Sunday, 26 April 2015

The jewels of Torre Santa Susanna

Torre Santa Susanna is a small town, close to Mesagne, in the province of Brindisi.

In Torre S. Susanna there are two things you must see. Firstly, the Byzantine church of Crepacore

Secondly, the medieval ipogeo olive press, one of the biggest ever made in Apulia.

Lucia and I leave early in the morning heading to church of Crepacore which dates back to the 7th century.

On Sunday, the church is opened from 10 to 12 am.

We arrive at 11 o’clock.

The church of Crepacore is located a couple of miles before Torre S. Susanna, on the road which links Mesagne to Torre S. Susanna.

Francesca and Cosimo, two young passionate tourist guides, welcome us with a gentle smile.

“The main entry of the church is addressed to East, where the sun arises”. Francesca says.

“We have discovered few Longobardic tombs around here. In all of them, the body had its head oriented at East”.

The church has been built right in the middle of the limitone dei Greci, a wall which separated the Greek part of Apulia ruled by the Spartan Taranto, from the Messapians (Manduria, Brindisi etc..).

The church has been built up on a Roman rural villa.

The number three occurs quite often in this temple: three windows, three navate (nave). That is not a  coincidence.

Gaiderisio, a Longobardic Prince, had been painted beside St. Pietro. It is presumed that it is a Byzantine fresco, though. You will notice that Gaiderisio is on the same level of the Saint.

Both of them are represented with the same length.

What strong, and at the same time, subliminal impact on the audience of that time.

Political and religious powers move on together.

The following fresco represents God, surrounded by archangels and saints.

These frescos are dated back to 9th and 10th century.

We complete the visit to this astonishing church, not before having paid the ticket.

However, we want to go to Torre S. Susanna and visit the ipogeo olive press as well.

Actually, I’m just reading an inspiring book about the rocky civilisation: Le chiese rupestri di Puglia, written by Franco dell’Aquila and Aldo Messina. Edited by Adda (Bari, Italy).

Indeed, we were absolutely right to visit the ipogeo. It is immense.

This is a monument of the rocky civilization.

The ipogeo is excavated into a tufaceous stone.

At that time, the ipogeo were very much appreciated for several reasons:

  •          The temperature was held pretty low, at an average of 6°.
  •           The precious olive oil was secured underneath from raids.
  •          Last but not least, it was easier to excavate than to carry on stones and build up.

The olive press dates back to the 17th century.

However, according to the rumours, part of it was already excavated in the 15th century by Basilian monks for religious purposes.

The ipogeo is compounded by several rooms, some of them are even not accessible.

There are two kinds of presses: one is called genovese

The other one calabrese.

The ipogeo has been working till, at least, the 1867.

However, a national law promulgated in the early 20th century, will definitely shut down such ipogeo due to the lack of hygienic standards.

We say bye to Mina, who has guided us through this underneath labyrinth.

Finally, Lucia and I come back to Brindisi, easily though.

We chat about the nice people we have just met, and the two jewels we have admired.

two partisans to celebrate the Liberation from Nazi-fascism

Yesterday, 25th of April, Italy has celebrated the 70° anniversary of national liberation from Nazi-fascism.

In Brindisi, two partisans took part to the celebration.

However, I am going to talk about them later.

The official celebration took place in P.zza S. Teresa.

Il Sindaco (major) and the Prefetto of Brindisi have spoken.

They have said nice words.

However, I would have liked to talk to them.

In other words, I would have liked to ask them their opinion about the crimes occurred during the G8 of Genova (Diaz, Bolzaneto etc..).

Who is responsible for the humiliations of hundreds people who dreamt a better world? 

The partisans did not risk their life to hand us such a country which has no respect of its youth.


Nevertheless, today is a day of pride and hope for a better future.

So, I stop thinking of criticisms and I turn my eyes to the people in the square.

 From a cinematography perspective, none movie but C’eravamo tanto amati better portray the disenchant of those who once were partisans. It is an Ettore Scola’s movie.

I see the crocerossine. They are gorgeous with their white uniform.

I see so many students, and I find it great.

After the official ceremony, it is time to let the protagonists speak: the partisans.

So, we move beside palazzo Nervegna.

Meantime, I talk with a soldier. He is retired now. His name is Franco Cappelli.

Well, he tells me the incredible story of his father, an Italian officer killed on the Greek island of Kos.

His father along with 102 Italian officials, was slaughtered by the Germans, after the Italian betrayal in 1943.

“The Italians of Kos called the Italian headquarter asking for aeroplanes support” Franco says. “The denial arrived six hours later, when everything was already jeopardised”.

I feel the sorrow of this man who has never met his father.

Suddenly, It comes to my mind the Hemingway’s Firewall to arms. War is inhuman.

The partisans begin to speak.


It is the turn of Pietro Parisi.

He was a soldier. After the 8° September 1943, he managed to escape from the Nazis.

Therefore, he joined the partisans on the mountains  (Appennini tosco-emiliani).

He was member of the 176° Brigata Garibaldi.

The Brigate Garibaldi included socialists and communists.

Of course, the partisans were not just socialists and communists.

After Pietro, it’s the round of Alfredo Buzzerio.

He says: “I wish to say just a couple of things. first of all, I am proud for having been a partisan. Viva l’Italia”.

He was member of the 23° Brigata Garibaldi.

I come close to Alfredo as I wish to interview him.

“You know, the SS were afraid of us. Once, as we tackled the Nazis though the guerrilla, we have surprised the SS by standing up suddenly from the ground.” Alfredo reveals with a smile on his face.

Who knows how many times he has sung Bella Ciao.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Vieste, pearl of Gargano

Last week, the American web site BuzzFeed has published an article highlighting the 36 most beautiful Italian locations.

Well, among those there was Vieste, a picturesque town located in the hearth of Gargano.

I have been many times in Vieste.

I know it pretty well.

From my point of view, the way from Mattinata to Vieste is just astonishing, with so many beaches, small and big, crowdy and solitary.

There is the Mergoli beach with faraglioni in Mattinatella, soon after Mattinata, heading to Vieste.

Then, you find Vignanotica.

After Vignanotica, there is Pugnochiuso, an amazing place where you may admire the Portopiatto beach.

A couple of miles after Pugnochiuso, there is Porto Greco, another amazing beach.

I have been in Vieste to investigate about Mimmo Sesta, one of the heroes of tunnel 29 in Berlin, during the “cold war”.

Mimmo Sesta was born in Vieste.

The territory of Vieste has been inhabitated since the Paleolithic.

A couple of miles from Vieste, It has been discovered one of the biggest flint mine in Europe, the Defensola mine, which dates back to 5000 BC.

Vieste was looted by Venetians in 1239.

However, the major disaster occurred in 1554, with the Turkish, led by Dragut Rais.

Thousands of inhabitants have been beheaded on chianca amara (rock of sorrow).

Vieste is one of the tourist capital of Apulia.

I strongly recommend you to visit la perla del Gargano, at anytime, except on August, because it's just so crowdy.

You better visit it on May, June or even September.

Once there, do not forget to visit the old ghetto, located in Via Giudeca.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

An alchemy: Paccheri with artichokes and salmon

Yesterday evening I invited Franckie and Ryan for dinner.

When I invite people at home and I cook for them, I like to cook something special.

Yesterday, I combined ingredients which apparently do not work together.

Tonight, I am going to cook paccheri (pasta), of course, with tomatoes, artichokes and salmon.

You might probably say: “artichoke and salmon together? What a weird combination!”

Well, let us see.

The bitterness of the artichoke combined with the fragrance of salmon is something you have to taste.

Therefore, I am going to show you how to make it, step by step.

Then, if you do not want to cook it, invite me. You buy all the ingredients required and I’ll cook for you. No problem at all.

My Mum has always cooked for her family.

So, I took from her the passion of cooking for other people.

From my point of view, cooking is an alchemy.

From this perspective, I see myself as an alchemist.

In other words, I like to make experiments with food.

Now, I am going to show you how to make this healthy and tasty meal.

It is very easy.

First of all, take a piece of garlic with some onion. Chop it.

Put it in an a pan.

Poor in the pan 6 spoons (2 spoons for each person) of extra-virgin olive oil.

Better if the olive oil is Apulian, bought from an Apulian producer. Buying olive oil from a shop is strictly forbidden. I’m joking…

Put in the pan 10 fresh tomatoes, the ciliegino (cherry) ones.

Keep it cooking for 20 minutes, at a very low fire.

One of the secret of cooking is slowness.

By the way, women love seeing men cooking for them.

Cooking is a powerful act of seduction (seduction comes from the Latin se ducere, which means “bring s.o. to yourself”).

Let’s come back to the meal.

Beside the soffritto, clean the artichokes and put them in a pan with some water.

Let them boil for roughly 20 minutes as well.

In this way, the artichokes will turn tender.

After that, move the artichokes to the other pan. 

Do not throw away the water of artichokes.

Cut a slim piece of ginger, chop it and add it.

Let them cook all together for 15 minutes.

Poor every 5/10 minutes some of the greenish water released previously by the artichokes.

Finally, chop the salmon and put it in the big pan.

Let it cook all together just for 5 minutes.

Paccheri take around 14 minutes to be ready.

Then, when the meal will be ready, on your table, the doors to the Paradise will get opened.

Buon appetito.

Monday, 20 April 2015

A marvellous example of Gothic-Angevin art

The church of Santa Maria del Casale in Brindisi represents a fantastic example of Gothic-Angevin of the 14th century.

It is pleonastic to remark that the Angevins were French.

The church has been built up in 1300 by Filippo il Bello, king of Taranto.

Nowadays, Santa Maria del Casale is an Italian national monument.

On Friday 17th of April, there was presentation of the book Affari pubblici e devozione privata. Santa Maria del Casale a Brindisi, written by Giulia Perrino, edited by Caratteri mobili.

The event, held within the church, has been arranged by Italia Nostra  

The invites were Giulia Perrino, author of the book. Valentino Pace, Prof. at the University of Udine in History of Art. Finally, Don Mimmo, priest of S. Maria del Casale.

The moderator, Domenico Saponaro, president of the local Italia Nostra, calls upon Prof. Pace to speak.

The Prof. complaints about the presence of wooden seats in front of the altar, which are contrast with the style of the church itself . He invokes the intervention of Sovrintendenza dei beni culturali to remove them.

“From Monopoli till Lecce, there is a magnificent heritage of rock churches. Decorated by astonishing  paints, this heritage is unique. 

An example of the surprising beauty of it is Chiesa di Crepacuore” the Prof says.

“Unfortunately” the Prof. adds “such churches are often neglected, or at least not appreciated as they should be. Nevertheless, this is one of the main cultural asset of Italy”.

The Prof continues: “Brindisi has a wide cultural heritage. Today, for instance, I have been admiring the church of Santa Teresa for more than two hours.”

“Talking about the book” the Prof says “this is a research made on the history of art field, with a focus on messages. As the author reports, these frescos reveal messages of social achievement and self affirmation by those families who have commissioned it”.

“The heraldry is the leit motif of this research. The stemma (coat of arms) are like logos of nowadays”.

Prof. Pace continues “In Italy, historians of art and heraldry researchers are totally separated.

However, heraldry is without any doubt part of the history of art”.

“In this church you can clearly see the aristocracy’s ostentation”.

At the end of his speech, the audience applauds Prof. Pace

Now, it’s the round of Giulia Perrino.

She begins: “these frescos allow us to understand the main actors of the 14th century”

“The devotion to the icon of Santa Maria del Casale, turns into an instrument of political communication”.

The author continues: “As you can see in this fresco, Nicola della Marra interacts with the Holy Virgin directly, without mediator”.

“The frescos ordered here by the Tocco’s family have echoes of Armenian, Syro-Palestinian and Byzantine art”.

She ends up saying: “What I have studied here is just a small part of what this church may offer”.

The extreme importance of this church is represented as well by the event which took place here: the process to knight Templars.

This is a very good reason to come to Brindisi and visit Santa Maria del Casale.

Don Mimmo will welcome you.