Most of us know Puglia only because of its ‘trulli’, curious conical buildings clustered together and lending the place an air of a hobbit homeland and Bari, port for the Greek Islands ferries. Yet Puglia’s lower province Salento is pretty special and worth exploring to enjoy its breathtaking monuments together with its dazzling coastline and exuberant party atmosphere.
Salento is indeed a unique place, the most oriental in Italy, a border land that faces two seas, the Adriatic and the Ionian.
Lecce, the ‘Florence of the South’, is a baroque city with a class all of its own and it’s not just the elaborately carved churches that will make you fall in love with it, but also its hearty and unpretentious cuisine, a buzzing bar scene and gorgeous nearby beaches. It really has something to offer to every traveller!
Further south Otranto, also called ‘Oriental Door’, faces the strait that takes the same name, the Otranto canal. Otranto has a fascinating history, as over the centuries has had to defend itself from attacks by enemies coming from the sea and its medieval towers and castle still stand as proud witnesses of this.
Its harbour has always had a remarkable importance for its trades with the Orient and last but not least, it is also its crystal clear sea rich of dunes, caves and inlets that makes this town so charming as to make you fall in love at first sight!
As we venture to the southern most point of the ‘heel’, Santa Maria di Leuca is a pearl of a coastal town located in the inlet between Punta Ristola and Punta Meliso and rises in a magical position where the Adriatic and the Ionian sea meet. Its several caves are a natural paradise for underwater exploration and in its inland landscape you cannot miss the iconic lighthouse, which is the second most important lighthouse in Italy after Genoa.
As we finish off this tour of Salento, we could not miss Gallipoli in the Ionian Sea (meaning beautiful city in Greek), an ancient town of fishermen and sailors was once a fortress against the Turks, a place of oriental charm with its wonderful beaches and the beautiful historical monuments that surround it. It’s indeed a picturesque town surrounded by high walls to protect it against attacks from the sea.
Until the recent past, Salento was quite poor and isolated, but it is now enjoying a cultural renaissance and celebrating its spicy mix of ancestors and influences.
If you add to this the remarkable findings of some scientists that reveal that even a short stay of 3 days or more in Salento has amazing benefits for your physical and mental wellbeing, and you can easily understand why it’s attracting and increasing number of discerning travellers who fall under its spell!
I can’t wait for some Salento ‘therapy’, how about you?!