written by Miriam Russo
In 1558 the Turks were sailing in the waters of the Mediterranean in search of territorial conquers and goods to plunder. One of these sieges is the Turkish invasion of Massa Lubrense and Sorrento.
On June 13, 1558 the Ottoman admiral Pialì Pascià and his fleet attacked and invaded the Sorrentine Peninsula causing a thousand deaths and taking at least 4,000 prisoners. Disembarking during the night on the beach of Marina del Cantone about 2,000 corsairs quickly climbed the promontory searching for farmhouses and other places to raid and plunder. The fleet was divided into three groups, forty ships landed at dawn at the foot of Massa Lubrense and another forty on the beach of Sorrento. The Saracens surprised the inhabitants of Massa in their sleep, making prisoners the few who managed to escape.
Despite the violent arrival and attacks, Massesi and Sorrentini fought to defend their homeland, but after 10 days of fighting, they surrendered before the power of the Turkish army.
It is quite “surprising” that none of the inhabitants of the Peninsula, including sentries and soldiers, had noticed the invasion. In fact, at the time, it was well known that the Turks had been sailing in the waters of the Mediterranean for several days. For this reason, it is said that it was a Turkish traitor, a slave to a noble family of Sorrento, who opened the gates of the city to invaders. The result was the destruction and sacking of the city and the capture of about 4,000 inhabitants who, locked up and huddled in the holds of the galleys, were taken to Constantinople to be sold at the market.
The coastal towers
After this terrible event, the viceroy of the Kingdom of Naples Don Parafan de Ribera had new and fortified watch towers built. In that period the fourteenth-century tower of the Gauls and the contemporary one of Punta Campanella were also rebuilt and improved. They were arranged so that each one of them was clearly visible from the other two nearby. In this way, it was possible to make signals with fire and smoke repeated in a chain from tower to tower in case of danger. At the same time, a guardian on horseback departed from other towers called “cavallare” to alert the inhabitants of the Casali.
There is also a well-known legend linked to the Turkish invasion of 1558 regarding the bell of Punta Campanella. After the terrible events, on February 14, the day of Saint Anthony, patron saint of Sorrento, the devotees of Massa Lubrense went there in procession. From there, the tolling of a bell seemed to be heard coming from the depths of the sea. The stronger they were, the more agitated the sea was: therefore they signaled an imminent danger.