Nardò - Cathedral
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NARDO

Between Galatina and the Jonic Sea, in the province of Lecce, is where one can visit Nardò, a centre with very old origins and city of art able to intrigue the more demanding visitor interested in art.

There are testimonies of human settlements dating back to the Paleolithic age which have been found in the Bay of Uluzzu in diverse grottoes and where finds of remarkable artistic interest for the period have been uncovered.
There are many hypotheses instead regarding the origins of the City which name Cretan navigators arriving on the Jonic Coast during the II millennium BC as founding Neriton. Another hypothesis names the Eyptians, but Nardò was definitely an already existing Messapian centre beginning from the X century BC.
Like all other Messapian centres, it enjoyed its maximum splendour during the VII and VI centuries and then entered into the commercial orbit of the powerful Greek colony of Taranto, with whom moreover, the Messapian cavaliers entered into war many times and were almost always victorious.
The old enemies then became allies against Rome at the command of Pirro, who defeated the Romans numerous times, but with heavy losses. During 269 BC, Pirro was called back to Epiro due to internal affairs and the whole of Puglia passed under Rome.
During the Second Punic War, Hannibal located to Puglia and conquered numerous inhabited centres, among which, Nardò.
During the Civil War which lasted between 90 and 88 BC, Nardò lined up against Rome, paying for this choice by being isolated and abandoned.
The Imperial era saw its rebirth thanks to the peace politics introduced by Augusto which allowed commercial trade to prosper with the East, giving the region an enormous advantage. New roads were built which were connected to the Appian Way. Neretum was therefore accessible through the Traiana Salentina which connected to the powerful Taranto.
It passed under the Byzantines after the Greek-Gothic War (535-553) and under Longobard domination only for a few years (662-690). It saw the arrival of Basilian Monks in escape from iconoclastic persecution (VIII century) who gave the origins of the Rupestrian religious culture still visible in the Le Tagliate district. They also founded the Santa Maria of Nerito Abbey.
Nardò was attacked by the Saracens at the beginning of the X century and passed hands to the Normans in 1058 BC under Goffredo, Robert Guiscard's nephew who was Count of Conversano. The Castle was built and the village fortified under the new noble.
With the advent of the Swabians (1194), the City was administered by Simone Gentile and Nardò took sides with Emperor Frederick II and his son, Manfred, during clashes with the Pope. It was for this reason that it was attacked and damaged by the Guelph cities loyal to the Pope, among which Taranto and Brindisi (1255).
It returned under Swabian domination and had to succumb to the Angioinians (1269) who executed Simone Gentile, the last Vassalli descendant.
Under the Angioinians it was governed by numerous nobles, among which Filippo of Toucziaco, Guidone of Alemagna, Mobilia of Cotigny, Del Balzo and the Sanseverino family.
Under Aragonese domination, it was sold by Frederick I to the Del Balzo Orsini family for 11.000 ducats and on 19th May 1484, it was attacked by the Venetians who, after having conquered Gallipoli, entered the City.
In 1497, Nardò was made a fief of Count Belisario Acquaviva who made important architectonic changes in the City. During the Franco-Spanish clash, it was occupied for a few months by troops commanded by Lautrec (1528).
Shortly afterwards it returned to the Acquaviva family and remained under their governing until 1806, the year of abolition of feudalism under the wishes of Giuseppe Bonaparte.
During the '600s, Nardò also exploded in popular revolt against the feudatory Acquaviva, who was guilty of bad government of the City (1647). The repression was so strong that it folded the City's economy for many years.
Nardò actively participated in the Renaissance motions. It firstly became seat of a Rivendita Carbonara (Smaller city associations linked to the Carbonari movement which promoted independent ideas) called Fenice Neretina and secondly participated in clashes in the battle fields with loyal Bourbon troops.
In 1861, after a plebiscitary vote the previous year, Nardò was unified into the Reign of Italy.
Piazza Salandra is the centre of the City where one will find Baroque buildings, among which Palazzo della Pretura and the San Domenico Church ('500s).
Not too far away one can also admire the beautiful Romanesque Cathedral (1090) constructed on a previous religious building and Palazzo Vescovile.
Among the other churches worth mentioning: Renaissance Carmine Church (1529), Santa Chiara and Sant'Antonio of Padua.
In Piazza Diaz one will come across the majestic Acquaviva Castle (XV century) which is the present day Town Hall seat.

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