Santa Maria di Leuca

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Santa Maria di Leuca, often spelled simply Leuca (Greek: Λευκά,[1] from Leukos, "white"), is a frazione of the comune of Castrignano del Capo, in the province of Lecce (Apulia), southern Italy. A part of the town once belonged to the comune of Gagliano del Capo.

Description[edit]

Santa Maria di Leuca is famous for its iconic lighthouse. With its height of 47 metres, and position at 102 metres above sea level, is the second most important lighthouse in Italy, after Genova. Next to the lighthouse is the large Sanctuary, or Basilica, De Finibus Terrae ("End of the Land", 1720-1755), built to commemorate the passage of St. Peter here during his travel to Italy. It is devoted to Saint Mary (from whom the town gets the name Santa Maria di Leuca). It lies on the former site of a Roman temple dedicated to Minerva. The edifice has a fortified structure, and during its existence it sustained several assault by Algerian pirates. In the same site, a Corinthian column was erected in 1939 to celebrate the construction of the Apulian Aqueduct (Acquedotto Pugliese). The basilica is connected to the port through a 284-step staircase.

Panorama

Punta Meliso promontory (the ancient Promontorium lapygium or Sallentinum) is the southeastern extremity of Italy — traditionally considered the lowest point of the geographical "heel" of Italian peninsula, as well as the meeting point of the waters from the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea. But Leuca is a bay so there's another promontory called Punta Ristola challenging this geographical particularity. According to Google Earth, Punta Ristola, at 39° 47′ 22.96″ N, is approximately 440 meters south of Punta Meliso, at 39° 47′ 37.73″ N.

After World War II the town hosted Jewish Holocaust survivors for two years (1946-1948), giving them warm hospitality.

Since October 2006 its territory is part of the Regional Park "Costa Otranto - Santa Maria di Leuca e Bosco di Tricase". Santa Maria di Leuca's littoral is marked by numerous grottoes with Latin and Greek inscriptions. Also famous are the 19th century patrician villas (c. 43 in number).

Not far off Punta Ristola, at c. 85 m of depth, lies the shipwreck of the Italian submarine Pietro Micca, sunk during World War II with its crew of 58 men.

Climate[edit]

Climate data for Santa Maria di Leuca
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 32.8
(91)
34.5
(94.1)
33.7
(92.7)
34.2
(93.6)
35.3
(95.5)
36.8
(98.2)
37.1
(98.8)
45.8
(114.4)
36.2
(97.2)
34.8
(94.6)
32.0
(89.6)
33.8
(92.8)
45.8
(114.4)
Average high °C (°F) 19.5
(67.1)
19.7
(67.5)
20.8
(69.4)
22.3
(72.1)
24.0
(75.2)
25.8
(78.4)
26.1
(79)
26.9
(80.4)
26.4
(79.5)
25.2
(77.4)
24.0
(75.2)
20.0
(68)
23.4
(74.1)
Average low °C (°F) 17.3
(63.1)
18.2
(64.8)
19.1
(66.4)
19.3
(66.7)
20.6
(69.1)
21.8
(71.2)
22.5
(72.5)
22.7
(72.9)
22.4
(72.3)
21.0
(69.8)
20.1
(68.2)
18.3
(64.9)
20.3
(68.5)
Record low °C (°F) 11.5
(52.7)
10.9
(51.6)
11.7
(53.1)
13.0
(55.4)
12.9
(55.2)
14.8
(58.6)
16.4
(61.5)
19.1
(66.4)
19.5
(67.1)
15.2
(59.4)
13.3
(55.9)
14.0
(57.2)
10.9
(51.6)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 1.6
(0.063)
0.9
(0.035)
0.0
(0)
3.1
(0.122)
0.0
(0)
0.8
(0.031)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
1.7
(0.067)
4.0
(0.157)
2.5
(0.098)
14.6
(0.573)
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 0.2 0.2 0 0.3 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 0.8 0 1.6
Mean monthly sunshine hours 167.4 171.1 204.6 225.0 213.9 198.0 244.9 260.4 225.0 204.6 168.0 164.3 2,447.2
[citation needed]

Legend[edit]

Prehistoric remains have been found in some the about 66 caves of the coast of Leuca, like Grotta Porcinara and Grotta del Diavolo.

According to Luigi Tasselli[2] (17th century) the town takes its name from "Leucasia", a white beautiful mermaid ( from ancient Greek λευκός = white, bright) who conquered sailors and farmers by her charming voice.

In the year 1992 the Salento writer and poet Carlo Stasi[3] created a story (mistakenly believed a legend) on the siren Leucasia imagining that he had fallen in love with a handsome messapian, the shepherd Melìsso, who rejected her because he was in love with the beautiful Arìstula. The siren took revenge by overwhelming the two lovers with the waves unleashed by her two tails and their bodies were petrified by the goddess Minerva in the two points that today are called Punta Rìstola, from the name of Aristula, and Punta Mèliso, from Melisso. Lost her voice, Leucasia committed suicide and her petrified bones would be the white cliffs of Leuca.

Santa Maria di Leuca was founded in fact in the early 1st century AD by some monks, after Saint Peter's passage. A cross was built in his honor and after some restructurings, still be there. According to a later legend, Virgin Mary once saved some boats from a storm, and her name was added to that of Leuca.

See also[edit]

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nicolaos Lorentis: Lexicon ton archaion kyrion onomaton tis mythologias, istorias kai geographias. "Λευκά, τα, Leuca. Πόλις της Καλαβρίας χωρας έν τή Κάτω Ιταλία, τανύν S. Maria di Leuca. Leucá, town of Calabria in southern Italy, present-day Santa Maria di Leuca", Vienna 1837, page 179
  2. ^ Luigi Tasselli, Antichità di Leuca (Lecce 1693, 1859).
  3. ^ Carlo Stasi, Leucasia (racconti, leggende e poesie di terra, di mare e d'amore...) (AGL, Presicce 1993, 1996, 2001) and Carlo Stasi, Leucàsia e Le Due Sorelle (Storie e leggende del Salento), Mancarella Ed., Cavallino, 2008, 2012).

Bibliography[edit]

  • Luigi Tasselli, Antichità di Leuca (Lecce 1693, 1859).
  • Antonio Romano, Guida alle grotte e caverne di Leuca (Congedo ed. Galatina 1996)
  • Antonio Caloro, Guida di Leuca (l'estremo Salento tra storia arte e natura), a c. di Mario Cazzato (Congedo editore, Galatina 1996)
  • Michele Rosafio, Leuca Guerra e Navi (Ed. dell'Iride, Tricase 2000)
  • Carlo Stasi, Leucasia (racconti, leggende e poesie di terra, di mare e d'amore...) (AGL, Presicce 1993, 1996, 2001). ISBN 88-87809-10-0
  • Carlo Stasi, Leucàsia e Le Due Sorelle (Storie e leggende del Salento), Mancarella Ed., Cavallino, 2008, 2012). ISBN 978-88-903669-0-1

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°48′3.6″N 18°21′25″E / 39.801000°N 18.35694°E / 39.801000; 18.35694