Salento : the Adriatic coast

Guide of Lecce and Salento Itineraries Salento : the Adriatic coast, Italy

Lecce and Salento Salento : The Adriatic Coast, Italy

The Salento is best known for the beauty of its sea: the Adriatic coast was defined as "one of the last paradises of Italy": a succession of steep cliffs, grottoes and coves.

This itinerary, however, is not only for beach bathing: the entire route offers ancient fortified city, coastal towers, Byzantine crypts, fortified manor farms and then expanses of olive groves punctuated with curious dry wall constructions - "furnieddhi" and "pagghiare" - which are among the most beautiful evidence of country civilization.

The tour begins by leaving Lecce on State highway 543 in the direction of San Cataldo, the crowded beach of the Leccese. Near San Cataldo is the natural preserve, Riserva Naturale delle Cesine, an area of coastal marsh, oases of the WWF rich in wetlands and near the sea, an important destination for migrating birds. The tour continues by veering a bit inland until reaching the attractive walls of Acaya.


This is an ancient fortified citadel ordered built by Gian Giacomo dell'Acaya in the 16th century, following Renaissance plans, and was then destroyed by the Turks in 1744. Recovered thanks to restoration work, today it is one of the most beautiful historic sites of all Salento.

Returning to the coast, you find various bathing sites, bathed by a turquoise-colored sea, such as San Foca, Roca Vecchia and Torre dell'Orso.

Torre dell'Orso

Torre dell'Orso is a famous beach that owes its fortune to its broad sandy beach, protected by beautiful reefs, sandy dunes and green pine forests. The sea is as clear as crystal and the two lighthouses called "Le Sorelle" (the sisters) rise from the sea. In July and August it is also one of the most crowded places.

Laghi Alimini are two coastal lakes of Karstic origin. The largest is saltwater and the smallest, also called the Fontanelle, is fresh water. The two lakes are separated from the sea by a large pine forest that in summer offers a cool refuge from the heat.


The true pearl of this tract of coast. Awarded the Blue flag, it is a ancient village enclosed by walls with bialso houses and streets paved in stone. Otranto is also one of the liveliest places of the Salento, in summer its center is packed every night until the first lights of the dawn.

To see:
Il The Aragonese Castle: a four-sided floor plan with cylindrical towers. It was built by Ferdinand of Aragon between 1485 and 1498 following the attack of the Turks of 1480, when the commander Ahmet Pasha decapitated eight hundred citizens.

The Cathedral, constructed in the 11th century, mixes Romanesque and gothic elements. The great attraction of the Cathedral is the floor mosaic, composed of 600 thousand tiles, illustrating the stories of the Old Testament, as if in a giant comic strip, along with many depictions of daily life, in a large naive painting. In the right nave are maintained the remains of the 800 Martyrs of Otranto assassinated by the Turks of Ahmet Pasha.

The small church of San Pietro, is a 10th century Byzantine jewel holding frescoes with a touch of the Orient.

A few kilometers from Otranto is the cave complex of Torre Pinta. Under the tower is an ancient underground environment 35 meters long, full of small niches. In the surroundings are seen several cave dwellings dug by the ancient inhabitants of Otranto for evading attacks from the sea.

Porto Badisco

This is a lovely cove sloping slowly toward the sea and forming a natural port. According to the legend narrated by Virgil, Port Badisco is the first port reached by Ennead in Italy, in his voyage fleeing Troy.

Santa Cesarea Terme

is a renowned thermal area, fascinating for the monumental Art Nouveau villas built at the beginning of the 20th century by the middle class of Lecce, which quickly learned to appreciate the health benefits of thermal cures. Its coasts present the phenomenon of thermal springs with salso-iodine and sulphurous waters rising in four natural grottoes along the sea cliff.


This is an ancient place facing a pristine sea and a craggy and rocky coast hosting a typical little port. At Castro Superiore, high on the coast, are the ruins of the castle of the 16th century, the Cathedral and a small 10th century Byzantine church.

Castro is famous for its coastal grottoes: the Grotta Romanelli is one of the most important and interesting sites of Paleolithic man. The walls have drawings from that time. The Grotta Zinzulusa can be visited on foot by tourist trail; this is one of the most spectacular grottoes of the Salento. Visiting it means exploring the marvellous karst formations with fantastic names: the Marvel Corridor, the Cathedral, the Abyss, the Trap and an underground lake.


Along a rocky, craggy coast rich in vegetation is the small town of Tricase Porto, ideal for a peaceful and relaxing vacation. More inland is the ancient settlement of Trifase.

The historic center has a Renaissance and Baroque appearance. The church of San Domenico is worth a visit with its carved altars, as is Palazzo Gallone, used as a fortress in the 14th century and then transformed into a prince's residence.


With a small detour from Tricase, you arrive in Specchia, a village recorded in the list of the most beautiful hamlets of Italy. The village is the result, in great measure, of spontaneous architecture that had its origins in the 16th and 17th centuries, and is nearly intact even to this time.

Very beautiful is the Castello Protonobilissimo Risolo, a fortified sixteenth century castle, while the building of greatest historic-artistic value is the crypt of the Madonna del Passo, which assumed its current appearance in the course of the 16th century.

Santa Maria di Leuca

This beach location rises on the extreme southern point of the Salento, an enchanting place to discover between the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic. The small town, gathered around the fishing port, is very characteristic and maintains that slightly snobbish and aristocratic atmosphere given it by the sumptuous nineteenth century villas. You must not miss the sanctuary of Santa Maria di Leuca, located atop a promontory 100 meters above the sea.

The coast alternates between high reefs and small sandy coves. Major attractions of Leuca are the many marine grottoes and the seabed that attract scuba divers from all over Europe. Don't miss an excursion by boat to explore the 13 marine grottoes of Leuca.


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