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December 17, 2020 · IN THE DISCOVER LEUCA

Finibus terrae, where the earth ends. From there the gaze looks out into the Mediterranean, and goes beyond its borders, towards new horizons, in search of other peoples, different cultures. The geographical position of Santa Maria di Leuca has always, and inevitably, constituted a main feature for the village.
Over the centuries, in fact, invaders, traders, sailors, sailors, explorers, have appeared on the Salento coasts making a stopover in Leuca, an obligatory stop for the Mediterranean routes, a fundamental step to communicate East and West, almost the center, the fulcrum, for the traffic of the Mediterranean basin.

The inevitable result of all this ‘movement’ is undoubtedly the cultural and artistic mixture of which Leuca has been animated and enriched over the centuries.
One of the main and most evident signs of this wealth is undoubtedly represented by the rich and varied architectural elements that can be admired, including the magnificent stately villas.

Suffice it to say that the more than 40 villas present (although unfortunately only a few are still in excellent condition today), were built following over ten different styles: Ionian, Gothic, Tuscan, Arab, French, Risorgimento, Oriental, Moorish , seventeenth century, Pompeian, Chinese. These masterpieces are found both on the Riviera and on the Iapigio promontory along which the village extends.

The villas are mostly nineteenth-century, commissioned by the wealthy families of the time who slowly paid attention to the Leucano area to spend their summer vacation periods. It should be underlined that most of the villas were the work of only three architects: Giuseppe Ruggeri, Carlo Luigi Arditi and Achille Rossi, who therefore contributed significantly to the creation of these jewels, of which we describe some characteristics below:

Villa Meridiana, which takes its name from the sundial located on the facade. Built around 1875, it was formerly called Villa Ruggeri, from the name of its architect. It is also equipped with a small hexagonal belvedere lantern that allows you to admire the surrounding landscape; Info: Lungomare Colombo, 61 – Tel. +39 0833 758242 – Fax +39 0833 758246
Villa Romasi, the oldest, dating back to the end of the 1700s;
Villa Mellacqua, also designed by Ruggeri on a mandate from Mellacqua in 1878;
Info: Via Tommaso Fuortes, 10 – Tel. +39.329.1898207 –
Villa De Francesco – Licci, built in 1881 by the architect Ruggeri;
Villa Daniele, designed by Achille Rossi for the Daniele family, has a decidedly Arabian and Moorish style; it is called ‘The ship’, due to its characteristic shape and its width;
Info: Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo, 69 Tel: 0833 599750
Villa Episcopo, designed in 1881 by architect Rossi in a style reminiscent of Chinese pagodas, therefore decidedly oriental;
Villa Maruccia, built in 1878, presents a variety and diversity of architectural elements; it can be approached to the Gothic style mixed with references to the Egyptian style, having typical colors and shapes along the main facade;
Villa Gioacchino Fuortes, headquarters of the Pro Loco, is one of the more sober villas and has a decidedly classic imprint.

Other villas worthy of being admired are Villa Arditi di Castelvetere, Villa Tamborino, Villa Loreta Stefanachi, Villa Seracca, Villa San Giovanni, Villa Ramirez, Villa Pia, Villa Colosso.

If on the one hand history has left us these wonders as a legacy, on the other it should be emphasized that precisely because of historical events it is not possible today to admire these works in all their magnificence: in fact over the decades, and in particular during the years related to the world military conflicts, many of these villas have been defaced, looted of some parts useful for the production of weapons, or dedicated to functions very different from those for which they were conceived. In fact, for short periods they were used as a refuge for displaced persons or fugitives, the UNRRO (United Nations Refugees Resettlement Organization) center having been built in Leuca, with all the consequences regarding the lack of attention to the artistic aspects, certainly not one of the priorities for those difficult times.

Many of these stately homes have then received restoration and upgrading works, in some cases adequate, in others less, but in any case the artistic variety that they still manage to highlight is certainly one of the main attractions of the Leucano area, making it attractive to a visitor target not only attentive to the natural beauties that Leuca certainly boasts.

Many studies have naturally been dedicated to nineteenth-century villas, studies that have highlighted, regardless of the current state of the buildings and the architectural style to which they belong, some common characteristics: the presence of a space, of a