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How the town thrives and survives…

A hidden treasure just inland from the Italian coastline, this gem of a town thrives and is built on agriculture, primarily that of wine, olives and almond production – the ideal hide-away or get away for any exploratory traveler.

Casamassima can be found in the Bari Province of the Puglia Region in the Southern Zone of Italy. Only 223 meters above sea level from the Adriatic Sea, this idealistic Italian hovel is the picturesque village of Italian life. Consisting of an approximate population of around 16,388 (equating to about 211.7 people per square kilometer) this township is located on one of the eastern terraces of the Murge. The Murge is a characteristic area of Puglia, that is composed of limestone hills, near the edge of the Bari basin (conca di Bari—A depression formed when the underlying limestone is eroded by underground water and collapses).

 

Aside from the town's picturesque vista, this settlement is connected with the Bari-Putignano Railroad line and the Bari-Gioia Del Colle-Taranto Highway in Italy.

  

Brush up on the town’s history…

 

This settlement is rich in culture and labor from its agricultural industry and the delectable Italian ambiance, all due in part from its citizens. Also this town in Italy has a rich and interesting history of how it came into existence – a captivating story in itself, from acquiring its namesake to legendary origins to factual possession.

 

Up until about the end of the 10th century, the existence and history of this adorable Italian village could not be documented, at least not until 962 AD, during the occupation of Bisanzio. However, the origins of the town are known to go back to the 7th, 8th, & 9th centuries during the Longobard occupation.

 

Completely humiliated by the emperor Frederico II who had taken Casamassima during the feud led by the Normans, the emperor Enrico VI granted the township to the Massimi family in 1195. Once the feuding ended, and the Massimi Family obtained possession, the Italian village was returned to its rightful owners in 1254 by the emperor Corrado IV.

 

After the Hungarian attack in 1348 the town was under numerous ownerships and at the mercy of many dominant leaders until 1806 when the king of Naples, Giuseppe Bonaparte, abolished all feudalism in the kingdom. (The timeline below will help explain the evolution and feudal involvement of the town throughout Italian history.) Due in part to all the fighting and changing of ownership this municipality has benefited most fittingly from its ecclesiastical short comings into a city dominated by a robust middle class that has an economy primarily based in the agricultural industry. However, during the 20th century the township entered a period of complete urban expansion with population growth starting in the early 20th century until now, most notably favoring a return to the administrative life of the social classes.

 

 

How this village in Italy got its name…

 

Allegedly, the story dates back to Fifth Fabio Massimo (III C. a.C.) who had built a camp in this part of the country during the war against Annibale—enabling the name “camp Maximi” (camp of Massimo) to be pronounced – which in time turned into the namesake of Casamaxima.

 

However, a more accurate recording of its namesake happened in the year 1195 when the town was granted to the Massimi or Massimo family by the emperor Enrico VI – on one condition, that the family was expected to change their surname to “Casamassima”.

 

 

A brief timeline covering the town’s history and how it came to be…

 

• 962 AD – The first document ever mentioning the town in Italy (probably founded under Longobard occupation, centuries earlier).

• 1195 –Township was granted to the Massimi family from Rome who in turn built a village and populated it with inhabitants from the ancient hamlet of Tominia (Tomegna) and Ancient Casal (Casaldin’), following the destruction of those cities. With the acquisition of the town, the Massimi family was obligated to change their name to Casamassima.

• 1254 – Casamassima was returned to the rightful owners by the emperor Corrado IV.

• 1348 – The Italian town was sacked by Hungarian troops under the command of Filippo of Sulz.

• 1348 –That same year Casamassima was made part of the Principality of Taranto.

• 1455 – The marriage of Caterina Orsini del Balzo, daughter of the Orsini prince of Taranto, to Antionio Acquaviva, son of Duke Giovanni of Atria, took place. This alliance created centuries of ownership trading of the township.

• 1609 – After all the ownership changes ceased the town was acquired by a Portuguese adventurer, Michael Vaaz, Count of Mola, who was responsible for the construction and erection of Hamlet St. Michele. Vaaz did eventually sell out to the De Ponte family of Naples who were allied with Nicola Caracciolo di Vietri of Potenza (they in turn kept it until the abolition of feudalism, by Giuseppe Bonaparte, in the beginning of the 19th century).

• 1619 – Erection of ‘Castle St. Michele’ on the pre-existing foundations of the ‘Castle of Gerolamo Centurione’.

 

 

Some things you have to see…

 

Door Clock – One of the many doors that permits access to the inside of the wall around the city.

Arch of the Shadows – The rendezvous point of ghosts. It is said to be that this is a popular meeting place of spirits and ghosts at night. They all come out for evening gatherings; hence this particular spot was further more named the Arch of Bad Shadows. Ironically and spookily, located directly above this particular spot is a house that was the resident of the first municipal physician of Casamassima, Italy.

Abbey of Saint Angelo – Near the foot of Mount Sannace, a humble Benedictine convent was erected in 1000 AD (estimated by historians). Long before Michael Vaaz founded Castle St. Michelle (in the XVII century), St. Angelo Abbey was a part of the Casamassima Territory.

Castle of the Centurion – The former grounds for which Abbey di St. Angelo was constructed in 1619.

Mother Church – The church obtaining the bell tower that chimed at 5 A.M. every morning to remind the towns people that their day was to begin with the good morning, but not always good wishes.

            "It is still alive in our memory, and more still in our soul, the sonorous and melodious tone of the mystical bell of the historical bell tower of the Mother Church that, punctually, each morning, at the hour of five, provided for waking up all the citizens and, with the good morning not always accepted with good wishes, they ordered all the citizens to get up and go cultivate the earth and pick up the fruits of her results."

-Frisini

S. Chiara Street – An ancient Italian suburb crossing. The beautiful Italian monastery of S. Chiara, for whence the street name came, may be visited today in all its rich Italian history. This particular monastery does not stand today in its original state, due to the fact it has been continuously rearranged for consistent repair. To give you an idea of the age of the church, the entrance doors can be dated back to the end of the 1500s.

Madonna di Carmine from the XVII century under the Arc of Via Santa Chiara – This painting can be found in the old suburb, and has been returned to the city of Casamassima. A two-month restoration project by Vincenzina Lagravinese and Rosanna Lerede have thankfully brought light back to the original work of art that was in disastrous condition in addition to an ill advised painting of the Arc that once enveloped the gorgeous masterpiece of this particular Madonna. Upon the removal of the mortar and the over painting the reveal was amazing, even to the restorers.

The lustrous painting contains the Madonna with an important crown upon her head, dressed in a clear tunic with a blue sash also covering her head. She is supporting the Child with both arms while He caresses the face of his Mother with his right hand all the while supporting a calm bird on the index finger of his left hand.

            At the sides of the Virgin’s head are two angel heads with inconspicuous figures dressed in monastic habits, which sadly, the angel on the right is almost irrecoverable.

 

These are just a few of the wonderful Italian sites to see in this lavish Italian countryside town filled with bountiful Italian history. With a fabulous location near the coast of the Adriatic Sea and conveniently located on the Bari-Putignano railroad allowing easy access to and from most major Italian cities for a weekend away or a just a day filled with adventure.

 

 

If you are looking to immerse yourself into some wonderfully rich Italian culture, enjoy the Italian way of life by “smelling the roses” which hands-down the Italians have definitely trademarked with their passion for living, or you want to have access to all the surrounding areas and cities to enjoy some Italian urban life, without the hustle and bustle of hectic city-life; then Casamassima, Italy is the village for you. Come visit for a day, a weekend or a week, you will have the experience of a lifetime, along with enjoying the vast historical knowledge you will acquire along the way.

 

 

*The restoration project was requested by the Casamassima chapter of the Archeoclub of Italy.

 

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