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Parabita’s ancient history - Palazzo del Diavolo

Parabita’s ancient history

The origins of Parabita are very ancient. Archaeological excavations in the last century unveiled important remains. Among these, the Veneri (Venuses), two bone Palaeolithic statues dated between 14,000 and 16,000 B.C., which were found in a cave in 1965 and are preserved in the Taranto Museum of Archaeology. It is possible – better when accompanied by a local Parabita resident – to visit the archaeological area and discover also the powerful remains of the stone quarries which have been dug over the centuries.

The first settlement was founded by the Messapians with the name of Baubota. It was colonised by the Greeks and became an important commercial and cultural centre during the Roman Empire. When it was razed to the ground by the Turks at the end of the 10th century A.D., the survivors took refuge in the nearby serra (plateau) and founded the present-day Parabita. It is situated on the slopes of the last spur of the Murge Salentine, facing the Ionian Sea at twelve kilometres’ distance.

It flourished in the 1500s: during this time the many aristocratic families enriched the historic centre with their dwellings.It flourished again from 1700 to 1800, when the presence of several wealthy families, thanks to the flourishing lamp-oil trade, gave a new economic and social impulse to the town. Dynamic lay and religious schools of thought were formed, and Parabita became the home of renowned intellectuals who contributed to the history of the Mezzogiorno (South of Italy).

The deeds of Rosario Parata, called Lo Sturno, are famous, too. He was a “brigand” in the mid-19th century, who led for more than two years, in the name of the Bourbons, a band of more than 50 men, raging through all southern Salento. At the end of the 19th century, a popular peasant movement marked the beginning of a new historical era.

In the nineteen-twenties, Parabita was the scene of bloodshed, the manifestation of social struggles between landowners and peasants. In various towns of Salento there were strikes, land occupations and disturbances, and the authorities often used arms to suppress them. The most striking episode, known as the “Parabita massacre“, took place on June 21, 1920 in Parabita, where several protesters were killed in clashes. A plaque in the main square of Parabita commemorates the victims of this dramatic episode.