History of Ischitella


See Ischitella guide for highlights and historic monuments

The area around Ischitella has been inhabited from the Prehistoric times and the Neolithic era, as shown by excavations that have unearthed many relics, such as ceramics and other stone implements that were once in daily use.

Also, on Mount Civita near Ischitella, there: "came to light two Roman necropolis" [1].

'Modern' Ischitella

Despite the antiquity of the site in Puglia where the town is situated, the origins of the town itself are much more recent, as we learn from a document stating the city dates back to 1058, when Pope Stephen IX confirmed to the Monastery of Calena:

"the direction of 14 colonies, the so-called 'cellae' [a sort of place or room for food supplies], listed individually with the property annexed. Among these there is also the '“The 'cella' of St. Peter of Ischitella, with its vineyards and farmlands that once belonged to the Priest Giovanni” [2].

Ischitella in the Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages the town was under the dominion of the Normans, the Swabians - Frederick II of Swabia (1194-1250) was responsible for the construction of the "castrum" - and then the Anjou. During this period it was ruled by several families of feudal nobles, such as the Gentile, the Durazzo and finally the Pinto family.

Between the 16th and 18th centuries the town was dominated by the Spaniards, then the French and finally the Austrians, until the unification of Italy in 1861.

Origins of the name Ischitella

As Regards  the etymology, it seems that the root of Ischitella is equal to that of Ischia (Naples), with the meaning of "shady place":

"[...] Ischia (NA) [probably from the Greek 'iskios' =' shady place  '], the same etymology applies to Ischitella, this place name in the provinces of EC, FG, PT [...]" [3].

The question of the tree called "ischio" was explained in detail in the 19th century by M. Manicone, who wrote that:

"[...] the wood of Ischitella abounds not only with beeches, oaks, hornbeam, but also of “ischi” (a sort of oak), a tree from which some scholars want to derive the etymology of “Ischitella”. The “ischio” has deep roots and is higher than the beech, while its trunk is larger than that of the oak...

... It produces an acorn which is a delicious food for pigs, and its wood is very strong for each building or structure that require a great strength (...) Linnaeus says that the 'Quercus Aesculus' (“ischio”) was called after the Latin form 'escas', quod fructus eius dulcis sit [...]" ["escas (" tempting food”) because its fruit is sweet] [4].

Contemporary studies confirm the hypothesis of M. Manicone, because the LEI (Italian Etymological Dictionary), writing about the "Aesculus", says:

"[...] 'Aesculus', in Italian 'esculeo', an adjective, 'belonging to the ‘ischio’' (in the 14th century called 'escoleo'). In the area of Novara we find 'esca' or 'Daedalea quercina'; in the area of Naples 'eschia-Ischia', ' Virgilian Quercus', 'oak', in Italian 'Esculo,' male, 'a sort of oak' [ ...]" [5].

In a footnote [5] G. Rholfs notes that:

"The Tuscan form 'Ischia' (a sort of oak , Lat.' Aesculus') is strange: it already appears as 'hisclus' in some Lombard Edicts of Rotari and it seems that we see the influence of some other word. However, we can discard the Albanian word 'shkurn' (tree), which cannot result from 'Aesculus' for phonetic and semantic reasons: while the word 'ishke', which is in the Albanian language of Calabria, is a ‘loan’ from local Italian dialects.”

Beyond the considerable linguistic subtleties about the Italian word 'Ischio' it is now almost universally accepted that this term is the origin of the name of the small town of Ischitella.

However, there is a second hypothesis, which is generally not highly regarded, but which has a strong ability to grasp the truth. Assuming that Ischitella and Ischia have the same origin, Angelico Prati, in 1974, proposed a solution to be considered carefully. He derived the term 'Ischia' not from the Greek 'iskios' (' shady place ') but from the Latin term “insula” (island), to be understood not as an island in a physical sense, but as an “isolated place”:

"[...] Ischia 'isla', Latin 'Insula' (island). Ischia and some common dialectal names have a very limited area, while the word 'island' and derivatives are widespread in Italy, including local names to indicate 'not true islands', but a condition of 'land or places somewhat isolated'" [6].

The interpretation of Ischitella such as "island", even in a physical sense, is also supported by some studies of a prestigious German magazine [7], in which Ischitella is interpreted  as an "island between two rivers or the shore of that river". “G. di Giovanni explains: ‘islands' are called in some parts  the alluvial soils near the river ‘Platani’, having mostly a form of cape’.”

In conclusion, Ischitella. from the etymological point of view, is located between two Latin words, the 'Aesculus' (a sort of oak) and the' island" (meaning "isolated" or "island between two rivers").

See also the Ischitella travel guide.

References

1. See G. Alvisi, "The Roman roads in  Daunia", Tipografia del Sud, 1970:  79

2. See S. Fulloni, "The Lost Abbey”, Liguori, 2006: 47 and the study published by the "Centro Storico Benedettino Italiano", "Monasticon italiae", Badia di Santa Maria del Monte, 1981: 62

3. See "Paideia, the Literary Review of bibliographic information", Paideia Editrice, 1998, Vol 53:  365

4. See M. Manicone, "La Fisica Appula", Naples, Sangiacomo, 1806, Vol I: 109 and 110, note 1

5. See M. Pfister, "LEI, Italian Etymological Dictionary," Reichert, 2002, Vol 7: 964

6. See Angelico Prati, "History of Italian Words”, Feltrinelli, 1974: 127-128

7. See “Zeitschrift für Romanische Philologie”, 1901, Vol 25: 351