Melpignano: what to do and see, history and events [2023]

In the heart of Salento, in Puglia, there is a small town that holds a priceless treasure of beauty and traditions: Melpignano. This charming village, with its cobbled streets and monuments, represents an authentic gem that oozes history and culture. In this article you will find out what makes Melpignano such a special place: history, events, activities and things to see.

The History of Melpignano

The history of Melpignano has its roots in the Bronze Age , as evidenced by the numerous menhirs and dolmens present in the area, tangible traces of the first settlements. However, the exact origin of the center remains uncertain. According to various hypotheses, it could go back to the Greeks of the Peloponnese who arrived with Enotrio Arcade, or it could have been founded by Melpinius, a centurion who obtained these lands after the Roman occupation of the then Calabria in 267 BC. A suggestive mythological hypothesis links the foundation of the town to the muse Melpomene.

During the Roman period, Melpignano was certainly colonized and subsequently fell under Greek-Byzantine domination for over five centuries, undergoing a significant influence on the local culture, traditions and language. The Greek influence still persists today in the traditions and folklore of the region.

With the arrival of the Normans, the feud was assigned to Giambattista Lettere in 1190 and then passed to Raimondo Orsini del Balzo in 1396. During the 15th century, through King Ferrante of Aragon, was ceded to the Aiello Tarantini. Over the centuries, various feudal families succeeded one another at the helm of the fiefdom, including the Moscos, the Ramirez, the Branai ( Granai) Castriota (1632-1667), descendants of Vrana Konti, and the Acquaviva d’Aragona. In 1757, Melpignano became the property of the Marquises de Luca, who were the last feudal lords of the place.

With the abolition of the feudal system in 1806, Melpignano was aggregated with Castrignano de’ Greci, forming a single municipality until 1 January 1837, when the two municipalities obtained autonomy administrative. This marked an important moment in the history of Melpignano, since from that moment on it would become an independent municipality with a unique history and culture to preserve and enhance.

Origins of the name “Melpignano”

The origin of the name Melpignano offers several interesting hypotheses. It could derive from the Latin name of person “Melpinius” with the addition of the suffix “anus”, indicating a land property linked to Melpinius. Another theory suggests that the name comes from the muse “Melpomene“, linking it to culture and art. Finally, another theory hypothesizes a derivation from the word “honey”, since the production of honey was an important source of income in the area.

What to see in Melpignano?

In Melpignano, there are several attractions of historical and artistic interest to visit. Let’s see them together: 

  •  The Mother Church of San Giorgio, dating back to the first decades of the 16th century, has a façade with a 16th-century portal depicting Saint George slaying the dragon. Inside, there are Baroque altars dedicated to various religious figures and sixteenth-century frescoes that adorn the presbytery.

 chiesa-madre-di-san-Giorgio-di-Melpignano

  • The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin, built in the early 16th century, retains its original architectural structure with a stellar ribbed vault. The current facade, from 1678, partially hides the original one and has a portal attributed to the sculptor Placido Buffelli. Inside, you can admire a mosaic floor, a large altar and various 18th century canvases depicting the Marian mysteries.
  • The Church and Convent of the Augustinians, with the annexed Carmine church, was built starting from 1573 and restored in 1638. The church has a Baroque façade with an elaborate portal and a window with an arched tympanum. Inside, there is a sixteenth-century choir and six side chapels with sculpted altars.

Chiesa-e-Convento-degli-Agostiniani-melpignano

  • Other notable chapels include the Chapel of St. Anthony of Cairo, which dates back to 1530, and the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, built in 1661 as thanks for protection during a plague epidemic. Furthermore, there is the Cappella di San Michele Arcangelo, with an altar and a statue attributed to Oronzo Carrone, and the</ span> Chapel of San Pietro d’Alcantara, belonging to a wealthy family and decorated with a canvas depicting San Pietro d’Alcantara and statues of others saints.

In the Melpignano area, moreover, you can admire several megalithic monuments, including menhirs and dolmens, which, as we mentioned, represent historical evidence of great interest. One of them is the Menhir Minonna, an imposing 280 cm high monolith, located in the town of Melpignano, precisely in via IV November. Another noteworthy menhir is the Candelora Menhir, whose pyramid-shaped monolith is incorporated into the boundary wall of a factory industry dedicated to the extraction and processing of Lecce stone.

Menhir_Minonna_Melpignano
Menhir Minonna Melpignano – Foto di Lupiae by Wikipedia

Other menhirs in the area include the Menhir Lama, characterized by a parallelepiped shape 420 cm high, and the Menhir Scinéo, which has recently been placed upright on a two-level base.

Finally, the Menhir Chipuro, recently discovered, is a monolith of Lecce stone with a parallelepiped shape tapering at the top, 184 cm high. These megalithic monuments offer a fascinating testimony of the ancient civilizations that inhabited the Melpignano region.

The Night of the Taranta in Melpignano

The small town of Melpignano has hosted one of the most important summer events in Salento for 26 years, the Night of the Taranta, event with international resonance.

This festival celebrates the tradition of pizzica, a form of </ span>Salento popular music and dance much loved and felt by the local population and beyond. The evening attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world, eager to immerse themselves in the magic and contagious energy of pizzica. Internationally renowned artists perform on stage, accompanied by a large orchestra and dancers who involve the audience in extraordinary choreography. The Notte della Taranta represents a moment of great celebration and celebration of Salento roots and culture, creating a bridge between ancient traditions and new generations. It is an unforgettable experience that allows participants to experience the authentic spirit of pizzica and to appreciate the cultural richness of Melpignano and Salento as a whole. After the success of the night of the taranta 2022 in Melpignano, the 2023 edition will be held on August 26.

How is the sea in Melpignano?

Although Melpignano is not a coastal town, its territory still offers the possibility to easily reach some of the most beautiful beaches of Salento< span style=”font-weight: 400;”>. Located in the central part of the province of Lecce, Melpignano is a short distance from the Adriatic and Ionian coasts. Among the most famous beaches within easy reach of Melpignano are Torre dell’Orso, Otranto, Gallipoli, Santa Cesarea Terme, Castro, San Foca and Porto Cesareo.

Where to eat in Melpignano?

If you want to discover the typical Salento cuisine or taste dishes based on local products, there are several restaurants in Melpignano. Whether you are looking for fine dining or a casual meal you are sure to find what you need! Here are some recommended venues:

  • Portico San Giorgio;
  • Melpigos Taverna;
  • Tzichì.

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Team HDSalento

Team HDSalento

Articles by the HDSalento team

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