The ancient village of fourteenth-century origins, Poggiardo, is located in the province of Lecce, in the so-called heel of Italy. Its name derives from Podium Arduum, Poggio Arduo, in reference to the Serra di Poggiardo, inhabited since ancient times. A legend links its origins to an ox. It is said that, after 1156, the year of the destruction of Bastae, today Vaste, the three surviving hamlets (Soranello, Puzze and Casicalvi) relied on an ox for the identification of the place where to build the new town, today Poggiardo. The village, subsequently dominated by different families, experienced its greatest economic and social development under Joanna I of Naples. The construction of the walls and castle as defence against the Saracen attacks dates back to the end of the XIV century. Starting from the mid-1400s, the territory was entrusted to the control of the Guarini feudal family, the last owners up to 1806, who built various fortifications. After the transfer of the bishop’s seat to Poggiardo in 1573, the village also flourished from an artistic and architectural point of view.
Foto: Giuseppe La Rosa
Poggiardo boasts an important historical, architectural and naturalistic heritage. Wandering around the historic centre, dotted with ancient houses in a “courtyard” shape and narrow streets with a single access from the main road, you will be fascinated by the ancient noble residences and monumental religious buildings. The natural heritage of Poggiardo is also of great importance. Here the Serra represents the only modest relief in the area, covered by dense “black” woods, pine forests among a mix of aromatic herbs and plants typical of the Maquis shrubland. The karst caves, the erosions of the rock, inhabited in ancient times, today rich in stalactites and stalagmites, characterise the territory, scarce of hydrographic resources.
It is worth visiting the hamlet of Vaste which houses a vast archaeological area of great importance, the Parco dei Guerrieri, where the remains of what is thought to have been the most important Messapian city are preserved.
The rock church of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Poggiardo, an ancient crypt dating back to the year 1000, was rebuilt in an underground museum-structure to preserve its splendid frescoes from decay.