Minervino di Lecce
A small town nestled in the Idro Valley, Minervino di Lecce with the hamlets of Specchia, Gallone and Cocumola preserves a long history of dolmens and menhirs, Renaissance and Baroque churches, fortresses transformed into noble residences.
The origins of its name are uncertain. There are three most accredited theses. The first one hypothesises that “Minervino” may derive from the presence of a temple erected by the Iapygians (an ancient Indo-European population from the western part of the Balkan peninsula) and consecrated to the goddess Minerva. The proof of this theory derives from the presence of some megalithic monuments which would confirm the paganity of the original population. According to another theory, the city was founded in the IX century in memory of the ancient city of Castro, once called Castrum Minervae, which was destroyed by the raids of Saracen pirates around 1266. The surviving population, after having taken refuge in the hinterland, would then have rebuilt the entire city giving it this name. According to the third theory, the city is of Roman origin. The confirmation that a Roman nucleus was present in the village comes from the discovery of a road with a pavement similar to that of the Appian Way which, starting from Rome, reached Brindisi.
Among the points of interest of the historic centre there is the Mother Church of San Michele Arcangelo, considered one of the most beautiful Renaissance churches in Salento. This place of worship, built in the mid-sixteenth century, is characterised by the splendid facade decorated with a large Baroque rose window that recalls that of the Basilica of Santa Croce in Lecce. Another church that can be visited nearby is that of the Madonna delle Grazie, dating back to the XVII century and characterised by a pavement below the level of the road.
As for the city architecture, we find the palaces belonging to the respective families: Palazzo Venturi, a fortress built on two floors, and Palazzo Scarciglia, an elegant eighteenth-century residence built around a large atrium decorated with floral motifs.
But also some interesting megalithic monuments have been found in the municipal area. The Li Scusi Dolmen is the first dolmen discovered in Apulia region in 1879. Thanks to the size of its cover plate (2.5 m by 3.8 m and 1 m high) it is considered the largest dolmen in Apulia after the one of Bisceglie. And the Monticelli menhir, measuring 70 by 40 cm and 180 cm high, could be the remains of the original menhir, probably higher.
In these lands excellent wines are produced together with the yellow gold of Salento: extra virgin olive oil. Minervino di Lecce is a town where you can rediscover the pleasure of village life, thanks also to the numerous festivals and events that take place throughout the year. In particular, the Tavole di San Giuseppe (in March), is an event where some families of Minervino set tables with local products and invite friends or relatives, the only rule is that there are a minimum of 3 or a maximum of 13 people, always an odd number.
Minervino di Lecce is also a “Hospitable Community”, a Municipality that has decided to undertake a path of tourism enhancement based on responsible, sustainable tourism and on the authentic hospitality of Italian villages.