The Salento peninsula was, in ancient times, called by the Greeks Messapia (“Land between two seas”) and was inhabited by a people of probably Illyrian origin, the Messapi.
Between the ninth and tenth centuries Salento was often attacked by the Saracens, who settled in a leopard spot on the territory for shorter or longer periods. In particular, in 1480, under the Aragonese, Otranto was invaded by the Turks led by Ahmet Pascià, with the massacre of 800 people who refused to convert to Islam. This was the most striking episode of a long series of Turkish and Barbary assaults, which became particularly intense in the 16th century, so much so that hundreds of towers were built along the coasts, from which Corsair ships could be spotted in time.
Subsequent Spanish and Bourbon dominations reduced the Land of Otranto to a region, also politically, peripheral. However, a flourishing artistic activity between the 16th and 18th centuries should be noted, which has made Lecce one of the most conspicuous centers of the Baroque, and a rural area characterized by the industriousness and entrepreneurial capacity of the aristocracy.
After the unification of Italy, with the law of 20 March 1865, the 56th state constituency was finally established, originally comprising all six of the current provinces of Salento, with Lecce as capital.
In the Salento area there are several dialects.
A good part of the historical region of Grecìa Salentina, in central Salento, speaks a neo-Greek dialect known as Grecanico or griko, which probably derives from medieval migrations.
The Italian parliament recognized the Greek community of Salento as a distinct ethnic group and as a linguistic minority with the name of “Grica linguistic minority of the Grico-Salento ethnic group”.
The territory of Grecìa salentina, characterized by a cultural identity in its own right, currently includes an area a little larger than the linguistic island alone and includes eleven municipalities, nine of which are Hellenophone: in Calimera, Castrignano de ‘Greci, Corigliano d’Otranto, Martano, Martignano, Melpignano, Soleto, Sternatia and Zollino from the province of Lecce, are added Carpignano Salentino and Cutrofiano, recently entered and not Hellenophones.
The architectural landscape recalls the cities of Greece for the absolute predominance of white “lime” houses, without roof (with attic), especially in the countryside and on the coast, but the historic centers are characterized by the Lecce Baroque, which compared to the Baroque of the rest of Italy is stripped of the pictorial overabundance of the interior and transforms the external facades of churches and palaces into real sculpted tapestries. In this, the local “Lecce stone” was of great importance, tender and malleable and with a warm pinkish yellow color.
The typical structure of the historic centers of Salento, therefore, is characterized by a very compact fabric (there is no separation between the houses) of white alleys with walls painted with lime always brightened (with the exception of the city of Lecce and the Maglie area , where the residential houses are also built in the rosacea-white stone from the Cursi quarries) on whose walls the bright colors of the fixtures stand out, interspersed with noble palaces and baroque period churches in stone.
Typical is the architectural-urbanistic entity of the courtyard house of Arab origin and also widespread in Sicily. Many alleys, in fact, have what are apparently other perpendicular alleys, but turn out to be blind, ending a few meters away. The doors and windows of many homes overlook this urban space, defined as a courtyard (from the Latin cohorte, “space that includes the vegetable garden”, “enclosure”), with the desired result of making it a common living space, a sort a popular drawing room where, in times gone by, many families lived most of the day chatting, embroidering and helping each other with household chores.
Generally, in a courtyard there is never the characteristic common pile, a sort of stone washtub with a grooved part (stricaturu) on which to wring clothes. In some areas, even these courtyards are hidden by a door (mignano) which pretends the entrance of a house, revealing, once opened, the entrance of this multi-family space.
Source: text extracted from Wikipedia