Engravings, drawings and paintings, traces of a fascinating and eternal past, evidence of a culture that finds its origins in the caves of Prehistory, in a land discovered by man 80,000 years ago. The charm of Salento can be found going back a long way along the line of time. It is a land where the wonder of nature meets the seduction of culture, the character of ancient transmitted traditions is sublimated in the modern capacity to preserve and enhance it.
A strip of land between two seas, the Ionian and the Adriatic, Salento is also characteristic for its two coasts, which offer breathtaking landscapes, where the high rocky cliffs give way to long golden beaches or small sandy coves. True wonders of nature proceed in a succession from one end to the other of its two coasts, a sea that is so clear and transparent as to deprive of words, sunrises and sunsets that any photograph can tell with the same intensity.
The coasts of Salento are the moving poetry written by nature.
Starting from the north of the Ionian coast, you can meet the white beaches of Sant’Isidoro, Torre Lapillo, Porto Cesareo and Punta Prosciutto, the wonderful bay of Torre Uluzzo, the enchanting Natural Park of Porto Selvaggio and the Palude del Capitano, then Santa Caterina, Santa Maria al Bagno, Lido Conchiglie, Rivabella, the natural park of the island of Sant’Andrea and the magic of Gallipoli, the Beautiful Town, one of the pearls of Salento. Continuing our journey along the Salento coasts, we meet then the heaven of Punta Pizzo, Mancaversa, Torre Suda, Posto Rosso, Capilungo, Torre San Giovanni with its long and wide beaches, Torre Mozza, Lido Marini and Torre Pali. Here you can then find the paradise of Pescoluse, Posto Vecchio, Torre Vado, San Gregorio and Santa Maria di Leuca, the extreme southern tip, a marvel of rare beauty.
From here on, the Adriatic coast of Salento begins, with the beautiful natural swimming pool of Marina Serra, Tricase Porto, the charming Castro Marina and the Grotta della Zinzulusa, Santa Cesarea Terme, Porto Badisco and the splendor of Otranto, the extreme east t point of Italy, where the sun rises first, offering unique views.
A little farther on, the splendid Melendugno Marinas: Torre dell’Orso, Roca Vecchia, the Grotta della Poesia and Sant’Andrea, and then San Cataldo, Torre Chianca and Torre Rinalda.
Our advice? Travel backpacker with the desire to venture along the coasts of Salento.
Fascinating for the richness of their history, the expressive power of buildings, churches, palaces and ancient dwellings, are also the historical centres of Salento, through whose streets you can feel the soul of the culture of the past, breathe its scent and enjoy its wonders.
Lecce is certainly a must see for those visiting the Salento. The town will captivate you with its Baroque art, the refinement of the ancient noble palaces, the magic of the Roman amphitheater, the richly decorated churches, the narrow streets that intersect and untangle, articulating an historic centre that will amaze you.
The marvelous historic centre of Gallipoli is also worth a visit, as well as the one of Specchia, rich in ancient constructions and hypogean oil mills, and the Otranto, Patù, Castro and other villages in the hinterland: Morciano di Leuca, Corigliano d’Otranto with its castle, Maglie, Galatina, Matino, Parabita, to name a few.
Inhabited since the Middle Paleolithic, the Salento preserves traces of the Neanderthal man in the dolmens and in the menhirs that are still preserved in the countryside. Traces still alive in its ancient caves, located by the sea, some of which can be visited. To guard these ancient testimonies are, among others, the Romanelli Cave located in Castro together with the wonderful Grotta della Zinzulusa; the Grotta della Poesia in Roca Vecchia (in the marinas of Melendugno); the Grotta Del Cavallo in the Bay of Torre Uluzzo (Nardò marina); the Grotta dei Cervi in Porto Badisco; the Grotta delle Tre Porte and the Grotta del Diavolo in Santa Maria di Leuca. And then there are the caves found of the hinterland: Grotta Sant’Ermete in Matino, Grotta delle Veneri in Parabita, Grotta Montani and Grotta Febbraro in Salve.
Later, the Messapians lived in Salento. They created a union of sixteen cities in contrast with Taranto. This favored the domination of the Salento by the Romans, who became protagonists of a rich flowering of urban centres, of the important renewal of the infrastructures and construction of important public works. The Lombards and the Byzantines followed, attracted by the fortunate positions of the ports of Brindisi and of Otranto, that occupied the Salento area in the early Middle Ages. These two ancient peoples shared the Salento, so to speak, and it was in this period that in the south of the territory the Grecìa Salentina was born, which still today, in the language, tradition and culture, tells of the historical penetration of the Greeks.
If the Byzantines, who had defeated the Lombards, dominated the IX century, in the year 1000 the Normans and then the Swabians took possession of the Salento, until the domination of the Angevins, who were in continuous struggle with the Aragonese, was imposed around 1200. It was just under the Aragonese rule that Salento experienced the darkest period of its history, continually invaded and threatened by its enemies. The peak of this obscurity came in 1480, when the Turks landed in Otranto and sacked the entire Salento (the Baia dei Turchi, which took its name from this event) is today a wonderful inlet.
During these years the fascinating coastal towers were built, fortifications erected to defend the Salento from enemy incursions. Some of these have been completely or partially destroyed, while others are still intact or almost. Among the coastal towers, built on the coasts overlooking the sea, visit Torre Colimena, Torre Uluzzo, Torre Santa Caterina, Torre dell’Alto, Torre Inserraglio, Torre Lapillo, Torre Castiglione, Torre Sant’Isidoro.
In the eighteenth century it was the turn of the Bourbons, who took care of the roads of communication, creating new roads and efficient ports. Further development was known in Salento during the fascism, while the post-war period was marked by the distressing phenomenon of emigration in northern Italy.
History is the mother of the culture and traditions of Salento, but also of the architecture of the towns and historic centers imbued with life, of the wonderful landscapes of Salento, rich in buildings, nature and lapped by a sea that is always so clear and crystalline as to seem a dream.
Another element of seduction in Salento, is certainly the cuisine, characterized by dishes of unique flavors prepared by skilled artisans.
What will delight you on your journey to discover Salento? Definitely the typical Salento pasticciotto, a shortcrust pastry filled with custard; the rustico, a roundish puff pastry full of bechamel, sauce and mozzarella; the fried calzone, the delicious puccia, an oven-baked bread. And, also, the frisa, a toasted bread to be seasoned with tomato, oil, salt and oregano in its traditional version; the fried eggplant parmigiana; the pignata octopus ( the pignata being the ancient terracotta container in which it is cooked).
And how can you not be seduced by the taste of cupeta, an almond bar covered with caramel? And then there is the spumone, the mustazzoli, that is chocolate-flavored cookies with cinnamon; the panzerotti, tasty potato croquettes; there is pitta, a potato pie seasoned with tuna, tomato and cheese. And the poetry for the palate that only homemade pasta can give. Orecchiette, minchiareddhi, maritati, sagne ‘ncannulate and tria cu li ciciri, that is homemade pasta seasoned with chickpeas and fried dough seasoned with the excellent extra virgin olive oil produced by the Salento countryside. And what about the good wine? How impossible to forget the good wine of Salento?
In short, Salento is an adventure to be experienced, an adventure of taste, art, history, culture, tradition and nature.
Enjoy your trip!