Once upon a time...
Religion, Secrets and Conspiracy: the Unusual History of the Palazzo Rosso.
The Palazzo Rosso has a fascinating history. Once the home of Ostuni’s first mayor, Don Paolo Tanzarella, its walls tell the somewhat turbulent story of the White City. Just steps away from the present-day Remembrance park, the venerable stone building has always been at the center of the city’s social and cultural life. It was there that the trainieri, (cart drivers in Pugliese dialect), were waiting for their daily assignments. It is also here that conspiracies were hatched that would rock the region and the whole country. In the first part of the 19th century, the country we today call Italy did not yet exist; it was still a geographical area comprised of eight separate states. However, a revolution was brewing: Since his youth, Don Tanzarella had been a member of the insurrectionary movement “Giovine Italia.” In great secrecy, he invited the region’s most prominent patriotic figures to meet in the plush lounges and the 14 bedrooms of the 2-storey Palazzo Rosso. Their cause: to transform Italy into a democratic republic under the principles of Freedom, Independence and Unity. The conspiratorial gatherings at Don Paulo’s ended up being successful. On June 26, 1860, 10 years after this first meeting and after centuries of foreign occupation, Ostuni was the first city in Puglia to proclaim Italy’s unification and to proudly fly the red, white and green flag. 40 days later, Paolo Tanzarella became the city’s first mayor. Throughout his tenure, he focused on turning Ostuni into both a more urban and a more libertarian place. Upon his death in 1897, the benefactor of the White City bequeathed his entire estate, the family Palazzo, the furniture, the carriages and the horses to his eldest son.
At the turn of the century things change and so does the Palazzo. Still owned by the Tanzarella family, the building houses the Biennial exhibition of the Industrial Technical Institute and then in 1971, four classes of the city’s new Scientific High School. Later, it contained the barracks of the powerful Italian Customs and Financial Police. Since the seventies, the beautiful Palazzo had fallen asleep for over forty years. Only its magnificent vaults, its centuries-old stones and its historical frescoes remained. Until…
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