Settlement of Roca Vecchia rised on a cliff by the sea on the Adriatic coastline at a few miles from Otranto. It was inhabited from the II millennium BC. Indeed it has history and important records of archaeological interest.
The excavation of Roca Vecchia
Torre dell'Orso bay, now attractive destination for beach holidays, was a strategic docking in shipping traffic between Aegean Sea and the central Mediterranean basin.
Cosimo Pagliara, a popular expert in epygraphy in Lecce University, guessed the presence of a sanctuary on the coastline due to the main role in merchant shipping of this area in the past. Discovering cave Poesia in the 1983 with surface fully covered by prehistoric carvings and also writings in Messapic, Latin and Greek language, valued his theory and so he could start seeking in the surrounding area among Messapic walls and medieval town ruins.
Finally in the 1992 the oldest core of the settlement came to light with the cyclopic fortification wall dating back to the Bronze Age. This is an important record of early human settlement dating from II millennium BC.
Excavations reveal a non-stop occupation of Roca Vecchia territory starting from the end of the XVII century BC, through Iron, Archaic and Messapic Age, up to the late Roman Republic.
This is one of the most important settlement from Protohistory in the Mediterranean basin according to the large number of relics of high quality that were found here. And we know the town of Roca didn't have an easy life at all. Indeed in the Bronze Age it was destroyed three times due to fires and then by a terrible siege. During the first decades of the XIV century BC coastal towns were often attacked from the sea. Roca in particular was burnt, then followed under a siege and finally was engaged in a violent battle. The siege is recorded by discovering of some human remains of people who got involved in the tragic event at the time. They've been buried under rubble for 3.500 years. They used postierle as shelters.
In fact a lot of everyday artifacts were found here over the excavation works. Inside postierla C were also found seven skeletons of people who allegedly were running for their lives: man, a woman, a teenager, two children and two small children. A family probably.
Roca town was destroyed and rebuilt many times. It was left by inhabitants and then again populated in the Middle Ages thanks to the Count of Lecce, Gualtieri from Brienne, who rebuilt Roca as a fortified city. But after Turkish raids inhabitants begun leaving the city again and around the middle of Sixteenth century they retreated to the mainland for good.
The archaeologica area of Roca
Archaeological area of Roca Vecchia stretches over thirty hectares containing important records from different periods in history. It's possible to see ruins of the gigantic fortifications of the Bronze Age settlement. The main entrance so called "Porta Monumentale" and minor passageways called postierle are still standing and very well visible. It's considered a masterpiece of stone walls from the Bronze Age in the whole Mediterranean basin. What amazes the most is Porta Monumentale because of its dimentions: almost 25 meters in depth and between 8 and 10 meters to the highest points. Cult center dating from Late Bronze is on the way, a holy space aimed to feasts, rituals and offerings (animal sacrifice).
On cliff's top can be found the medieval town, the walls ruins, the church, some houses and finally the city's hypogea. However, Castello is still not fully dug up.
Another important zone is the Messapic area because of its massive walls stretching over a mile still perfectly preserved. To the near coastline there's still plenty of traces of squared plant buildings. Here can also be found the ancient walls and necropolis stretching both inside and outside the Park and leading along the coastline over the sea to the cave Santuario.
The Cave of Poesia
Cave Poesia Grande is considered one of the most beautiful rock pool in the world. It's pretty busy in summertime indeed! But history is greater than its charm and quite waters. These are three karst caves connected one to another by shafts and tunnels discovered by humans in late prehistory that can be reached through the coastline. Tunnels lead to a wider cave which soon became the favourite place of worship at the time.
A freshwater spring inside the cave is at the origin of the ancient Greek word posía (poetry) from which the current toponyme is named. Caves had been flooded over times and it caused inner vaults collapsing. A few dozen meters from cave Poesia Grande can be found Poesia Piccola, one of the most important epygraphic monument in the ancient Mediterranean basin. Indeed it has more than 600 square meters with carved surface.
Here can be found prehistoric figurations, Messapic and Latin texts, figurative themes about Minoan-Mycenaean worship. Inscriptions reveal the divinity's name (Tutor Andreius/Taotor Andirahasand) and even the typical rituals perfomed inside cave Santuario.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE CARD:
PERIOD: II millennium BC - XVI century AD
CIVILIZATION: Protohistory, Messapians
REDISCOVERY: XX century
From 23 to 30 of June and from 1 to 15 of September: every weekend from 4 p.m. to 8* p.m.
July and August: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Guided tours are managed by Vivarch
*Openings timetable could change. It'll be confirmed over the current year.
*Ticket price could change. It'll be confirmed over the current year.
How to get to Roca Vecchia
Coming from Lecce: take SP1 Lecce-Vernole, then keep going on SP145 until you get San Foca and finally take SP366.
Coming from Otranto: take SP366 and then keep driving until you get Roca.
By MAREINBUS, the public transport in Melendugno: from 1 June up to 30 September
By transport service SALENTO IN BUS, take line nº 101: from 1 June up to 30 September