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Places to visit
Santa Maria di Leuca
Known for its famous light house, the large Sanctuary, or Basilica, De Finibus Terrae ("End of the Land", 1720-1755), built to commemorate the passage of St. Peter here during his travel to Italy, and its seven architectonically diverse villas built in the 19th century. Furthermore the town is home of the Punta Meliso, traditionally considered the lowest point of the geographical "heel" of the Italian peninsula, as well as the meeting point of the waters from the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea. Furthermore the town has a lively boulevard and marina.
The town was founded by the Greek, who named it Kallipolis, meaning “Beatiful City”. The lively old town is located on an island that is connected to the main land by a bridge that was built in the 16th century. In the old town you can wander the labyrinth of small streets, full of cosy bars, restaurants of all kinds, many shops with local products, souvenirs and small art galleries. In the heart of the old town, you find the Baroque cathedral of “Sant’Agata” (17th century). It has a richly decorated facade in “Carparo”, a local limestone rock, with niches
featuring statues of saints.
The town is located on the eastern coast of Salento on the Adriatic sea, and is the most easterly point of the Italian mainland. The old town is surrounded by impressive city walls that can be climbed and walked on to enjoy nice views over the city and the marina, which with its crystal clear and shallow water is also a popular place for the locals to go swimming on the many sunny days. The old town is very well preserved, with beautiful facades, churches and squares filled with restaurants, bars and shops.
Lecce is the capital of the province of Lecce, located in the heart of Salento, and it is by far the regions largest city.
Because of the rich Baroque architectural monuments found in the city, Lecce is commonly nicknamed "The Florence of the South". The city also has a long traditional affinity with Greek culture going back to its foundation; the Messapii who founded the city are said to have been Cretans in Greek records. To this day, in the Grecìa Salentina, a group of towns not far from Lecce, the “Griko” language is still spoken. Lecce’s precious city centre is definitely worth a visit, especially in the evening when the facades are beautifully lighted by the yellowish street lights of the city, creating a fairy tail like atmosphere. Because of its large student population, the city is very lively and especially in the summer hosts many outdoor festivals and concerts.
The warm locals of the Salento region cherish a strong passion for the food their fertile land allows them to cultivate. And this passion you can taste in the dishes they serve! Salento is famous for their endless olive fields. Some trees are more than 1000 years old and have been recognised as protected monuments. But other than olives and delicious olive oils, Salento produces numerous great fruits and vegetables. Since the region is surrounded by two seas, the Ionian and the Adriatic, their cuisine has a large variety of seafood dishes, often served with grilled bread or fresh made pasta’s. Furthermore, a wide range of meats and cheeses are produced in the region.
Just the beaches would already be reason enough to visit Salento! In general we could say that the beaches on the western side of the peninsula facing the Ionian Sea, are wide and sandy, and the beaches on the eastern side, facing the Adriatic sea, are often rocky and carved into the steep cliffs.
Depending on your mood you can choose between small isolated beaches, or rather sophisticated and popular ones, with comfortable beach chairs and plenty of beach bars, lounges and activities.
Pescoluse (the Maldives of Salento)
A wide sandy beach on walking distance from Torre Pali, with white sand and clear shallow water. Furthermore, the beach offers a wide range of bars, lounges and activities.
Hidden behind a colourful pine tree forrest you find this half sandy, half rocky beach with shallow waters and on the highest point a nice lounge with food and drinks and a spectacular view on the bay.
Baia dei Turchi
Bay of the Turks, as this is the place where the Turkish fleets first stranded during their efforts to conquer Otranto. Sandy beaches between pine forests, rocks and cliffs.
Carved deep into a cliff, located under the well known Ponte Ciolo bridge, this tiny rocky beach is surrounded by a rich and colourful vegetation. On top of the bridge and the cliffs there are some restaurants from where you can enjoy a great view.
During the summer months the beaches that surround Torre Pali boost plenty of beach bars, indoor and outdoor lounges and clubs where you can enjoy the sunset with a good glass of wine or a cocktail, accompanied by some nice dishes. As the night proceeds, it’s time to show some moves on the dance floor or simply in the sand of the beach.
Towns as Santa Maria di Leuca and Gallipoli offer many indoor clubs. Alternatively you could visit the brimming student city Lecce, with its lively historical centre with a very international crowd hopping from bar to bar.
Alternatively you could visit some of the folkloristic festivals that are organised during the summer in many of the historical towns of the region. Here the locals dance until deep in the night on the rhythmic sounds of the “pizzica”, salento’s traditional music. To make sure that nobody has to dance on an empty stomach, there are many booths which sell countless different types of local dishes, such as “sagne torte”, “pittule”, “pezzetti di cavallo”, “frise”, “pitta di patate”, and many others.
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