The name “Castro” comes from the Latin “castrum”, which means “fortress”.
This area was already inhabited in the protohistoric era, as several archaeological finds confirm. Castro was home to the dolmen of Sgarra, which, however, is no longer there.
Castro was a Messapian centre and became a Roman settlement in 123 BC, when it was named CastrumMinervae, as the Peutinger table shows. Following the tradition, here was a temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva. Its remains have been found after the restoration and strengthening works of the castle and the walls.
Some scholars and researchers of the University of Salento, including the well-known Professor D’Andria Francesco, have described Castro as the place where Aeneas first landed in Italy. According to Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas landed near a temple dedicated to Minerva and visible from the sea. However, also Porto Badisco and Roca Vecchia have been described as the place of Aeneas’ landing.
Castro was one of the first towns in Salento to become a County. In 682, Pope Leo II made it an Episcopal town.
Castro was a unique example of fortified town, and its castle was described as impregnable due to its position and massive structure.It was built on a promontory protected by the sea on one side and by a cliff on the other. The castle was listed in the Angevin registers of 1282 as one of the most important castles of the reign.
The decline of the town started at the end of the feudal period and was worsened by the abolition of the diocese in 1818. Castro was ruled by the municipality of Diso until 1975.