You’ve probably never heard of the small town of Corigliano d’Otranto located near the town of Lecce in the Salento sub-region of Puglia. It’s another, among so many, gems easily overlooked by travelers.
Corgliano d’Otranto is one of 11 towns included in the Grecia Salentina (Italian for Salentinian Greek-speaking land). This area of inhabited by the Griko people, an ethnic Greek minority who still speak Griko, a variant of Greek.
The Union of the Towns of Grecìa Salentina was founded by the Griko population in 1966. Its purpose was to promote the knowledge of Griko and preserve its culture, by organizing research at the university, teaching the language at schools and publishing books and poetry in the endangered dialect.
A town of less than less than 6,000 inhabitants, Corgliano’s main square is dominated by the Castello De’Monti. Today considered one of the most important examples of 16th century feudal and military architecture in the region, the original fortress dates from about the mid-13th century.
The Montibus family came from France after acquiring the castle in a feud in 1465. Initial expansion and restructuring included building up and repairing the walls and bulwarks and then the addition of the sixteen towers. Between 1514 and 1519, the first marquis of Corigliano oversaw continued expanding its defenses adding the moat, stable, barracks and the four large circular towers on the four corners.
Each tower is named after a saint and decorated with bas-reliefs of their images: St. Michael the Archangel, St. Anthony the Abbot, St. George and St. John the Baptist.
In 1649 the castle was converted into a magnificent palace and in 1661 the duke of Cortigliano added the extravagant Lecce Baroque façade. The duke is featured prominently in the center and is flanked by the figures of Charity and Justice.
Today you will find Corigliano d’Otranto to be a lovely town with inviting side streets, piazzas and a very friendly cat!