Peace.

Another good reason to visit Otranto, is due to the Carmelo Bene's choice of living there.

Carmelo Bene used to say about Salento: "Tutta la terra d'Otranto e' fuori di se'. Se ne e' andata chissa' dove. E' una terra nomade, gira su se stessa. A vuoto".

Carmelo Bene was the main Italian exponent of the Italian avant-garde theater and cinema.

I would encourage you to watch Nostra Signora dei Turchi (Our lady of the Turks). 

The title re-calls in a way the tragedy of the 800 martyrs.

Indeed, in Otranto it is going to be established a Museum entirely dedicated to Carmelo Bene. 

The museum will open in 2015.

Ps. Click here, should you wish to view more pics.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Apulian guitar of “Spaghetti western”

In 1964, the audience of the Sergio Leone's for a fistful of dollars heard something original: the electric guitar.

For a fistful of dollars was a low budget movie of the so-called dollars trilogy.

The innovation introduced to the western movies is due to the maestro Ennio Morricone and to the guitar player Pino Rucher.

Pino Rucher was a talented guitarist.

He was born in Manfredonia, Apulia.

In 1933, his father, back from the States, presented a guitar to Pino.

Between 1943 and ’46, Pino Rucher joined several Allied Army orchestras which held concerts in Manfredonia and all around Apulia.

Therefore, he had chance to get familiar with jazz, improving a lot as musician.

Pino was a permanent musician of the Angelini band.

Additionally, he played guitar for so many editions of Sanremo festivals.

However, in this article I am going to write about the Pino Rucher’s contribution to the cinema.

He played guitar for soundtracks of the Italian cinema from the late 50ies till mid 70ies.

He worked with orchestra conductors such as: Nino RotaEnnio Morricone, Riz Ortolani and Luis Enriquez Bacalov


He worked for more than 200 movies.

Let me just point out those movies which for me are the most representative of the Italian cinema of those years: La Grande Guerra,  Otto e mezzo and Il boom

Monday, 13 October 2014

Middle-age hermitages of Gargano: a wonder of the world

The Pulsano hermitages is one of the wonders not only of Apulia, but of the entire world.

Located in the hearth of Gargano, between Manfredonia and Monte Sant’Angelo, the hermitages are 24, spread all around the abbey of Pulsano.

The abbey was erected in 591, above the ruins of a Pagan temple dedicated to Calcante, a Greek seer.

Then, the Saracens destroyed it.

In 1129, San Giovanni da Matera, who went pilgrim to Monte Sant’Angelo to pray San Michele Arcangelo, saw Pulsano and fell in love with it.

Pulsano reminded him of Matera, a town of Sassi and rupestrian churches.

Therefore, San Giovanni da Matera built a Romanico-Pugliese abbey.

Then, after having created the ordine degli eremiti Pulsanesi, he let the monks populate the abbey as well as the hermitages.

In tiny hermitages, the monks used to contemplate God.

It is said that the Pope Celestino V and San Francesco d’Assisi  had been in one of the hermitages named San Michele.

The monks used to alternate the status of hermit with that of cultivating the soil and praying all together.

The hermitages were interconnected to each other by stairs and paths.

Moreover, the water collected was canalized to few hermitages.

One of the hermitages was even dedicated to grind wheat up. Indeed, it is called eremo mulino.

In 1966, the Byzantine icon of the Holy Mary has been smuggled. Since then, we have no news of it.

Last year, I took part to an event promoted by Pro Valloni Garganici onlus, led by the passionate Angelo Torre.

Almost 100 volunteers gathered in Monte Sant’Angelo.

We carried out tools and lime to re-build the wall of the studion hermitage.

The studion Hermitage is a complex of small hermitages. It is probably the most fascinating among the others.

I remember I walked for miles.

The atmosphere here is just unbelievably calm and peaceful.

We climbed down till the valley floor. Then, we reached the studion hermitage by climbing stairs.

I help myself with a rope.

The monks must have been incredibly fit.

The studion hermitage is huge.

Inside are still visible paints. 

Intact it’s their evocative power.

In 2010, FAI promoted an initiative i luoghi del cuore.

The Pulsano hermitages had got more than 34.000 votes, becoming the first one in this special parade.

Please click here, should u wish too see more pics

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Matera, the European capital of culture 2019

Over the last days, the EU commissioners visited firstly Lecce in Apulia. Then, Matera in Basilicata.

Therefore, I asked myself: “Which city do you reckon is more entitled to be the European capital of culture 2019?”.

I have been thinking about it for a while. 

Then, firmly I replied to myself: “Matera, of course”.

I saw Matera for the first time four years ago.

As you probably are aware, Lucia, my partner, is from Altamura.

Altamura, located in Apulia, is just a bunch of miles from Matera.

So, Lucia has always described Matera as such a magic and inspiring town.

Therefore, I dated her in Matera, where we had a tasty pizza Napoletana

Soon after, we exchanged a tiramisù kiss ;-)

Nowadays, Matera is competing with Lecce and with other Italian cities such as Cagliari, Perugia-Assisi, Ravenna and Siena.

The reason for which I support the Matera candidature?

Well, in my opinion Matera has something unique I would say: i Sassi.

Basically, i Sassi are among the oldest housing units of the world.

The zone was already inhabited during the Paleolithic era.

Every time I come to Matera, I can’t refrain from contemplating i Sassi

It is like to visualize the history of Humanity. 

Matera is such an ancestral site.

Carlo Levi has written about the terrible hygienic conditions in which people of Sassi went through during the Fascist age. 

You find it in the Levi's cult book: Cristo si è fermato ad Eboli.

Book like this, contributed to create the cultural humus for people such as Rocco Scotellaro, poet of the peasant civilization.

I Sassi were portrayed during the 50ies as a “national shame”.

Soon after, more than 15.000 thousands people were relocated from i Sassi to new housing units.

For more than 30 years i Sassi had been completely neglected.

Then, in 1986 a national law funded the recovery of Sassi.  

I Sassi have been declared in 1993 world heritage by UNESCO.

Talking about cinema, many movies have been shot in Matera.

From my point of view, the most important one is the Pasolini’s The Gospel according to St. Matthew

This movie is considered by International cinema reviewers as the best one concerning the Jesus’s life.

Matera, but I would say the entire Basilicata, reminds Jerusalem, the holy land.

Mel Gibson has shot The Passion here. 

Additionally, Bruce Beresford has shot in 1980 King David, starring a young Richard Gere.

Over the last weeks, a Chinese crew of 60 people has just completed to shoot Marry me, which will be seen in China in February 2015. 

3.000 Chinese cinemas will show it.

Matera has an exciting cultural life.

Of course, the town is not just i Sassi.

Matera is pretty famous for its rupestrian churches, with stunning graffiti painted inside.

My opinion is that Matera has a genuine vocation to be the European capital of culture 2019.

The humanity sink roots in the Sassi.

Click here, should you wish to see more pics

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Acquedotto Pugliese, the Camillo Rosalba's dream

Today, I am going to talk about the Acquedotto Pugliese (the Apulian aqueduct).

The Acquedotto Pugliese represented a tremendous improvement for the life of Apulians.

Even the Latin poet Horace, had written about the drought of Apulia (siderum insedit vapor siticulosae Apuliae).

Indeed, Apulia was eternally affected by a chronic drought due to its karstic landscape, which does not retain water.

As result of this, the Apulians suffered extreme poverty.

Additionally, in the countryside, water was being taken from swamplands, which caused the spreading of plagues such as typhus fever, dysentery and cholera.

The project of building the Acquedotto Pugliese was strongly supported by Apulian members of the Parliament such as Imbriani, Salvemini and many others.

However, Camillo Rosalba, a smart engineer from Foggia, was the first to devise in 1868 the project of transporting water to Apulia from the Sele river.

Works started in 1906.

Acquedotto Pugliese is made by interconnected infrastructures.

The very end of the Acquedotto is in Santa Maria di Leuca, de finibus terrae.

According to documents published in 1926, the Acquedotto Pugliese was the longest and the largest of the world.

Actually, it still remains the longest in the world.

In 1926, It supplied water to 2 millions and half people spread in 20.000 square kms.

The first gush of water came out in Bari at 11 o’clock, on the 24th April 1915.

Hundreds of people attended the event.

Over the next days, thousands of people, like new pilgrims, will move to Bari from the neighboring cities to contemplate the miracle: unlimited water.

Brindisi, Taranto, Lecce and Foggia had to wait till the end of first world war before being served by water.

In 2005, the Apulian club of cicloamici, has proposed to turn the Acquedotto infrastructures into an immense greenways.

On the 12th and 13th June 2011, 26 millions of Italians declared by a national referendum that water is a common good belonging to everyone.

Therefore, it is immoral to profit from its sale.