Dear friends, here we are with our last diary's page. Yes, we are back home and our wonderful trip in Apulia is over (sigh!). But let's tell you about our last three days of Ancient Apulia tour.
After a night of thunders and lightnings, on Friday we had some good weather, so we decided to go to Manduria, once an important Messapian settlement. The Messapians were the inhabitants of the area around Lecce, Brindisi and Taranto before the arrival of the Greeks and the Romans. They were finally subjugated by the Romans in 266 B.C. Large parts of the defence walls of the urban centres of this rather mysterious civilization are visible all around Salento. In Manduria, apart from a gigantic wall there is also an extensive Messapian burial ground with many rock-cut graves. The stone used by Messapian buildres is prehistoric sand, as showed by the shells embedded in it. Walls and burials have been fenced by the Soprintendenza Archeologica (organization for the Italian archaeological heritage), there are no explicative panels around, so it is hard for a visitor to visit the site and understand anything of that civilization. But we must admit that even in Italy something works. Read on...
Immediately after this public shame of the national archaeological service, we went to Maglie, a large town south of Lecce, where there is a very nice and interesting museum of palaeontology and palaeoethnology. Well made, easy to visit, equipped with multimedia stations and full of interesting findings, from the teeth of gigantic prehistoric sharks (Carcharodon megalodon) and mammoths to the Neolithic stone axes and flints and Bronze Age artefacts. Congratulations to the town hall and the community of Maglie for their effort: their museum is really worth a visit. On our way back to Lecce we stopped at the tall Calamauri standing stone, just beside the busy road SS 16.
The next day the sun was still shining, so we went around to visit some other standing stones south of Lecce: the secluded Ussano one, the Staurotomea, the Vitigliano and the broken Santu Lasi, the little Apulian answer to the Grand Menhir Brisé in Brittany :-) The weather was so good that Diego made also some panoramic movies at the standing stones of Ussano and Polisano. We also visited the "trilithon" Chianca di Santo Stefano, an enigmatic monument recently restored by local people. We also tried hard to have a look at a Byzantine crypt outside Poggiardo, but it was hopelessly closed. In the evening we had a pizza and a pleasant chat with our friends Mimmo and Chiara, while their lovely baby Michela was sleeping like an angel.
Next morning it was Sunday. We left our comfortable bed & breakfast and went to say goodbye to Lecce: it was a sunny morning, the town was completely closed to the traffic and in piazza Sant'Oronzo there was half the town walking lazily around. Paola sat down and wrote our last postcards, then we went to Toti's office and made him a short but (we hope) very interesting interview. Then he bravely escorted us to Taranto (120km away from Lecce) for our very last megaliths of Apulia. First we visited the Leucaspide dolmen, a striking monument hidden in a nice pinewood. Diego liked so much this site that he made two panoramic movies: one from the left side, and the other from the right side of the dolmen. Then we went to the Accettula one, not far from a gravina (a deep canyon). Both sites are absurdely fenced by the Soprintendenza (the usual organization for the Italian archaeological heritage), but there are openings to enter the fences quite easily.
It was 4 p.m. and so came the sad moment to say goodbye to Toti and Apulia. We took the motorway and drove northwards. A stop at a service area with a peculiar name and we had to leave back (sigh!) the last Apulian olive trees. We passed the Appennines, the Vesuvius volcano, the Montecassino abbey, the outskirts of Rome and arrived at home in Trevignano Romano. It was raining cats and dogs and we were so sad, but a glance at the presents of our Apulian friends made us smile and recall so many good memories... Goodbye to everybody who had the patience to follow us in our journey among the Apulian megaliths. And see you soon, for our next tour ;-)
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