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Otranto and the Castle of secrets

View of "Castello Aragonese", Otranto (LE)

“Every castle has a strong hold on the popular imagination but having one in your own city ends to stimulate the interest in history and even the spirit of adventure. Perhaps as a young man I was well aware of the resonance of the late 1700s was in Europe that the book of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, the first Gothic novel ever. At that time it was an unprecedented success and helped to create that aura of mystery around the manor who later literature and film have so much exploited. No, maybe I did not know much about this record Otranto … but I had a real castle behind the house and so many stories and legends that were walking around. In addition, knowing how it was possible to penetrate in its basement and enter a fascinating and mysterious world.

At a distance of many years I have had the opportunity to go back in those tunnels and secret ones thanks to Ing. Thomas Farenga, project manager at the Castle – my childhood friend and companion of many adventures in that time – he wanted to see, even through my memories, the presence of an underground and reflect on the static conditions. It was like a real journey through time, that of history mixed with that of a childhood full of emotions.

One of the underground graffiti in the environment

One of the underground graffiti in the environment

This time we entered the courtyard, directly through the old stairs of prisons, with steep drops quickly in a corridor located approximately 5 meters deep. Before entering, however, we focused on the excavations that affect a portion of the courtyard, and which have brought to light a beautiful, underground , probably early Christian. I had already guessed that those environments could have a relationship with the underground. Must be said, however, that the underground does not necessarily have an absolute relationship with the castle.

But first things first and go down the old s stepped path called “prison”because a few decades ago, the castle housed a small home district.

The corridor at the base of the staircase is already an integral part of the underground. The right side grows into a walkway that goes down even a couple of meters. Here we already find ourselves in an environment not built but carved into the stone. The walls are chiselled with traces perfectly visible and the dimensions are large.

The route turns to the right constantly, ideally following the quadrangular castle and after the first fifteen meters you will reach an area partially buried and contained by an ancient wall. This is the most interesting, especially when referred to the excavations that are affecting the central portion of the atrium of the castle. In fact, overcoming the gap formed by the retaining wall and moving on all fours for a while, you find yourself walking in a partially buried in those who seem least a couple of feet of earth and characterized by a structure and a plan quite similar to that dell’ipogeo found during excavations of the atrium. The distance between these underground rooms should be in the order of ten meters but then it is not easy to accurately evaluate it without a cartographic survey of the underground, relief that at this point it would be interesting to make also to give the visitor an idea of ​​the Castle of what lies beneath his feet.

It is interesting to note that in the land fill there are traces of pottery and bones and that we are not in an environment built but carved directly into the rock.

The hypothesis is that there there was a mound of tufa, which had already been built walkways and halls long before the construction of the castle.This morphology is very common in the territory of Otranto where Messapians Early Christian and have left a large number of artificial caves, visible even in some streets of the country.Probably at the time of construction of the first fort quadrangular this hill was incorporated within the walls. Yes, because these “underground” are not exactly below, but inside the walls … that is often higher than the floor of the ditch and the base of the castle. This explains how some tunnels dug crashing into a wall built that is none other than the perimeter of the fortress, while those that develop within are virtually untouched.

The structure is fascinating and can think of a thousand questions about how and why the architects of the time they chose certain solutions, some isolated areas by filling with debris (or perhaps leaving them as full as they had found) and developing other, completing the missing parts.

What we have seen so far is located on the right side going down the stairs of the old prisons. Turning left instead of the development plan is much greater, but if you want I can tell you about it another time … ”
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