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The Salento peninsula, a subregion of Puglia in southern Italy, is thought for its white sandy seashores and calm turquoise sea.
It’s a well-liked summer time vacation spot for Italians, however overseas guests typically overlook it. That’s a disgrace as other than the gorgeous shoreline, Salento options untouristy historic cities, scrumptious meals, and interesting native tradition with many festivals.
It’s additionally house to Lecce, a metropolis of golden baroque structure that’s probably the most beautiful in Italy.
We’ve visited Salento many occasions together with most lately for a month-long summer time keep.
On this detailed Salento Italy journey information, we share our suggestions for the most effective cities, seashores, actions, and meals, plus the place to remain and easy methods to get there.
On the finish of the publish, you’ll discover a map with all these Salento suggestions.
The place is Salento Italy?
Salento is on the Salentine Peninsula (Penisola Salentina) within the southern Italian area of Puglia (also called Apulia). It’s the tip of the heel of Italy’s boot.
The largest metropolis in Salento is Lecce, which is a 4.5-hour drive southeast of Naples and 6.5 hours from Rome. Bari in Puglia is a two-hour drive north.
From Lecce, it’s an additional hour’s drive to Santa Maria di Leuca, the southernmost tip of Salento (and Puglia).
In the direction of the tip of this publish, I share a Salento Italy map and particulars of easy methods to get there.
Greatest Cities on the Salento Peninsula
The highest three cities or cities to go to within the Salento area are Lecce (inland close to the highest), Otranto (on the Adriatic Coast), and Gallipoli (on the Ionian Coast).
However there are a lot of different stunning small cities to go to. Particularly inland, you’ll typically discover historic streets, historical castles, wonderful eating places, and only a few vacationers.
Lecce is a Salento should see. This small college metropolis is nicknamed “The Florence of the South” because of its stunning baroque structure.
It’s properly price spending a day or two away from the coast to discover the golden, extravagantly carved church buildings, picturesque piazzas, and wonderful bars and eating places.
On our final go to to Lecce, we spent a month within the metropolis and cherished wandering the hidden corners of the historic centre.
The streets come alive within the evenings when locals of all ages take a pre or post-dinner passeggiata (stroll).
See our Lecce journey information for tons extra suggestions.
Otranto has a shocking location on the Adriatic Coast. You possibly can spend the morning wandering the whitewashed streets and the afternoon enjoyable on its small however fairly seaside and swimming within the turquoise water.
The primary attraction is Otranto Cathedral with its enormous mosaic ground that dates again to the twelfth century.
The chapel encompasses a disturbing sight—the skulls of 800 martyrs who resisted the Turkish invasion in 1480 that destroyed a lot of town.
North of Otranto are the gorgeous Torre dell’Orso seaside and the Grotta della Poesia (Cave of Poetry) pure swimming gap.
Gallipoli is the opposite main coastal city within the Salento area. It’s on the alternative facet of the peninsula from Otranto overlooking the Ionian Sea.
The spotlight is the previous city on an island that’s related to the mainland by a causeway. Wander the slim streets previous hidden church buildings or stroll alongside town partitions for sea views.
The partitions are the right place for a drink at sundown. We loved aperitivo at Trattoria Scoglio delle Sirene with a beautiful view.
One of the attention-grabbing sights in Gallipoli is Frantoio Ipogeo in Granafei Palace, an underground olive press that was first utilized in 1600.
You possibly can see the unique gear used for grinding and urgent the olives to make olive oil for lamps. Working on this darkish, damp cave together with blindfolded donkeys who labored the olive mill was a depressing expertise.
Gallipoli has a beautiful metropolis seaside and is a brief drive from a number of the finest seashores in Salento.
That is an especially widespread vacation spot with Italians in summer time and we discovered the crowds on our August night stroll right here quite overwhelming. It’s rather more nice outdoors excessive season.
Castro is much less visited than Otranto or Gallipoli and is my new favorite coastal city in Salento. Even in the course of the busiest week of the yr (mid-August), Castro felt vigorous quite than unpleasantly crowded.
There are two elements to this small city. Castro Marina is on the bay with gorgeously clear water. There’s no sandy seaside however lidos hire sunbeds on the rocks. You possibly can take boat journeys to discover close by caves.
Up the hill is Castro previous city (accessed by a shuttle prepare or steep stroll), one of many prettiest small cities in Salento. There’s a fortress and a clifftop piazza overlooking the ocean.
The wine bar Delizie in Contea is an excellent place for a drink and platter of regional delights.
Castro is about half-hour south of Otranto on the Adriatic Coast and I extremely advocate persevering with the coastal drive right down to Santa Maria di Leuca (see issues to do under).
Santa Cesarea Terme
10 minutes north of Castro is one other beautiful coastal city perched on cliffs overlooking the rocky shoreline. Santa Cesarea Terme is most well-known for its thermal baths.
Within the nineteenth century, it was a well-liked spa resort with the higher lessons from Lecce who constructed ornate, vibrant villas right here. Two of essentially the most iconic are the Moorish-style Palazzo Sticchi and Villa Raffaela with its Disney fortress vibe.
We loved strolling alongside the seafront however didn’t fancy soaking within the sizzling waters within the peak of summer time. Terme di Santa Cesarea has a thermal sulphur pool and entry to caves that characteristic 30ºC sulphurous water. Spa therapies are additionally out there.
Santa Maria di Leuca
On the southernmost tip of Salento is Santa Maria di Leuca (additionally known as Leuca). For us, the spotlight is the coastal drive right here from Castro.
The nice seaside city has a palm-tree-lined lungomare (promenade) for strolling, a big marina, and vibrant Artwork Nouveau villas.
We didn’t discover it fairly as scenic as the opposite coastal cities, however it’s among the finest locations to go to in Salento for a ship journey. We rented our personal boat (see under).
The preferred sight is the lighthouse subsequent to the basilica, Santa Maria de Finibus Terrae.
25 minutes south of Lecce is Galatina, one among my favorite untouristy inland cities.
The stunning historic centre options golden baroque buildings like in Lecce and is a pleasure to wander.
The primary attraction is the Romanesque and Gothic church, Basilica di Santa Caterina d’Alessandria, with its frescoed partitions and ceiling relationship again to the fifteenth century.
The well-known Salentine dessert, the pasticciotto (pastry crammed with cream) was invented right here. You possibly can strive it at Pasticceria Andrea Ascalone, however word that it does comprise lard. (Vegan variations can be found on the Martinucci chain in different elements of the Salento.)
Nardò is one other much less visited inside city and is the second largest in Salento, after Lecce.
We got here right here after visiting Porto Selvaggio seaside, simply 10 minutes away. It was very quiet on a summer time morning, however I think about it’s livelier within the evenings.
As all the time, the centro storico is the place you need to head. The primary sq., Piazza Salandra, options a formidable column, the Fontana del Toro (Fountain of the Bull) and the Lecce-style baroque church, Chiesa di San Domenico.
Corigliano d’Otranto is likely one of the 11 cities of the Grecia Salentina. This small space within the coronary heart of the Salento peninsula retains its Greek heritage from the Byzantine interval together with the Griko dialect.
The spotlight of this quiet city is the medieval Castello De Monti. It’s probably the most spectacular castles within the space and also you’ll seemingly have it to your self.
We visited whereas staying at close by Masseria Sant’Angelo, a working farm. It’s a terrific place to study in regards to the traditions of the realm and listen to the native pizzica people music.
One other charming, off-the-beaten-track village is Felline, 20 minutes south of Gallipoli.
We solely discovered it as a result of we had been staying in a rural Airbnb close by. It’s a tiny place with a fortress and essentially the most stunning piazza embellished with fairy lights.
There’s not a lot to see in the course of the day (besides the close by iContadini store, see under), so come for dinner at one of many eating places with outdoors seating.
Greatest Seashores in Salento Puglia
The seashores are the primary purpose many individuals go to Salento. You might be by no means removed from one of many two coasts.
The Ionian Coast (north and south of Gallipoli) is flatter and options white or golden sand and clear turquoise sea.
The seashores right here are sometimes in comparison with the Caribbean or the Maldives, though that’s overstating issues.
The Adriatic Coast (from Santa Maria di Leuca and north to Otranto and past) has a unique really feel.
It’s rockier and options extra dramatic cliffs with charming cities overlooking the water. The ocean is a deeper blue-green. There are a number of sandy seashores, however most seaside golf equipment are perched on the rocks.
Lidos (seaside golf equipment with umbrella and sunbed leases) dominate the Salento coast, however there’s all the time a free part. Count on excessive crowds in July and particularly August.
These are our picks for the most effective Salento seashores:
Torre San Giovanni
The Salento coast is filled with trendy seaside cities like this. They lack fairly historic centres however supply the amenities you want for a seaside vacation.
The seaside within the centre of Torre San Giovanni is rocky however simply south is a protracted stretch of soppy white sand backed by dunes. The ocean may be very shallow and heat.
There’s a protracted string of lidos with free sections in-between. We preferred the free space simply earlier than Lido Isola Seashore.
Within the evenings, the promenade again in central Torre San Giovanni is a pleasant place for a stroll.
For sundown views, we preferred aperitivo at Vespera Bar on the water and pizza and puccia (sandwiches) throughout the street at A Puccia Salentina.
Marina di Pescoluse
Additional south on the Ionian Coast is Marina di Pescoluse, generally known as the Maldives of Salento due to its crystal clear water.
We’ve been to the Maldives and this doesn’t evaluate, however it’s nonetheless a lovely Salento seaside.
We discovered it extra crowded than Torre San Giovanni and the sand was extra golden than white. The swimming is healthier right here because it’s not fairly as shallow however nonetheless heat and calm.
A lot of the seaside is free, however we had been capable of hire an umbrella and beds from a vendor (€18) and set them up in a main front-row spot.
Baia di Torre Lapillo
Porto Cesareo is a well-liked Salento seaside city additional north on the Ionian Coast. The city itself has no actual seaside so head north to Torre Lapillo and Punta Prosciutto.
We visited Torre Lapillo, a 4km lengthy seaside between the 2 watchtowers, Torre Chianca and Torre Lapillo.
Because it’s protected in a bay, the clear aqua water is often calm, though it was windy and wavy on our go to. The powdery white sand was the nicest of all of the seashores we visited.
That is an especially widespread seaside, and in mid-August, the free part was packed even at 9am. We had been glad we’d splurged on the flamboyant lido, Bahia del Sol Porto Cesareo, for extra space.
Whereas our Bahia Luxurious bundle was very costly (€220 in peak season), we had been ready to make use of the payment as credit score in the direction of foods and drinks (champagne helped us use it up!). It was price it for a snug, enjoyable day on the seaside on the busiest time of yr.
For a really completely different seaside vibe, head to Porto Selvaggio, a wooded nature reserve.
That is a lot much less developed, with no lidos, though it does get busy in summer time.
It’s important to stroll by pine timber to achieve the seaside. We parked by the Villa Tafuri entrance, which is just a 10-minute stroll to the seaside on a rocky path (uphill on the way in which again).
The seaside is small and pebbly, and the water is colder than at different seashores, however it’s crystal clear. Snorkelling was surprisingly good and I noticed loads of fish.
For sandy seashores on the Adriatic Coast, head north of Otranto.
Torre dell’Orso has powdery white sand, aqua sea, and enticing rock formations referred to as Le Due Sorelle (The Two Sisters). There’s a mixture of public seaside and lidos.
Different Issues to Do in Salento Italy
Drive the Coast Highway to Santa Maria di Leuca
Probably the most scenic drive on the Salento peninsula is the SP358 on the Adriatic Coast between Santa Cesarea Terme to Santa Maria di Leuca (it’s also possible to begin in Otranto).
The winding 35km street follows the dramatic rocky shoreline with sea views a lot of the approach. It takes about an hour to drive, however there are many attainable stops together with:
- Grotta Zinzulusa – A cave you possibly can take a tour of. We skipped it because it appeared too busy and industrial.
- Castro Marina – A reasonably bay with good swimming, bars and eating places. See above.
- Cala dell’Acquaviva – A rocky swimming spot.
- Tricase Porto – A cute harbour with waterfront cafes and a pebble seaside.
- Marina Serra – A pure swimming pool.
- Il Ciolo – Undoubtedly cease at this scenic cove in a ravine. There’s a terrific view from the bridge or you possibly can stroll down the steps to the tiny rocky seaside for a swim, however it will get packed in summer time. In cooler climate, take a look at the climbing trails.
Don’t blindly observe your GPS on this route because it’ll attempt to take you inland.
We’ve pushed this street in August and September and it’s rather more satisfying outdoors the summer time. Whereas the street itself was quiet in August, the cities and swimming spots had been rammed and parking was very tough. Begin early if you happen to can.
Discover the Coast by Boat
Santa Maria di Leuca is likely one of the hottest Salento locations to take a ship journey. Situated on the tip of the peninsula, it’s the place the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet, so you possibly can discover each coastlines.
Most individuals take a guided boat journey like this small group tour of the caves. They’re cheap and sometimes final 1 hour half-hour (3 hours to see each coasts) together with a swimming cease.
In August, the boat journeys regarded very crowded, so we rented our personal boat from Piccola Nautica. The most cost effective 40HP boat, the Simpaty Honda (which doesn’t require a ship licence) prices from €85 for 4 hours.
It was simple to drive, comfy, and had house to lie on the cushions on the entrance. There’s a 10km restrict on the place you possibly can go, so you possibly can’t attain the sandy seashores north of Torre Vado.
We began on the Adriatic Coast previous the lighthouse and alongside this undeveloped, rocky coast of rugged cliffs and sea caves.
You possibly can’t take the boat into the caves, however technically you may anchor and swim in. It was too wavy for us to do that, although.
After returning to Leuca, we continued within the different route on the Ionian Coast. The shoreline is decrease with extra pebble seashores the place you possibly can anchor and swim within the clear water.
We loved our journey and it was a great way to see the coast, however we didn’t discover it as spectacular as related boat journeys we did in Corfu.
Subsequent time, I’d love to do that kayak tour, which appears to be like like a greater approach to discover the caves.
Take a Cooking Class
A cooking class is a superb approach to find out about Salento meals and luxuriate in a scrumptious meal. Lecce has essentially the most selection of lessons.
We did a category with Cooking Expertise in Lecce, which included purchasing on the market earlier than making contemporary pasta and different tasty native dishes. We ended the night with a leisurely meal to get pleasure from the whole lot we’d made.
Learn extra about our Lecce cooking class.
Different Salento cooking lessons embrace:
Uncover Native Festivals
The Salento’s geographical isolation has led to a robust identification with its personal delicacies, traditions, and music, influenced by its Greek previous.
There are numerous festivals in villages and cities throughout the area, particularly in summer time. It may be laborious to seek out info, so look out for posters regionally or ask your lodging or at a vacationer workplace. This information to festivals in Puglia lists a few of them.
Probably the most well-known is the Notte della Taranta on the finish of August, which is a celebration of pizzica, the native people music and dance. The primary live performance takes place in Melpignano, however there are small occasions everywhere in the area.
Style and Store at iContadini
iContadini is a big farm store between Felline and Ugento. They develop greens and tomatoes and dry them within the solar, protect them beneath oil, or make spreads and sauces.
It’s extra of an expertise than a store. The employees converse a number of languages and can introduce you to the varied merchandise. You are able to do a tasting to determine what you’d like to purchase—it’s free and parts are beneficiant.
Should you plan to self-cater, come right here close to the beginning of your journey to fill up on pasta, taralli, oil, and sauces. The merchandise additionally make good souvenirs.
We cherished the whole lot we purchased, however our favorite was the sundried tomato patè.
Not like many Italian shops, iContadini is open all day from 8am-8pm. I like to recommend going round 7pm earlier than heading to Felline for dinner.
Attempt Salento Wine
Salento is thought for its Salice Salentino wine, a full-bodied purple created from Negroamaro grapes. Primitivo is one other widespread purple selection. In summer time, I’m a giant fan of Salento rosato (rosé).
Our favorite place to strive Salento wines is Enoteca Mamma Elvira in Lecce, the place you possibly can strive all kinds of wines by the glass accompanied by tasty small plates.
Should you’d desire to find out about native wine from an professional, contemplate this Salento wine tasting in Lecce the place you strive six wines with native merchandise.
Visiting an area vineyard is more difficult for English audio system as most aren’t properly arrange for guests. One possibility is that this wine expertise at Feudi di Guagnano vineyard, 25 minutes outdoors Lecce.
Or be a part of this Primitivo and Negroamaro wine tour from Lecce, which visits two wineries and consists of lunch.
Pattern Salento Delicacies
Don’t miss these typical Salento dishes:
- Puccia Salentina – A sandwich made with a spherical, flat roll. You possibly can select from all kinds of fillings and there are all the time vegetarian choices utilizing native greens preserved in oil.
- Ciceri e Tria – A comforting pasta and chickpea dish. A few of the pasta is fried so as to add crunch.
- Sagne ‘Ncannulate – An extended twisty pasta sometimes served with a sauce of tomato and robust ricotta.
- Rustico Leccese – Puff pastry crammed with mozzarella and tomato. Present in bakeries as a snack or typically in eating places as an appetiser. It’s finest when heat.
- Pasticciotto – Flaky pastry (often made with lard) full of custard. Discover it in bars and bakeries for breakfast or as a candy deal with.
- Caffè Leccese – Additionally referred to as caffè salentino outdoors Lecce, this iced espresso is made with latte di mandorla, a candy almond syrup. I don’t often like espresso however discover it so refreshing.
My information to Puglia meals has extra dishes to look out for all through the area together with the most common pasta, orecchiette (little ears).
Greatest Eating places in Salento Puglia
Listed here are a few of our favorite locations to eat in Salento.
See our information to the most effective eating places in Lecce for a lot of extra suggestions.
The Felline part above has extra suggestions.
- Pizza & Co, Lecce – Scrumptious pizza slices for a fast meal.
- Baldo, Lecce – Our favorite gelato.
- Gelateria Dolce Leuca, Santa Maria di Leuca – One other good gelato spot.
- Alle Due Corti, Lecce – A terrific place to strive conventional dishes like ciceri e tria. Don’t miss the vegetarian antipasti to start out.
- Postofisso, Otranto – Tasty puccia (sandwiches). We cherished the vegetarian one.
- Duca, Ugento – A trendy restaurant within the Monteforte Resort in an untouristy city. We ate on the roof terrace with a view of the fortress. The meals is excellent and fairly priced for its high quality. That they had a number of vegetarian choices on the menu however supplied to make us some extras off-menu too. It’s price travelling for.
- La Corte, Gallipoli – An upmarket pizzeria with some artistic toppings, though we most well-liked the traditional Margherita.
- Delizie in Contea, Castro – Fantastic platters of native merchandise on a reasonably piazza.
- Masseria Sant’Angelo – Our Salento feasts whereas staying at this farm had been a few of our most memorable meals. It could be open to non-guests a number of occasions every week in the summertime.
- Martinucci Laboratorio – This native chain of bars is sweet for espresso, pastries, and gelato. Unusually, they’ve vegan cornetti and pasticciotto.
The place to Keep in Salento
One of the best space to remain in Salento is determined by your pursuits.
For a metropolis break, Lecce is the most effective wager. The walkable historic centre is gorgeous and there are many eating places and bars. It’s centrally positioned for day journeys, so it received’t take greater than an hour to get anyplace on the peninsula.
We rented an Airbnb, however there are many beautiful inns in historic buildings. At Dimora Storica Torre Del Parco 1419 you possibly can even keep in a fortress.
If you wish to keep in a lovely city on the coast, contemplate Otranto, Gallipoli, or Castro.
We completely cherished Resort La Roccia proper on the water in Castro. Rooms are easy however all have sea views and embrace a assured spot at their lido. This was a serious benefit in August.
In case your precedence is to spend a lot of time on the seaside, Torre Lapillo, Torre San Giovanni, and Marina di Pescoluse have lodging choices as do many seaside cities on the Ionian Coast. My choose can be a vacation rental proper on Torre Lapillo seaside.
There aren’t any actual beachfront resorts in Salento.
We often keep in vacation leases. Twice we’ve chosen random areas primarily based on the homes out there on websites like Vrbo. This works out properly if you happen to aren’t bothered about strolling to sights and plan to take day journeys.
On our most up-to-date summer time keep, we rented Dimora Acquare, a spacious one-bedroom home close to Felline. The distant rural location isn’t for everybody, however it’s solely a 10-minute drive to Torre Giovanni seaside.
The best way to Get to Salento Italy
Salento is finest explored with a automobile as public transport is proscribed and sluggish. You possibly can hire vehicles on the airports or in Lecce. Examine Rental Vehicles or Kayak for automobile rent offers.
Brindisi (BDS) is the closest airport, simply half-hour from Lecce. It has some worldwide flights together with from funds airways like Ryanair.
Should you can’t discover flights to Brindisi, Bari Airport (BRI) additionally works. It’s just below two hours north of Lecce and there are some superb locations to discover on the way in which (see our Puglia journey information).
We often fly or take a prepare to Bari and hire a automobile there to journey round Puglia.
We did principally handle and not using a automobile once we spent a month in Lecce, however we rented one for 2 days for day journeys.
Lecce is well reached by prepare because it’s the final cease on the nationwide community (see Trenitalia). It’s a 6-hour prepare journey from Rome.
You possibly can hook up with Otranto and Gallipoli from Lecce on the regional prepare community (Ferrovie del Sud Est), however there are restricted companies (with none on Sundays) and also you may want to alter. Driving is often faster round Salento.
The Greatest Time to Go to Salento
One of the best months to go to Salento for heat climate however much less crowded seashores are Might, early June, September, and October.
I like to recommend avoiding July and August until you’re keen on crowded seashores (there are many events and festivals if you’re in search of a vigorous vibe). Mid-August is absolutely the worst for crowds.
We had been shocked by how crowded Salento seashores had been in August, and parking was additionally a problem at coastal cities. We had blue skies and 35ºC temperatures daily, however it was a bit too sizzling for us.
If you need to go to in summer time and the busy coastal cities get an excessive amount of, head inland the place the cities are a lot quieter. And go to the seaside early (earlier than 8am) to keep away from the crowds.
We additionally discovered April a pleasing month in Salento. It wasn’t fairly seaside climate, however it was sunny and heat and splendid for exploring the cities.
Map of Salento Italy
Is Salento Italy Price Visiting?
Completely, the Salento is price visiting! Puglia is one among our favorite areas in Italy and the Salento is the place to return for beautiful seashores, untouristy cities, fascinating tradition, and naturally, scrumptious meals.
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