Salento : the Ionian coast

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

Lecce and Salento Salento : The Ionian Coast, Italy

The Salento is best known for the beauty of its sea. The Ionic coast attracts you with long expanses of white sand punctuated with so many bathing sites.
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 at the southernmost point of the Salento, an enchanting place where the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic come together.

Santa Maria di Leuca

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.


The tract of Ionian coast from Leuca toward Gallipoli is a succession of bathing sites that offer low sandy seabeds and crystal clear water. Here, in the immediate inland, we find the small town of Ugento, the largest center of Messapian culture in the Salento, the origins of which go back to approximately a thousand years before Christ. The evidence of its ancient past may be seen in the Archeological Museum, which guards significant finds from Messapian and Roman necropolises.


Our itinerary ends here, in the ancient Kalé Polis ("beautiful city" in Greek), that rises from its promontory at the end of a long expanse of fine sand called Baia Verde. With Otranto, it is one of the liveliest vacation spots of the Salento.

The historic center began on an islet connected to the mainland by a bridge. At the end of the bridge, the visitor is greeted by the 16th century castle. A powerful defensive structure with a square floor plan, it is reinforced by four large angular towers.

In the web of narrow medieval streets of the village are hidden beautiful little Baroque palaces and churches. On passing the castle, here are the most interesting monuments of Gallipoli:

  • Basilica di Sant'Agata, with its sumptuous Baroque facade, holds on the inside guards real museum, with enormous 17th century fabrics adorning the numerous altars and chapels.
  • Chiesa della Purità, this church was built in the 17th century by the wealthy stevedores' corporation of the port. Behind the simple facade are hidden an artistic treasure chest, four large Baroque tapestries, and beautiful decorations in majolica
  • Oratorio dei Nobili: book lovers must not miss this former Oratory, where the Community library is located, established in 1823. The valuable collections hold rare editions and manuscripts ranging from the 15th to the 19th century.

One of the local attractions is the fish market at dawn. A true bazaar of fresh fish, it sells freshly caught live oysters to eat raw on the spot.

Entertainment in Gallipoli

in the evening it is almost obligatory to take a walk in the city center constellated with bars, businesses, and excellent seafood restaurants, while the surroundings offer a broad choice of discotheques for dancing until dawn.
Gallipoli has won the heart of tourists with its full program of cultural, folklore and musical events: the best known are Festival Città di Gallipoli and the Festa di Santa Cristina, patron saint of the city (every year on July 23).


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