San Cassiano is one of the little rural towns, near Lecce, which surround an enormous wood with majestic centuries-old olive tree groves. The wood is placed in Low Salento (Basso Salento) and takes the name of Parco Agricolo dei Paduli (Paduli’s Rural Park).
San Cassiono’s Square is inserted in a complex process of city plan reconstruction, which has involved the local institutions, the associations, its own citizens and a great number of experts from all over Italy, all working on the idea of an ecological network among the old town centers of the villages within the Park. Here we can use great care in dealing with the public space together with the rural landscape, reshaping the urban and the rural spaces networks, as well as the economics, the history, the agriculture of the area. It is an idea started from the bottom, which nowadays is recognized as an experimental project of the new Piano Paesaggistico della Regione Puglia. (Landscape Plan of Regione Puglia)
The old town center is characterized by historical and cultural testimonies belonging to the end of 1600s, and by an informal urban fabric with medieval origins. Before the redevelopment intervention, the Square presented evident problems of decay, basically due to a gradual reduction of the public pedestrian areas, in fact the space was reduced to a single area of a roundabout (the Square was about 3,924 m2, which 2,927 m2 were intended for the cars only). There was also a slow but constant abandonment phenomenon of the ancient dwellings, particularly evident in the oldest area of the town, called il fosso (the ditch) where the majority part of the impoverished conditions were concentrated.
Through the reduction of the driveway, the gradual construction of cycle paths (2,294 m2 of cycle paths of the whole 3,927), the replacement of the tarmac with natural flagstones, the introduction of a green area and public roofed areas, the project has returned this place to its social dimension and has regained the multiple character of the urban space. The redevelopment intervention has started a slow phenomenon of old buildings’ recovery around the area, and a gradual use of the square by the children and elderly people, which is also used as main location for cultural events.
Finally, the reconversion at slow speed area (a zona 30) of the old road, which connected the downtown to the Park, has re-established the relationship between the old town center, the Rural Park and its citizens.