Salento is the famous Heel of Italy, the most eastern point in the Italian peninsula , included between two seas, the Adriatic and the Ionian that meet and mix here.
The sun is one of the greatest protagonists of this land, generous in spring, fierce in summer, able to exalt the blue and the emerald green of one of the cleanest seas in Europe. A sea that caresses velvety beaches and, pushed by the wind, it sculpts wild promontories and caves with transparent waters. The inside is a sequence of red and dark soils, scrubs of secular olive trees, small dry walls, vineyards, lowlands and highlands.
Many are the definitions of this land, that were born thanks to the hand by hand tourist discovery growth . Some people have seen Salento like a small California, for the climate, the beaches, the full-bodied wines. And others, like a kind of Porto Alegre (Brazil) for the friendly nature of the people, public parties in bright squares and the fast rythm of Pizzica, the ancient popular dance.
Our trip begins from Otranto, one of the main cities on the adriatic coast, also called “the door of the east” for the proximity to the Albanian coasts. Its vivacity has ancient roots: its role in the commerces between Puglia, Tiro and Alexandria of Egypt was very important and has forged its architectural profile. With a few more than five thousand inhabitants, Otranto shows a wonderful shell shaped village, small streets made of local stones, terraces with a sheer drop to the sea, foreshortenings of blue between white houses and bloomed balconies, an imposing Aragonese Castle and an extraordinary local Romanesque style Cathedral.
Going along the Adriatic coast from north to south, we can’t miss the sequence of the ancient medieval watch towers, built together in such a way that people could report with fire signals suspicious ships .
And then, there are the beaches, the bays, marvellous places like Turks’ Bay, covered in the Mediterranean bush, with colossal rocks overlooking the Adriatic sea; Alimini with sweet and salty water lakes; Frassanito, Porto Badisco where we stop and we have a good meal based on sea urchins at Carlo De Paola Cafe. Santa Cesarea Terme, a thermal village with Oriental architectures; Castro with the famous cave Zinzulusa covered in stalactites, up to the Head of Saint Maria of Leuca, the earth’s end, where the Ionian and the Adriatic seas meet becoming the only blue Mediterranean.
But also the inside is very beautiful! From Otranto we travel along the provincial road towards Maglie, discovering the countryside around Giurdignano, Minervino, Uggiano La Chiesa: it is a trip through past times, among woods of secular olive trees, small dry walls, typical farms called “masserie”, farmers with their donkeys, Neolithic menhirs and dolmens.
We stop in Maglie to buy a stock of spaghettoni, ziti, tubetti and other types of pasta at Antico Pastificio Benedetto Cavalieri. This pasta has conquered chefs all over the world; it’s prepared with hard wheat, worked by following the traditional way and dryed from 24 to 40 hours.
Continuing on the government road 459, we reach the other bank of the Heel of Italy, the Ionic one and we find a pearl called Gallipoli. Its ancient village rises on an small isle connected to the dry land by a bridge. Gallipoli is simply magical with its ancient walls, the ramparts, the small alleys and squares that overlook the sea, the building-fortress, the Sant’Agata Cathedral-Art Gallery and many churches of religious brotherhoods. A mixture of colors, scents, architectures that remember a little bit of Morocco and Turkey. After all, from the beginning of XVII century, Gallipoli was a very important commercial harbour, because it exported oil towards East importing spices and silk.
A visit to its lively and coloured fish market gives a full immersion in the Mediterranean world. Just here, the real Gallipoli’s heart beats among mountains of prawns, mollusks, basses, turbots, sword-fish. And, early in the morning, it is very interesting to observe the housekeepers or the restaurateurs wandering around the stalls, looking for the best fish and bargaining over the best prices.
The coast around Gallipoli is also unforgetable with the crystal waters of Porto Cesareo’s Natural See Reserve, Marina di Ugento and Torre Vado.
For more informations: Viaggiare in Puglia
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