Galatina is among the most important cities in Salento.
It is situated some 21 km south of the city of Lecce and used to be known as San Pietro in Galatina before the unification of Italy (march 17-1861).
It was a Greek colony in the Middle Ages and became later part of the County of Spoleto.
During the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the city enjoyed an artistic heyday reflected by the numerous churches and noble mansions dotting the old quarter: Palazzo Vernaleone, Palazzo Galluccio-Mezio, Palazzo Venturi and Palazzo Gorgoni.
Galatina is that kind of city where you least expect to find such a rich cultural history, characterized by its colorful traditions and mostly by its historical center built in an elegant and never ostentatious Baroque style.
The palaces and gates, squares and alleys full of artistic details, the craft shops and local gastronomy, all contribute to the rediscovery of real feelings, and exudes an air of tradition and simplicity.
It is nice to indulge in the slower pace and relaxing atmosphere of the old city and imagining it still enclosed within the ancient feudal walls.
Wandering around town is an experience not only for the eyes but also for the sense of smell, because this town holds the highest level of confectionery and early in the morning the smell of freshly baked pasticciotti (pastries) is really irresistible.
The dessert that later became typical of the whole Province of Lecce, was in fact created here by the pastry shop Ascalone who still delight the palates of the local galatinesi and of the many visitors.
The main square, Piazza St Pietro, is dominated by the Parish Church dedicate to St. Peter and Paul.
It displays a beautiful Baroque facade built between 1633 and 1663 by architect Giuseppe Zimbalo.
However, no other monuments in Galatina rival the lovely Church of Santa Caterina d'Alessandria, one among the rare examples of Gothic architecture in the Salento area.
Raimondello Del Balzo-Orsini had it built in the period between 1384 and 1391.
It features a three-gabled decorated portals: the central one is surmounted by a rose window and framed by a prothyrum ...
...with an architrave depicting Christ and the Apostles carved in relief.
The beautiful frescoes covering the whole church on the inside depict scenes from the Old and New Testament and various Saints, scenes from the Apocalypse, as well as the life of the Virgin and of St. Catherine.
The unpretentious little chapel of San Paul, located just a few minutes from the main square, in the nearby Tondi palace, has been since the Middle Ages the scene of a phenomena known as "tarantism ".
Legend says that Peter and Paul on their journey to Rome, stopped in Galatina and St Paul, grateful for the hospitality received by a local pious man, gave him and his descendants the power to heal those who had been bitten by poisonous spiders, known in dialect as"taranta."
From near and far, on feet or by any other available means, people (mostly women) would travel to Galatina to attend this ancient ritual.
In this chapel, in fact, during the celebrations on the 29th of June, women who had been victims of the bite of the tarantula would congregate to take part in a frenetic musical exorcism, accompanied by musicians playing tambourines, violins, accordions, to thank St Paul for favors received (grazie ricevuta) or to invoke it.
Only after drinking the miraculous water from the well (image below) located in the courtyard, the women could assume that grace has been obtained.
The final Taranta musical (Night of the Taranta) event is held in the town of Melpignano... an event not to be missed if you are in the vicinity.
Below, some of the rich frescoes to be admired in the church of Santa Caterinad'Alessandria.
Chiesadelle Anime Sante del Purgatorio, Chiesa dell'Addolorata,
Chiesa del Carmine, Chiesa di San Luigi,
Chiesadi Santa Maria dellaGrazia, Chiesa di Santa Caterina Novella, Chiesa di Santa Maria della Misericordia, Convento dei Cappuccin
From what used to be the defensive medieval walls we can still admire two of the strategic doors located at certain points around the city and part of what was the castle and the main entrance (door #3 and door # 9).