Located in the central part of the province of Lecce, Melpignano is one of the municipalities belonging to the so called "Grecìa Salentina", a linguistic area in the heart of Salento where is spoken the "griko", a language deriving from the Greek one. According to the mythology, the place name derives from the muse Melpomene; the predial origin of the name is much credible and derives from a Roman centurion (Melpinius), with the addition of the suffix "-anus", indicating the possession. The first human settlements dated back to the Bronze Age, as numerous menhirs and dolmens located in the area reveal. After the Roman colonization, the Byzantine era was the period of greatest cultural splendor, radically influencing both customs and language. In 1190 the Norman Tancred gave the feud to Giambattista Lettere; many feudal lords took turns during the following centuries up to the Marquis De Luca who kept the feud until 1806, year of the abolition of feudalism. Every year Melpignano hosts the most important summer music festival dedicated to the recovery and enhancement of "pizzica salentina": the "Notte della Taranta".
Sites of Interest:
- menhirs and dolmen dating back to to Bronze Age (the menhirs Minonna, Candelora, Lama, Scineo, Chipuro, Masseria Piccinna and the dolmen Specchia);
- the Church of San Giorgio, built in the XVI century and totally refurbished in the second half of the XVIII century, assuming the current Baroque style. Noteworthy are the stone portal of the XVI century with high-relief depicting St. George slaying the dragon, the Baroque style altars and decorations;
- the Church and former Augustinian Monastery, one of the most fashinating religious monuments of the whole Salento area; every summer it frames the famous music concert of La Notte della Taranta. Built in 1573, the entire building was renovated in 1638 on a project by Giuseppe Zimbalo. Today it is characterized by a sumptuous Baroque style.
- the small Church of the Assumption (XVI century), with a valuable portal by Placido Buffelli, the windows of local stone, a precious mosaic floor and XVIII century paintings;
- the Chapel of St. Anthony Abbot, located just outside the walls of the old town;
- the XVII century Chapel of Santa Maria Maddalena;
- the Chapel of San Pietro d'Alcantara;
- the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel (XVIII century);
- San Giorgio square, onto which the Mother Church, the Church of the Assumption and the Tower Clock overlook. It is characterized by a XVI century portico to house a weekly market held on limestone benches;
- Palazzo Castriota, located close to the Augustinian Monastery, was built during the XVII century by Giorgio Castriota-Scanderbeg as a defensive building, projected by the architect Manuli. It features a large façade with a row of elegant windows and a portal surmounted by a balcony on columns.