Exquisite jewels of the Salento, rich in history, art and culture.
Also known as the “Florence of the South” for its stunning baroque buildings, Spanish alleys and friezes carved in local stone, a light warm-coloured sandstone that is easily sculpted. Salento’s most famous city of art is an open-air museum. Piazza Sant’Oronzo is the main square in Lecce, the city’s elegant living room and central meeting place with shops and cafés. The pavement of the beautiful oval piazza is adorned by a mosaic with the city’s coat of arms: a wolf under a holm oak and a crown with 5 towers. The piazza also hosts, just below street level, the Ancient Roman Amphitheatre, built in the second century, and other Roman ruins. The Castle erected by King Charles V in 1539 is just a few steps away. And don’t miss the Duomo dedicated to Maria SS. Assunta built in 1144 in the piazza by the same name.
Italy’s most eastern town, also known as the “Door to the East.” Otranto is a crossroads of creeds, cultures and religions and has been dominated and inhabited by different peoples over the course of the centuries. The ancient town is enclosed by massive stone walls that defended it against enemies in the past. The town, in fact, is the symbol of resistance against Turkish conquest and its Castello Aragonese (1485 – 1498), also known as the “Fort on the Sea,” often hosts interesting art, painting, sculpture and photography exhibitions. The Romanesque Cathedral, which embodies a succession of different styles, was completed in 1088. Inside, it protects the most beautiful mosaic in the west: a complete representation of medieval history and culture through symbols and figures. Otranto’s historic centre is a labyrinth of tight alleyways with beautiful little shops selling local products.
The pearl of the Ionian Coast. Its original Greek name was “Kalè Polis” meaning beautiful city. Its historical centre, which is erected on a limestone island and surrounded by crystal blue waters, is connected to the mainland by a seventeenth century bridge. The Castello Angioino-Aragonese rises at the end of the bridge. During the Summer, its higher courts, known as the “Rivellino” host outdoor movie projections.
This gorgeous sea town has two parts: a more recent “borgo” and the historic centre with its delightful art and rich history. A 16th century Greek Fountain, decorated with beautiful bas-reliefs, adorns the beginning of the bridge that connects the ancient and newer parts of Gallipoli. The Baroque Catheral of Sant’Agata (1629-1696) crowns the highest part of town with its façade, richly adorned in the local sandstone known as “carparo.” The Chiesa di San Francesco d’Assisi protects the statue of the “malladrone,” a wooden statue that was defined by Gabriele D’Annunzio as being “horribly beautiful.” A city of culture and nightlife alike.
SANTA MARIA DI LEUCA
From the Ancient Greek Leukòs, meaning “white,” Santa Maria di Leuca is a small, gleaming white town. Its buildings are decorated with the typical local sandstone that shines in the sun above the blue sea. It’s a magical town, defined in ancient times “finibus terrae”, land’s end, where the Ionian and Adriatic seas meet. The Basilica Santuario di Santa Maria de Finibus Terrae, which rises on the promontory that overlooks the coast on the ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to Minerva, is a pilgrim milestone. Visiting Leuca is taking a walk into a rich past of cave dwellings, crypts and settlements. Furthermore, the entire coastline is dotted with numerous karst caves.
Discovering Puglia through its produce – grapes and wine, olives and oil, the intense yellow of its wheat – all of which have been cultivated since antiquity. It’s a journey through time and the five senses.