After entering through Cavallino’s thick perimeter walls, you will be welcomed inside an old Messapic town, which evokes a strong artistic and cultural past which, after the end of the Messapic rule, become pretty obscure until it got clearer again by the 13th century. By this time, the village was quite smaller and settled by a small byzantine community, but it gradually started growing and reached its demographic peak by the 1550s, when the Castromediano family went on to own the village, until the end of the feudatory system.
A walk through the town will tell you a lot about this family, which helped the city grow fast and steadily, and built important architectonic sites. Once you reach the main square, you will be stunned by the beauty of its castle, one of the main focal points for the local community since when it was built, and a great example of an aristocratic manor. Surrounded by a medieval tower, its layout clearly shows how it was converted from a fortified mansion into an elegant aristocratic manor, whose jewel on the crown is its frescoed gallery. The busts featured on its ledges, its sculptures, its paintings centred around the zodiac and the very colourful enamel tiles on its floor will tickle your imagination, especially if you are visiting the castle for the first time. Through this masterpieces, you will be magically relive the old parties thrown in this mansion, embellished by the glimmering and strong colours of the candelabra mad in Murano, the silverware, the tapestry and precious rugs.
Along the way, you will be allured by the high eighteenth-century bell tower with its bulbous dome, an integral part of the Church of Maria SS. Assunta. Its interior features six wonderful baroque altars and a cenotaph in honour of Francesco Castromediano and Beatrice Aquaviva d’Aragona, the two spouses who commissioned the church.
They are also credited for commissioning the exquisite religious compound dedicated to the Saints Niccolò and Domenico, in which you will once again relive the history of the Castromediano family, especially by visiting the crypt that served as their burial ground, embellished with a sculpture featuring two angels holding the family’s coat of arms, which lies on a miniature altar. In the beautiful square, you can also admire a commemorative canopy surmounted by the statue of San Domenico, the town’s Patron Saint, yearly celebrated on August the 4th. Away from the square, stop by the Porta San Giorgio, the last-standing gate leading to the ancient town centre. Walking through the town, you also feel like you’re being watched over by the numerous iron sculptures covering every corner of the town, signs of the ancient presence of the local blacksmiths who have represented the excellence in Valle della Cupa arts and crafts with their restless experimentations with new shapes and techniques. If you have the chance, don’t forget to try the town’s traditional fresh pasta served in all its succulent variations and dishes: from the whole-wheat orecchiette with turnip tops, to the barley macaroni with sliced tomatoes and ricotta forte – a spicy and more matured version of the fresh ricotta – the durum wheat lasagne with kale and a fondue made with the local pecorino cheese, the ravioli with asparagus and cardoncelli mushrooms, and even the pappardelle with Cavallino’s local ragù meat-sauce and some grated pecorino on top.