Santa Severina is a small hilltop fortress village inland from our port of call at Crotone, Italy. Taormina (see earlier post for Sicily) was fun to visit, but Santa Severina was much less touristy and provided a clearer understanding of a hilltop fortress village. Generally speaking, a stone wall protected the hilltop and enclosed a church (with a bell tower under scaffolding on the left), shops, homes, and a secondary fortress wall around a castle (taking up the middle of the photo) for an additional level of protection. As you can see, the community outgrew the hilltop and started building homes and shops outside the original wall.
Where would you get water in a village such as this? Maybe you could haul it in by oxcart, but the fortress and other buildings were probably equipped with cisterns to save runoff from the roof. Water would be a crucial factor in surviving a siege, though.
The fortress walls and the castle they enclose were conquered and rebuilt several times over the course of local history. The rebuilding shows that the conquerers considered it a good site for defense, and each cycle of rebuilding probably reflected lessons learned from previous defeats. Archeological excavations are still in progress within the castle walls, and show evidence of Roman, Muslim, and Christian occupation over the centuries.
The cross shown above came from one of several graves found during archeological digs within the castle walls. Current thinking is that this cross belonged to a local bishop many generations ago.
Even though the castle included a small chapel, the church was the spiritual (if not physical) center of the hilltop community. It is still in use for worship, teaching, and concerts. The baptistry was in a room adjacent to the sanctuary, and families still bring their infants for baptism.
After visiting the fortress, castle, and church, we had a few minutes to relax in the town square. For better or worse, few of the local shops were open for business. Maybe we were there before tourist season was in full swing. However, we did find a double-shot espresso for a couple of Euros, which was good enough to satisfy the tourists.