The southbound coastline from Lecce to the Cape of Leuca is a dreamy, spiritual experience over a wild scenery of history and uncontaminated nature… a 50 minutes driving journey that will blow your mind.
Beauty apart, the energy is strong down here: for ages, Leuca was considered “the world’s end”, and Otranto Europe’s gate to the Orient. And the Greeks came way before the Romans…
Drive south from Lecce and meet Roca vecchia, a prehistoric settlement by the cliff where traces of a very ancient past are well visible and the scenery is breath-taking. I reccommend a trekking from the “Rocamel” beachclub to the “Grotta della Poesia” to discover in about one hour an impressive sequence of impressive grottos, little bays and archeological sites.
Now drive south until Otranto, the queen town of Salento. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Albanian coast, Italy meets the Balkans here, 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 businesses are closed… just another kind of magic!
5 minutes south Le Orte Bay is a breath-taking cliff with tiny little caves, and the Red lake of Bauxite nearby is astonishing with its psychedelic colors.
A little further, Punta Palascia is Italy’s most eastern point – You can 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 a sea whose 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
You have now reached 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 head to Castro, a lively port town with prehistoric grottos, great swims in ice cold water, a good gastronomic offer and a really cool vibe. The higher part of Castro – Castro Alta – is interesting too.
Further south go past Andrano – yet the Acquaviva bay and the Grotta Azzurra offer memorable swims and the Anam bar is recommended for a pit-stop in style – until Tricase Porto: a town now very popular among the international jet set. Same vibe as Castro actually, a bit posher maybe.
It is very 80’s nostalgia, but hey that’s very Italy too! Ultimately this area is a winning mix of natural attractions, good architecture, beach, all things gourmet and a bright cultural scene. The local European Film Festival is huge.
Nearby, the Natural Pool of Marina Serra is nice to see. 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. And i love it how the wild and the sophisticated cohexist here.
Best spots for swimming: the Ciolo fiord and San Gregorio, where the Archaeology site of Vereto – with the remains of a pre-Roman city (Vaereturm)- deserves alone a dedicated visit.