Copertino is a beautiful town in the heart of Salento, a few kilometers from the crystal clear sea of Porto Cesareo.
It probably owes its name to being the result of the encounter between the inhabitants of several farmhouses, and perhaps its original name, "Conventino", gave its name to today's one, remembered in the coat of arms of the city with a pine tree enclosed between the letters C and P, signifying its nature as a "Conventio Populorum", a meeting between different peoples.
The city, which has many historical and artistic places to visit, is famous among other things for being the birthplace of San Giuseppe da Copertino, the "Saint of flights": patron saint of aviators and patron saint of those who go by plane, therefore , but also of students because he passed the exam to become a priest despite not being adequately prepared (but he is said to have instilled science).
The name of the American city of Cupertino, in the heart of Silicon Valley, is also owed to him: named after him because its foundation took place on March 23, 1776, the feast day of Saint Joseph, it is twinned with the birthplace of the Saint from 1963.
Copertino bears very clear the numerous traces of the peoples who settled in Salento over the centuries.
What to do and see in Copertino in Puglia
Among the things to do and see in Copertino we certainly find a visit to the Basilica of Sancta Maria ad Nives, the Sanctuary of San Giuseppe, the Monastery of Santa Chiara, the Church of Santa Maria di Casole, the civil architecture and the important Castle of Cupertino.
Basilica di Sancta Maria ad Nives
The Basilica of Sancta Maria ad Nives, for example, built for example in 1088 by the will of Count Goffredo the Norman and dedicated to the Virgin of the Assumption, was elevated in 1235 to direct basilica by Manfredi, prince of Taranto and count of Copertino.
Santuario di San Giuseppe
The Sanctuary of San Giuseppe, on the other hand, was completed in 1758: inside it houses numerous relics, including the heart of the Saint, which arrived in Copertino from Osimo in 1953. The building also includes the small stable where the Saint saw the light; the paternal house of San Giuseppe, on the other hand, is located in the historic center of Cupertino.
The interior houses a painting on canvas from the end of the 19th century which depicts, among other things, Saint Joseph, then in the convent of Assisi, appearing to his dying mother. The Sanctuary of the Grottella, on the other hand, is located on the outskirts of the city, connected to a park where important artistic events are held (including a concert by Negramaro from Salento in 2005: the frontman Giuliano Sangiorgi is a citizen of Copertino) and was the place many ecstasy of the Saint.
It was in fact built where in the sixteenth century an underground cave was discovered on the wall of which a Byzantine icon of the Madonna was painted.
Monastero di Santa Chiara
Again, the Church and monastery of Santa Chiara, in the historic center (founded in 1545 by the will of the feudal lord Alfonso Castriota, is today an appreciated venue for prestigious cultural events); the sixteenth-century Church with adjoining Dominican convent, built on the remains of an ancient chapel and home to an image of the Virgin considered miraculous; the remains of the convent of San Francesco, built between 1415 and 1417 and linked to the events of San Giuseppe da Copertino because the Saint was brought there almost every day by his mother to invoke healing from the sores that covered his body: something that regularly it happened, apparently.
Chiesa di Santa Maria di Casole
And again, the Church of Santa Maria di Casole, on the Copertino-Nardò provincial road, whose first settlement developed before the year 1000 by the Basilian monks; the Chapel of Santa Maria delle Grazie, built on the ruins of a previous building of the fifteenth century and dedicated to the cult of Saint Peter, who according to tradition landed on the coast of Salento on his journey to Rome: it is in fact one of the main testimonies of the Marian cult very much alive in the city.
Among the civil architectures of the city, the noble palaces Pappi, Prence and Ventura and many farms stand out (Masseria Fortificata Annibale, Masseria il Trappeto o le Trappete, Masseria Fortificata La Torre, Masseria Li Monaci, Masseria Messere, Masseria Mollone, Masseria Cambrò (Specchia of Normandy), Masseria La Nova, Masseria La Cornula.
Castello di Copertino
But the highlight of the city is certainly the Castle of Copertino: designed by the architect Evangelista Menga at the behest of Alfonso Castriota and completed in 1540 on the remains of a fortress built in the Norman era and subsequently enlarged by the Angevins, it was declared a national monument in 1886 and in 1955 subjected to protection regulations.
One of its peculiarities, in addition to the extraordinary beauty and the importance of the recovery work of recent years, is the vineyard planted in the upper part of the manor: a project born from the collaboration between the "Cupertinum" winery, the Superintendency for architectural heritage and landscapes of Lecce, Brindisi and Taranto and the direction of the Castle.
In fact, Copertino enjoys a great agricultural and enological tradition, and is the subject of a DOC which leads to the production of strong, fragrant, velvety red wines.
Parties and Events in Cupertino
Not to be missed in Copertino is the patronal feast dedicated to its patron saint - San Giuseppe Desa, protector of aviators and students - with four days of celebration, from 16 to 19 September, which fill the historic center of the city with sacred rites, illuminations, live music and cultural events of which the Saint of Flights is the absolute protagonist, but also to stands and moments dedicated to the food and wine traditions of Salento.
In the first days of August, on the other hand, the ancient village of Copertino, on the occasion of the anniversary, on August 5, of the miracle of the Madonna della Neve, to which the mother church of the city is dedicated - hosts the historical procession in costume "Madonna della Neve ”: each edition includes, in addition to the religious ceremonies, authentic tournaments of medieval games between the five ancient farmhouses of Copertino and the historical procession, departing from the Castle, which winds through the streets of the city, animated by flag-wavers, archers, musicians, jugglers, street artists and over 150 extras.
During the days of San Lorenzo, or at the beginning of the second ten days of August, Copertino becomes the scene of the most important wine event: "Goblets of stars", organized by the Movimento Turismo del Vino Puglia and in synergy with the municipalities of Arnesano and Porto Cesareo: tastings, masterclasses and recreational activities related to wine, which has always represented one of the most important voices of the economy (and taste) of Puglia.
At the end of August, however, Copertino hosts the Stornello Festival, dedicated to popular song and its timeless beauty: guests every year are the greatest artists - but above all the greatest female artists - of this tradition which has its historical roots right in the Southern Italy.
Finally, “Le vie del vino” is the food and wine festival which in November, immediately after the grape harvest, enlivens the streets of the historic centre: protagonists are the restaurants in the area, who prepare traditional Salento dishes, and the local cellars, ready to let visitors arriving from all over Salento taste their labels, and beyond.