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Gioia del Colle

In March 2011 British Typhoon and Tornado jets flew to the Gioia del Colle air base to conduct operations against Libya. The first flight by British aircraft participating in Operation Eagle Eye tooke place Wednesday, November 11, 1998. The United Kingdom's Royal Air Force deployed two Canberra reconnaissance aircraft to Gioia del Colle Air Base, Italy to participate in the NATO verification missions over Kosovo, the southern province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The 36 Wing is based in Gioia del Colle and it has the unique characteristic of being the only Italian Air Force unit with 2 Squadrons having complete different roles: XII(F) Sqn AWX air defence on F2000 "Typhoon" aircraft; 156(B) Sqn air to ground attack on Tornado IDS (Interdiction and Strike) aircraft. The histories of Gioia del Colle and of 36 Stormo follow different routes from the dawn of aviation until 1960, when they met. The Gioia del Colle base took on the functionality of the airport in 1915, during the first world war, where there were deployed bombardment aircraft. In 1960 the 36th strategic Interdiction Aerobrigata was formed with the Jupiter IRBM missile, which operated at Gioia del Colle airport until 1963.

One of the air force's main procurement programs regards the Eurofighter F-2000 air defence fighter. This is being fielded at two main operating bases, Grosseto and Gioia del Colle, to cover Italian airspace. The arrival of four Typhoons at Gioia del Colle air base on October 1st, 2007 marked the type's formal entry into service with the 12th Squadron, which thus became the third Italian Air Force Eurofighter unit. The Typhoon replaced the Aermacchi MB-339CD advanced trainers used in the past few years in the slow-mover interceptor role to fill the gap created by the withdrawal of the last Tornado F.3. The delivery of additional aircraft built by Alenia Aeronautica will gradually allow 12th Squadron to reach its operational capability and join the Italian air defense system, relieving the F-16 units performing these duties.

The town of Gioia del Colle [let, Joy of the Hill], at the junction for the railway to Bari and Taranto, has a population of 27,.655 inhabitants (Gioiesi) and a surface of 206,49 square kilometers thus showing a population density of 133,9 inhabitants per square kilometer. It rises 360 meters above the sea level.

A marvellous tour following the traces of brigandage starts in Gioia del Colle, homeland of the legendary Sergeant Pasquale Domenico Romano, iconic romantic figure of Apulian brigandage. The Gioia municipality spans an area full of forests, gorges and caves that became the hideouts of gangs of bandits that, between 1861 and 1863, ravaged the land with their raids. The local karstic formations gave the brigands not only shelter, but also an endless supply of water, which allowed them to remain in hiding for long periods of time.

The city's historic city center and the sites around Gioia del Colle that made Sergeant Romano famous, include the well-preserved castle of the Hohenstaufen period. Gioia del Colle castle was build by Richard Siniscalco, brother of the more famous Robert Il Guiscardo. Subsequently, the fortress was modified by Ruggero II and then by Emperor Frederick II, the main protagonist of the castle building process in this area, around 1230. The subsequent historical periods, as with other castles in Puglia, were modified by the Angionians and the Aragons to partially reconstruct the fortification facade. The castle was used for defensive purposes but mainly as a residence by Frederick II.

In the 1890s, a startling story was given currency, to the effect that "in a village in the Abruzzi the young men drew lots once a year to decide who should die for Christ. Whoever drew the fatal lot was secretly killed by another, equally drawn for the purpose, before the next Good Friday. It was accounted a great honour to die for Christ. Although the facts are known to the Government, it is unable to catch the perpetrator, because none will betray him." The narration at once passed into the region of ascertained fact, or at any rate, of ascertained folk-lore. The story, thus taken up, soon became a folklore commonplace in the mouths of those who delight to find survivals in Christianity of "the grimmer usages of heathen superstition".

Gioia del Colle in the province of Bari was at that time not a village, but a large market-town of about 20,000 inhabitants. How is it possible that two homicides can be repeated every year in Holy Week and remain unknown to a selfrespecting government? Is the population of Gioia del Colle a population of Calmucks? Would a passing foreign traveller be likely to learn more about the matter than people of the place who occupy themselves with the same studies?

But the communications from Gioia del Colle expressed the utmost astonishment, and entirely deny the alleged facts. Signor Luigi Netti, from Santeramo in Colle, denied explicitly the story of human sacrifices, and is astonished that serious journals can publish such fables, and says: "I can deny most absolutely this calumnious story, and assure you such things are impossible in an advanced city like Gioia del Colle." Signor Pasquale Calderoni, a folk-lorist, replied: "Ever since my first coming to Bari I have collected popular stories and traditions, and I have never heard of the like, neither as a custom still practised nor as a record of a usage now out of date. It is absurd to speak of religious fanaticism in Bari, where the religious sentiment is less potent than in surrounding provinces. The mayor himself of Gioia del Colle confirms these denials, and says he cannot imagine how enlightened and educated people can assert such things, knowing that Gioia del Colle is situated in Italy, and not in the most inhospitable regions of Africa."

Gioia del Colle was the site of a "cholera riot" during the 1911 epidemic of Asiatic cholera in Italy. The authorities in an effort to stamp out the infection ordered that all persons attacked by cholera should be taken to a hospital, and those who had been in contact with cholera victims be isolated in a neighboring building. The population, made mad by these sanitary measures and being convinced that it was the intention of the authorities to kill the patients and also those under observation, gathered to the number of several thousand for the purpose of liberating their relatives and friends. The hospital was stormed and the building threatened with incendiary destruction should the mob be interfered with in releasing the cholera-stricken inmates. A small force of carbineers aided by a few policemen attempted to control the crowds, but the ferocious attitude of the demonstrators soon made it apparent to the authorities that the police were inadequate to cope with the situation, and in order to avoid bloodshed the doors of the hospital were thrown open.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:00:36 ZULU