+39 393 8602 451
Photo: www.comune.otranto.le.it

Torre Pinta

In 1976, just outside of Otranto, a fascinating discovery was made. With the backdrop of the Valle delle Memorie (Valley of Memories), atop a hill overlooking the valley, a circular tower hides a secret. Overlooking a copious array of rock settlements and olive trees, standing higher than them all, stands the Insediamento rupestre di Torre Pinta or Rock Sediment of Torre Pinta, a unique dovecote tower.

In the 16th century, dovecote towers reached prominence in the Salento area. Built for keeping pigeons or doves, who were valuable for their eggs and dung, they were also a symbol of status and power in some cultures.

In Rome in particular, pigeon farming was a passion. However, those days are long gone, which is the reason for the delight in the uncovering of archaeological and anthropological discoveries. The actual tower dates back to the Middle Ages. Over the years, it looks as though the tower has been extended and exploited for various functions.

The dig was led by Milanese architect Antonio Susini, who confirmed the circular building did indeed house pigeons once upon a time. It’s likely the birds belonged to the farm and would be back again the following year.

The tower is built on a settlement from an earlier era, which cannot be defined. However, the rock formation it stands on goes back to the early Christian age. The hypogeum has a unique design which also lends to the theory.

The Christian origin seems very likely, especially as the castle appears to be set out in the shape of a cross. It consists of a place of worship, a barrel vault pierced by many small recesses, as well as a corridor.

There are four arms to the castle. Three arms are oriented to the south, east and west. A dark tunnel corresponds to the long arm of the cross, which is 33 metres long. The building’s wide corridors and low ceilings all feature deep incisions caused by pigeon nails. There are also hidden nods to Messapian culture etched on the walls: hundreds of cavities used as cinerary urns and a stone seat placed along the walls, which, it is said, aims to stop the dead from having to stand up without a seat.

Other features point toward the tower stemming from the ancient Messapian culture. As an example, the oven, which was used for cremation, is pockmarked with hundreds of recesses in which urns with the ashes of the dead were kept. A stone step runs along the wall. According to legend, the dead were disposed of here. Despite the contradictions in other experts’ stories, it is now believed that it was the Messapians who built Torre Pinta.

Over the years, the original circular compartment entrance, located at the end of the entrance corridor, has lost its original vault. In its place, a dovecote in the shape of a cylindrical tower was built, closing its opening.