In the 5th century AD, Byzantine groups settled in the “Valle d'Itria”. Later, with the domination of the Lombards (6th-7th century AD), these first settlements of farmers were reinforced.
The vicissitudes of war and destruction of villages along the coast then forced the population to move to the “Murgia Plateau”. The new populations revitalized the oldest settlements creating new ones, from which, in the following centuries, the first hamlets such as Locorotondo were to develop (Locorotondo itself was so named because of its circular shape).
Middle ages in Locorotondo
The first document attesting to the presence of a village with this name dates back to an imperial privilege of 1195, written by King Henry VI of Swabia (1050-1106) in Cesena, May 19, 1195 to the Benedictine Monastery of Santo Stefano. In this document, the place is identified as:
"a place called “Rotondo”, with all the olive trees, vineyards, wells, and all its appliances, and the Church of San Giorgio, which is located in that place."
By the 15th century Locorotondo belonged to the Del Balzo-Orsini family. At the end of the 15th century it passed to (was seized by) the Carafa and it was then given by the Aragonese to Pirro Loffredo in the 16th century. It subsequently became a fief of Baron Ottavio Loffredo in the 17th century.
In 1645 the town was purchased by the Caracciolo Counts, who kept possession of Locorotondo until the early 19th century.
Origins of the name Locorotondo
The etymology of the name is clear, resulting from the union of two Latin words "locus" (place) and "rotundus" (round). The origin is medieval, although the area of Locorotondo, according to recent excavations, was certainly inhabited in prehistoric times.
According to studies by Giovanni Liuzzi it was called:
"[...] 'Locus Rotundus' (in the first half of the 13th century), then 'Locusrotundus' ( from the second half of the 13th to the end of 15th century). In the Modern Age the 'Locorotondo' place-name was called in various ways, such as ‘Rotondi’ (at the time in which it was confiscated by Alessandro Carafa[1484-1505]), and also “Ritondo”, and “Ritondo hamlet” [...]" .
In conclusion, the name simply means "place [fortified] with a circular shape."
I added the word "fortified" because often in the Italian Middle Ages the word "locus" (place) was more or less synonymous with "castrum" (fortified place). In fact in medieval documents we find both of the aforesaid names; for example, next to the definition of "Locus" “rotundus”, there is also “'Castro' Loci Rotundo”.
Then, around these fortified "castra", the "hamlets" were born (Lat. "casalia"), which could be defined almost as the earliest form of rural settlement, in an area that they wanted to reclaim and make suitable for agriculture. In fact, in some medieval documents Locorotondo is defined precisely as a "casale" (“hamlet”):
“Monasterium Sancti Stephani supradicti (de Monopulo) tenet 'casale' Loci Rotundi", or “The aforesaid Monastery of Santo Stefano (of Monopoli) has the 'Locorotondo hamlet" .
See the Locorotondo travel guide for more information.
1 See Giovanni Liuzzi, “Monaci e baroni: storia dei feudi del territorio di Locorotondo” ["Monks and barons of the feudal history of the territory of Locorotondo], Schena, 1998: 14-16, 49, 101
2. see Giovanni Liuzzi: 24, note 17; and “The Red Book of the City of Monopoli”, edited by F. Muciaccia, 1906: 135