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The province of Lecce is totally included in the Salento Peninsula which is itself a sub-peninsula of the Italian Peninsula. Salento encompasses the entire administrative area of the provinces of Lecce, some of Brindisi and part of Taranto. It also known as Terra d'Otranto, and in ancient times it also wore the names of Messapia, Calabria, and Salentina. Foreigners refer to it as the "heel of the Italian "Boot".
Getting to know each other better
Grecìa Salentina consists of eleven towns and forms part of the province
Castrignano de' Greci Corigliano d'Otranto
Zollino Dance Festival
Your link to Salento
~ OFF THE BEATEN PATH ~
Not to miss
Santa Maria De Leuca
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Fully included in the Salento region, the Province of Lecce is the second most populous in Puglia after that of Bari.
Salento (Salentu in local dialect) is the south-eastern part of Puglia, a sub-peninsula of the main Italian Peninsula, sometimes described as the "heel" of the Italian "boot".
It encompasses the entire administrative area of the province of Lecce, a large part of the province of Brindisi and part of that of Taranto.
The peninsula is also known as Terra d'Otranto, and in ancient times was called variously Messapia, Calabria, and Salentina.
Ancient civilization from overseas have strongly influenced the culture of these places. By the end of the Middle Ages large parts of Calabria, Lucania, Apulia, and Sicily continued to speak Greek as their mother tongue.
The Griko people remained the dominant population element of some regions of Calabria and the Salento until the 16th century.
A journey into the land of Lecce will bring the visitor from prehistoric civilizations, to medieval and to the masterpieces of Baroque architecture of Lecce, from ancient traditions to the skill of master craftsmen.
The territory is almost entirely flat, with hills that slightly go over 200 meters. A peculiarity of this area are Alimini Lakes, northern of Otranto City, in front of the homonymous beach .
All this seasoned with intense and genuine flavors, bestowed by this generous land and the loving work of man. Two seas make this part of Puglia a true paradise for those seeking a holiday of sun, relaxation and fun.
The Adriatic coast, with imposing cliffs and lovely bays nestled between the blue sea and green pine forests, offers an unspoiled landscape, in some parts still in the wild, with some areas of great natural interest, such as the Natural Reserve of San Cataldo.
Beyond the city of Otranto, bays, inlets, cliffs, natural caves draw the coastline, true delight for lovers of scuba diving.
In Santa Maria di Leuca, the Adriatic gives way to the Ionian sea that laps the western coast of Salento, with beaches and seabed of fine sand, where the clarity of water evokes images of the Caribbean.
A harmonious landscape, with plains and gentle hills, occupies the heart of the province, rich in villages that testify the presence of man since prehistoric times.
Between San Cataldo and Otranto, the Adriatic coast offers landscapes of extraordinary beauty: white cliffs contrast with the blue of the sea and are interrupted occasionally by a sandy shoreline.
Porto Cesareo, Gallipoli and Torre San Giovanni are some of the "pearls" located on the Ionian coast, with Santa Maria di Leuca to mark the boundary between the two seas of Puglia.
Between Otranto and Gallipoli, the strength of winds and sea has carved the limestone cliffs, giving rise to evocative natural caves like Grotta Zinzulusa, full of stalactites and stalagmites, the Grotta Grande del Ciolo and the caves of the Natural Park of Porto Selvaggio.
A land almost completely surrounded by the sea is definitely a favorite destination for lovers of water sports. Sailing, windsurfing and kite surfing have their best environment along the Adriatic coast, where the presence of winds can challenge you to compete in exciting "races" set in a beautiful seascape.
The cliffs are, instead, an excellent training ground for those who prefer more extreme activities like rock climbing and free climbing. And if you like exploration, orienteering is right for you: sport, play and fun all in one activity for the whole family.
Trekking amateurs and experts are spoiled for choice between the coastal paths, ancient mule tracks and the numerous caves. If you do not fancy walking, you can choose a mountain bike trip to discover the hidden corners of Salento.
Scuba diving enthusiasts will be delighted by the underwater landscape, with its extensive colorful seagrass meadows of gorgonians and poseidonia, and rich in canals, cavities and crevices to explore. Santa Cesarea Terme, in addition to being one of the best places to practice diving, is an important spa, known for the curative properties of the sulfur water gushing from the four caves.
But the generosity of the lands of Lecce is not limited to the artistic beauties and those of the long coastline.
Even inland areas, with their vast landscapes, natural sites and the important prehistoric remains, offer many opportunities that should not be underestimated. Plantations of vineyards and olive groves are geometrically shaped and outlined by low dry stonewalls built with the characteristic local stone that is also found here in the typical farmhouses and dolmens and menhirs, remains of the ancient Messapica civilization.
A history book in the open, where the chapter devoted to the Middle Ages is told by the ancient villages and imposing castles; the Renaissance, by the manor houses that, although to a lesser extent, recall the splendor and elegance of the capital.
Lying on a plain at the foot of the Salento plateau is Lecce - the Florence of the South - one of the most interesting cities in the region for its architecture, typical of the seventeenth century.
Of ancient origins, the city experienced in particular two moments of prosperity: the Roman era and the Kingdom of Naples. At this time, there was a large growth in the construction of buildings, monuments and mansions characterized by a magnificent and rich ornamentation that earned this typical architecture the definition of “Leccese Baroque”.
Arriving in Otranto, we recommend a visit to the historic city centre, surrounded by mighty walls and dominated by the Castle built in the 15th century by Ferdinand I of Aragon and the Cathedral with a beautiful mosaic floor (12th century) depicting the history of the period.
A dense maze of narrow cobbled alleys and streets is at the heart of Otranto, where the white of the houses is mixed with the colors of the many craft and souvenir shops.
It is nestled in the clear waters of the Adriatic and Ionian coast, where tall cliffs sculptured by the sea alternate with sandy beaches, green stretches of marquis and a small Eden reachable by boat only.
The official Griko towns in
the province if Lecce.
Lecce is a historic city of the province of Lecce, as well as one of the most important cities of Puglia.
It is the main city of the Salentine Peninsula, a sub-peninsula at the heel of the Italian Peninsula and is over 2,000 years old. To this day, in the GrecìaSalentina, a group of towns not far from Lecce, the griko language is still spoken.
Grecìa Salentina consists of eleven towns and forms part of the province of Lecce.
Beaches are very very busy in August.
The Ionian coast
Considered one of the wildest beaches of Salento, a popular site by anyone who appreciates the opportunity to admire the unspoiled natural paradises. The beach is surrounded by the typical Mediterranean woods.
Known as the Spiaggia della Purita' (Purity Beach), in recent years the area has become the focus of Puglia’s summer gay scene.
Marina di Pescoluse
(wrongly refered to as Maldive del Salento)
Crystal clear water , shallow waters, fine white sand.
Santa Maria di Leuca.
A popular resort for wealthy Puglians since the early 1900s located on the southernmost tip of the Salento peninsula where the waters of the Adriatic Sea mingle and merge with those of the Ionian.
Other destinations on the Ionian coast.
Porto Selvaggio - Marina di Nardo' Punta della Suina - Marina di Alliste -
Torre San Giovanni
Torre Mozza - Lido Marini - Torre Vado
The Adriatic Coast.
Torre dell'Orso ( Marina di Malendugno).
In front of the coast there are two twin rocks, called "The Two Sisters", legend tells how two women bewitched by the beauty of this stretch of sea, threw themselves into its waters.
The gods had compassion on them and decided to turn them into rocks, so that they could stay forever in those places. Sandy beach, dense pine forests and soft winds, make it a loved resort not only by simple swimmers, but also for lovers of surfing.
Torre Sant' Andrea.
This resort, dominated by a thick pine forest, is located inside the district of Medelungo.
The major tourist attractions are formed by the (faraglioni) rocky stacks and the presence of the "Cave of Love", in which it is said that two young lovers died because of the high tide, not having realized the occurrence of a violent storm.
Turks Bay (La Baia dei Turchi).
Located between the Alimini lakes and Otranto. The beach was a landing spot for the invading Turks during the fifteenth century. The wonderful landscape that surrounds the white strip of sand that forms the beach of the bay makes it one of the most popular of Salento. It is bordered by lush Mediterranean vegetation.
Porto Badisco (Approdo Enea).
Crystal clear waters, caves, wild reefs, considered the point of landing of Aeneas on the Apulian coast. In this town there is the Grotta dei Cervi, believed to have hosted the first inhabitants of the area over a period dating back to 4000 years ago. It represents one of the rare examples where the coast is still completely intact.
Places to consider visiting
Zinzilusa Grotto - The entrance to the grotto is an opening in the sheer cliff plunging down into the deep blue of the Adriatic sea. Access is only possible at low tide. It can be reached from Castro or Santa Cesarea Terme.
Lakes - The two lakes are situated 8 km further north, between Otranto and San Cataldo di Lecce.
The larger of the two is called Alimini Grande; its waters are salty as the lake is connected to the sea. The other is fed by a fresh water spring called 'little fountain' (Fontanella).
The gastronomy is as varied as the landscape: oils, wines, cheeses, vegetables and fresh pasta are reminders of the good flavors of the past, achieved thanks to the handcrafted processing of raw materials.
Vegetables, oil, bread and pasta, expertly mixed and measured, are the basic ingredients of Lecce gastronomy.
Orecchiette, maccheroncini and tagliatelle are the champions of first courses.
Condiments range from simple fresh tomato sauce flavored with basil and pecorino or cacio ricotta cheese, to turnip greens, tender lamb meat or fresh local fish.
Vegetables are used to make unique delicious dishes like aubergine parmigiana and "taieddhra", a triumph of flavors made with potatoes, courgettes, onions, and mussels seasoned with grated cheese.
Pizza and focaccia are another characteristic element of the cuisine of Salento. Enriched with vegetables and seasoned with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, they are a real treat.
And do not forget the frise, toasted bread softened in water and seasoned with juicy tomatoes from Apulia, rocket and olive oil, a meal that peasants in the past would eat quickly during the short break for lunch.
Among the main courses, rolls of tripe and lamb entrails cooked in broth or roasted on the grill, lamb with potatoes and, of course, recipes based on fish roasted or fried, in soup or baked.
Urchins, mussels and oysters eaten "raw" are for those who love the strong taste of the sea.
Among the desserts, you can choose between pasticciotto filled with custard cream, Lecce cotognata(cotognata leccese), dried figs and taralli.
Also try the mostaccioli, coated with chocolate and made with grape juice and jam.
Vini del Salento
Aleatico, Squinzano, Cupertino, Galatina, Leverano Matino, Nardo and Salento are the wines of Salento.
Do not forget the oil produced here under the label Terra d'Otranto DOP.
Castles are spread all over the territory of Salento, from coast to coast, passing from the hinterland, although most are channeled along the Adriatic coast because from that part of the sea came the greatest threats of invasion, represented by the Turks and pirates. Almost all towns of Salento have their castle in the old part of the city.
Listed are some of the most interesting ones.
Castello Carlo V - Lecce
The castle of Lecce is located close to the city center, near Piazza St. Oronzo. The castle was not only defensive functions; for example, in the eighteenth century one of the halls was used as a theater.
From 1870 to 1979, the castle was used as a military district.
Otranto Castle (Castello Aragonese)
The Castello Aragonese has an irregular plan with five sides, with a moat running along the entire perimeter. More then a castle is now days an art gallery.
Acaya is a small village, a community frazione of Vernole, a district 10 km away from Lecce. The village center is an example of one of the fortified villages left in Apulia.
The French knight Tristan Chiaromonte (de Clermont-Lodeve) assumed power over the territory on his marriage to Caterina, daughter of Mary of Enghien. With the conquest of the Salento peninsula by the Aragonese dynasty, effected jointly by the Spanish army and knights from Albania, the county was gifted in 1498 to Alfonso Castriota Scanderbeg, in gratitude for military support.
Gallipoli : The town of Gallipoli is divided in two parts, the modern and the old city. The old town is located on a limestone island, linked to the mainland by a bridge built in the 16th century.
The Angevine-Aragonese Castle was built in the 13th century by the Byzantines. It was largely remade under the Angevines and the Aragonese, who added a polygonal wall fortified with round towers.
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Acquarica del Capo | Calimera
Casarano | Castrignano del Capo
Castro | Cavallino | Copertino
Corigliano d'Otranto | Gagliano del Capo
Galatone | Galatina | Gallipoli
Leuca | Magli | Malendugno
Muro Leccese | Nardo' | Otranto
Parabita | Palmariggi | Patu'
Poggiardo | Porto Cesario
San Cesario - Lequile - San Pietro in Lama
San Cataldo | Santa Cesarea Terme
Squinzano | Soleto | Supersano
Ugento | Tricase