Located in inland from the coast, in the province of Bari, there is a wonderful blue town that few people know. Casamassima has less than 20,000 inhabitants the houses of its historic center are mostly blue, a color that reminds of the charm of the much more famous Eastern ‘blue cities‘: Chefchaouen in Morocco, Safed in Israel, and Jodhpur in India. In fact, this common trait seems to be the most evident expression of a deep-rooted connection between them all.
According to a local legend, in the 1600s Duke Odoardo Vaaz ordered to paint Casamassima’s houses with the bright blue color as a reference the color of the veil of the Madonna of Constantinople, who would have protected the village’s population from the plague. However, historian and architect Marilina Pagliara developed another fascinating theory.
In Pagliara’s opinion, the link between all the blue cities, Casamassima included, is a connection to Judaism. Indeed, in Chefchaouen the houses have been initially painted in the bright color by a Jewish community arrived in Morocco to escape the persecutions of the 15th-century Spanish Inquisition. There they used the color ordered by God in the Bible. In the same way, Jodhpur and Safed were home to small communities of fleeing Jews, who used blue paint to color their homes.
Among the protagonists of Casamassima’s history, there is Miguel Vaaz de Andrade, a merchant of Jewish origins, who, in 1609, bought the fief of Casamassima with the income he made by selling Apulian wheat. Pagliara speculates that Vaaz de Andrade could have been the founder of a small Jewish community in the village. Although the documentation still does not prove it, the thesis of the Italian scholar seems to find a foothold in the symbols that adorn many of the ancient buildings colored in blue, like the six-pointed stars that recall the famous Star of David.
Ilona Catani Scarlett