Illuminations of Salento

There is a very special love relationship between Salento and the light. During the day the sun illuminates the wonderful beaches and shines on the sea, or breaks through the windows of the ancient farms, trulli and villas. After sunset the moon’s rays garland the ports or the stands of exquisite local specialties. But there is another light in the night that surprises and enchants summer evenings in Salento: that of the illuminations. These are gigantic structures of colored lights with real musical scenography that arise in the villages on the occasion of the patronal festivals.

Scorrano Illuminations
Scorrano Illuminations ©

Scorrano: “World Capital of Illuminations” in Salento

In Salento there is a town that celebrates its Saint in great style by combining charm and folklore, tradition and innovation through its magnificent illumination installations: Scorrano. 30 km from Lecce, this municipality has become famous throughout the world and has earned the nickname “World Capital of Illuminations”.

On the occasion of the celebrations for Santa Domenica, the “mother” of all patronal celebrations, Scorrano lights up in a blaze of lights. “The Night of Lights” is a one-of-a-kind ritual that takes place every evening at dusk, from 5 to 10 July. The first impression, in fact, is precisely that of being catapulted into a street of Las Vegas, an evocative spectacle for the eyes of thousands of visitors and tourists who every year find themselves looking up at the foot of the incredible light architecture created by local companies.

Origins of the holiday

The festival in honor of Santa Domenica represents the opportunity to demonstrate love for our land and our roots. From here, in fact, these singular artists-craftsmen of light start, who with their creations have conquered the world from Sanremo to Milan, from Japan to the United States. Their installations leave you speechless and captivate above all for their grandeur. The best masters of the art of plasterwork belong to Scorrano.

Hangings’s lights were originally obtained with oil, then they moved on to carbide until the advent of electricity which allowed the creation of wonderful embroideries of light. The origins of the festival are lost in the nights of 1600 when, according to legend, Santa Domenica, godmother and unaware “pioneer” of this “artisan art”, appeared in a dream to an old woman from Scorra and the churches, to free the town from the plague , that a small light was lit in front of each window as a sign of gratitude, as evidence of the villagers’ affection for the saint. The Saint told her that she would protect Scorrano and its inhabitants from the terrible disease. In a few days the country shone like a starry sky.

Scorrano ©

The Masters of the art of plasterwork

Called to bring “light” to celebrations all over the world, the master paramotors play the challenge of imagination and innovation at home, on increasingly original and precise designs, often imprinted only in the mind, due to the secrecy of the project. The illuminations of Scorrano are true masterpieces of art and technique behind which a careful and complex scenographic and choreographic work is hidden. The systems can reach titanic heights, sometimes reaching 40 meters in height, reproducing large tunnels, towers, castles and cathedrals.

Thousands and thousands of small colored light bulbs, mounted still following ancient artisan methods, on pieces of fir wood with tortuous or geometric shapes, in designs that look like huge colored crochet hooks. Tradition has it that every year, each company chooses a theme for the installations. They range from the timeless “love” to the depictions of dolmens and pyramids, from the myth of Icarus to those inspired by DNA.

The mastery of the Salento painters has reached such high levels that their elaborate works now routinely cross national borders.

Christmas in Scorrano

Scorrano Christmas takes on a universal meaning. It is the feast of Man, of Jesus Christ and at the same time, as per ancient tradition, it is the feast of Light.

Every year, from the beginning of December until the Epiphany, Scorrano offers a fairytale atmosphere to all its visitors.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception officially launches the Christmas program of events. Among tradition, shows, gospel concerts, art, culture, religious rites and lots of fun, there will be the dirges of the pipers, the ice rink (always open until January 6th) and for families with little ones in tow, Santa Claus’ house and the village.

The lights cross various streets of the village of Scorrano: via Umberto I, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, Via Lecce, Via Leuca and via Giuseppina Delli Ponti.

An important moment will be the Santa Lucia Fair: on that occasion the pipers, coming from Molise, will parade through the streets of Scorrano.

Patronal celebrations in Salento: the most beautiful illuminations

In Salento, especially in the summer period, there are many patron saint festivals. Each country has its own patron saint who is celebrated with great participation of the faithful and curious. Although each has its own peculiarities, these sacred events have some common characteristics: the procession. This is the moment in which the patron saint is carried on the shoulders through the streets of the town, in long processions in which moments of prayer are frequently interrupted by the songs of the faithful performed by one or more opera bands.

Locations such as Leuca, Santa Cesarea Terme, Otranto offer the possibility of witnessing evocative sea processions. During it, the statue of the protector is positioned on a boat embellished with flowers, followed by a long trail of boats.

As the most famous patronal festivals we mention:

  • Feast of Sant’Oronzo, Lecce (24 – 25 – 26 August)

It is the traditional event with which the summer of Lecce ends. The religious celebrations begin in the afternoon of the 24th when the long procession through the streets of the center starts in Piazza Duomo. A rich calendar of events and demonstrations that ends on the 26th in the evening with the nightly fireworks display.

  • Feast of Santa Cristina, Gallipoli (23 – 24 – 25 July)

Patron saint of Gallipoli since she freed the city from cholera in 1867, she is the object of great devotion in the three days of celebration dedicated to her. A papier-mâché statue that portrays her tied to a pole and pierced by arrows is placed in the small church overlooking the ancient port of the city. A characteristic moment of the festival is “the ‘cuccagna’, a competition between kids who have to climb along a grease-stained pole that protrudes over the water to retrieve the flag placed at the end of it.

  • Feast of Saint Peter and Paul, Galatina (28-29-30 June)

This is a unique event to relive our ancient centre, dance to the rhythm of pizzica, visit the Protector Saints and taste excellent spumoni, mafalde and pasticciotti.

  • Feast of San Luigi, Calimera (21 June)

Every year, on the day of the summer solstice and coinciding with the feast of San Luigi, colorful street lamps made with poor materials such as reeds, wire, glue and tissue paper illuminate the streets and courtyards of the historic center in a very suggestive way of this small municipality in Grecìa Salentina.

  • Feast of the Holy Martyrs, Otranto (13-14 August)

August 13th is entirely dedicated to the civil commemoration of the Otranto massacre. On August 14th the solemn pontifical ceremony presided over by the Archbishop takes place in the Cathedral. In the afternoon, the procession takes place with the urn containing the relics of the SS. Martyrs carried through the streets of the city.

Santa Cristina festivals, Gallipoli ©
Festivals in Puglia: the most important events

The best way to learn about the traditions and culture of a place is through festivals: in Puglia these take place all year round, allowing both locals to rediscover their roots and tourists to taste typical products and traditional dishes venue in a cheerful and carefree context, suitable for making friends and spending a pleasant evening enlivened by music and folklore.

Novoli Focara ©
Novoli Focara

Salento is beautiful not only in summer; every period of the year tells us something about this land rich in ancient events and traditions, all to be discovered. If you are on holiday in Salento in January and you like traditional festivals, don't miss the opportunity to participate in one of the most characteristic festivals in the world: the "Focara". The Focara of Novoli is the most awaited annual event of the winter Salento, steeped in folklore, popular religiosity with an extraordinary setting of music, art, entertainment and food and wine.

Salento Pizzica ©
Salento pizzica

Salento is known throughout the world, not only for the beauty of its places and the richness of its monuments but also for the charm of its popular traditions. Among these, the Salento pizzica and the tarantate are the pride of the people who live in these places who manage to reconcile a globalized world with their own local identity.