The southbound coastline from Otranto to the Cape of Leuca is a dreamy, spiritual experience over a wild scenery of history and uncontaminated nature… a 30 minutes driving journey that will blow your mind.
Beauty apart, the energy is strong on these shores: for ages, Leuca was considered “the world’s end”, and Otranto Europe’s gate to the Orient.
Otranto is an experience itself, a labyrinth of tiny streets around the castle and the port, think Mikonos or Ibiza and to get a hint. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Albanian shores, in Otranto Italy meets the Balkans, both geographically and culturally.
Even though it’s only alive 3 months a year, in summer it becomes the local capital of nightlife and sophisticated sociality, with a large choice of good restaurants, events, exhibitions and interesting shopping. Winter is dormient and most business are closed, which is just another kind of magic.
5 minutes south, Le Orte Bay is a breathtaking cliff with tiny little caves – great for swimming-, and the Red lake of Bauxite nearby is astonishing with its surreal, psychedelic colors. A little further, Punta Palascia is Italy’s most eastern point – great for a trek down to the lighthouse, especially at sunrise where the Albanian coast can be clearly seen.
Now onwards just drive for about 15 minutes along the cliff and feel the wildest flavor of Salento. It’s all rocks, land red like fire, dry vegetation, and the sea color ranges from green to cobalt to turquoise. Mediterranean in full effect.
If you like jazz, the latest mix from the Salento Finest dj’s is a dreamy soundtrack for this journey
Reach Santa Cesarea Terme, once a chic summer resort and now a quite village where traces of the past grandeur are still visible. Nothing happens here though. Better drive to beautiful Castro, a lively village by the port with prehistoric grottos, great swims in ice cold water, a good gastronomic offer and a really cool vibe.
The upper town, Castro Alta, is a restored jewel developing on terraced paddies with an amazing Bellavista. New pieces from “The Goddess Minerve”- a giant Greek statue of non-estimable value – keep being found here, testimony to the area’s relevance in the Greek era. The nearby villages Diso and Spongano and worth a visit too.
Head further south, go past Andrano – the Acquaviva bay and the Grotta Azzurra offer memorable swims- and meet Tricase Porto, a town now very popular among the international jet set. Same vibe as Castro, a bit posher maybe.
Very 80’s nostalgia, but hey that’s very Italy too! Ultimately, the several natural attractions, the stunning Moresque and Colonial architecture, and the bright cultural scene make of this an interesting part of the peninsula. The local European Film Festival is huge. Nearby, the Natural Pool of Marina Serra is unbelievable. A secret though: it’s not natural at all, it’s all man made.
And finally, Leuca, “De Finibus Terrae” – the end of the world. With its cute retro twist, amazing blue sea and subtle glamour – really nice villas and boats can be spotted here – Leuca is pure power, a combination of old-school elegance and beauty. Of the wild and the sophisticated.
Best spots for swimming are the Ciolo fiord and San Gregorio, where the Archaeology site of Vereto, with the remains of a pre-Roman city (Vaereturm), would really deserves a dedicated visit