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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 preferred summer time vacation spot for Italians, however international guests usually overlook it. That’s a disgrace as except for the gorgeous shoreline, Salento options untouristy historic cities, scrumptious meals, and engaging native tradition with many festivals.
It’s additionally house to Lecce, a metropolis of golden baroque structure that’s one of the vital gorgeous in Italy.
We’ve visited Salento many instances together with most lately for a month-long summer time keep.
On this detailed Salento Italy journey information, we share our suggestions for the very best cities, seashores, actions, and meals, plus the place to remain and the right way to get there.
On the finish of the submit, 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 submit, I share a Salento Italy map and particulars of the right way 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 lovely small cities to go to. Particularly inland, you’ll usually discover historic streets, historic 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” on account of its lovely 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’ll be able to spend the morning wandering the whitewashed streets and the afternoon stress-free on its small however fairly seaside and swimming within the turquoise water.
The principle attraction is Otranto Cathedral with its big 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 other facet of the peninsula from Otranto overlooking the Ionian Sea.
The spotlight is the outdated city on an island that’s related to the mainland by a causeway. Wander the slender streets previous hidden church buildings or stroll alongside town partitions for sea views.
The partitions are the proper place for a drink at sundown. We loved aperitivo at Trattoria Scoglio delle Sirene with an exquisite view.
Probably the most fascinating sights in Gallipoli is Frantoio Ipogeo in Granafei Palace, an underground olive press that was first utilized in 1600.
You’ll be able to 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 among the finest seashores in Salento.
That is a particularly common vacation spot with Italians in summer time and we discovered the crowds on our August night stroll right here fairly overwhelming. It’s far more nice outdoors excessive season.
Castro is much less visited than Otranto or Gallipoli and is my new favorite coastal city in Salento. Even throughout the busiest week of the yr (mid-August), Castro felt vigorous fairly 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 lease sunbeds on the rocks. You’ll be able to take boat journeys to discover close by caves.
Up the hill is Castro outdated city (accessed by a shuttle practice or steep stroll), one of many prettiest small cities in Salento. There’s a citadel 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 suggest persevering with the coastal drive right down to Santa Maria di Leuca (see issues to do beneath).
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 preferred spa resort with the higher courses from Lecce who constructed ornate, vibrant villas right here. Two of probably the most iconic are the Moorish-style Palazzo Sticchi and Villa Raffaela with its Disney citadel 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 function 30ºC sulphurous water. Spa therapies are additionally obtainable.
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, but it surely’s among the finest locations to go to in Salento for a ship journey. We rented our personal boat (see beneath).
The most well-liked sight is the lighthouse subsequent to the basilica, Santa Maria de Finibus Terrae.
25 minutes south of Lecce is Galatina, one in every of my favorite untouristy inland cities.
The beautiful historic centre options golden baroque buildings like in Lecce and is a pleasure to wander.
The principle 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 stuffed with cream) was invented right here. You’ll be able to strive it at Pasticceria Andrea Ascalone, however be aware that it does include 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 principle 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 without doubt 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 one of the vital 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 world 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 citadel and probably the most lovely piazza embellished with fairy lights.
There’s not a lot to see throughout the day (besides the close by iContadini store, see beneath), so come for dinner at one of many eating places with outdoors seating.
Vite Colta, which is run by an area winemaker, is our favorite. Antico Monastero is the most well-liked restaurant and we cherished the stuffed pepper starter. We loved the pasta at Terra e Sale too.
Greatest Seashores in Salento Puglia
The seashores are the principle cause many individuals go to Salento. You’re 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 special 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 just a few 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 very best Salento seashores:
Torre San Giovanni
The Salento coast is filled with fashionable 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 Seaside.
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 highway at A Puccia Salentina.
Marina di Pescoluse
Additional south on the Ionian Coast is Marina di Pescoluse, referred to as the Maldives of Salento due to its crystal clear water.
We’ve been to the Maldives and this doesn’t evaluate, but it surely’s nonetheless a gorgeous 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 lease an umbrella and beds from a vendor (€18) and set them up in a first-rate 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 a particularly common 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 in a position to make use of the payment as credit score in the direction of food and drinks (champagne helped us use it up!). It was price it for a cushty, stress-free 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.
You must stroll via pine timber to achieve the seaside. We parked by the Villa Tafuri entrance, which is barely 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, but it surely’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 engaging rock formations known 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 Street 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 (you may as well begin in Otranto).
The winding 35km highway follows the dramatic rocky shoreline with sea views many of the approach. It takes about an hour to drive, however there are many potential stops together with:
- Grotta Zinzulusa – A cave you’ll be able to take a tour of. We skipped it because it appeared too busy and business.
- 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’ll be able to stroll down the steps to the tiny rocky seaside for a swim, but it surely will get packed in summer time. In cooler climate, take a look at the mountaineering trails.
Don’t blindly observe your GPS on this route because it’ll attempt to take you inland.
We’ve pushed this highway in August and September and it’s far more gratifying outdoors the summer time. Whereas the highway itself was quiet in August, the cities and swimming spots had been rammed and parking was very tough. Begin early should you can.
Discover the Coast by Boat
Santa Maria di Leuca is without doubt one of the hottest Salento locations to take a ship journey. Positioned on the tip of the peninsula, it’s the place the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet, so you’ll be able to 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 appeared very crowded, so we rented our personal boat from Piccola Nautica. The most affordable 40HP boat, the Simpaty Honda (which doesn’t require a ship licence) prices from €85 for 4 hours.
It was simple to drive, snug, and had house to lie on the cushions on the entrance. There’s a 10km restrict on the place you’ll be able to go, so you’ll be able to’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’ll be able to’t take the boat into the caves, however technically you possibly can 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’ll be able to 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 comparable boat journeys we did in Corfu.
Subsequent time, I’d love to do that kayak tour, which seems to be like a greater solution to discover the caves.
Take a Cooking Class
A cooking class is a superb solution to find out about Salento meals and luxuriate in a scrumptious meal. Lecce has probably the most alternative of courses.
We did a category with Cooking Expertise in Lecce, which included purchasing on the market earlier than making recent pasta and different tasty native dishes. We ended the night with a leisurely meal to take pleasure in every part we’d made.
Learn extra about our Lecce cooking class.
Different Salento cooking courses embrace:
Uncover Native Festivals
The Salento’s geographical isolation has led to a powerful id with its personal delicacies, traditions, and music, influenced by its Greek previous.
There are a lot of festivals in villages and cities throughout the area, particularly in summer time. It may be exhausting to seek out data, so look out for posters domestically 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 principle 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 underneath 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 assorted merchandise. You are able to do a tasting to resolve what you’d like to purchase—it’s free and parts are beneficiant.
If you happen to 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 every part 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.
Strive Salento Wine
Salento is thought for its Salice Salentino wine, a full-bodied crimson constituted of Negroamaro grapes. Primitivo is one other common crimson 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’ll be able to strive all kinds of wines by the glass accompanied by tasty small plates.
If you happen to’d want to find out about native wine from an skilled, contemplate this Salento wine tasting in Lecce the place you strive six wines with native merchandise.
Visiting an area vineyard is tougher for English audio system as most aren’t properly arrange for guests. One choice is that this wine expertise at Feudi di Guagnano vineyard, 25 minutes outdoors Lecce.
Or be part of this Primitivo and Negroamaro wine tour from Lecce, which visits two wineries and contains lunch.
Pattern Salento Delicacies
Don’t miss these typical Salento dishes:
- Puccia Salentina – A sandwich made with a spherical, flat roll. You’ll be able to 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 number of the pasta is fried so as to add crunch.
- Sagne ‘Ncannulate – An extended twisty pasta sometimes served with a sauce of tomato and powerful ricotta.
- Rustico Leccese – Puff pastry stuffed with mozzarella and tomato. Present in bakeries as a snack or generally in eating places as an appetiser. It’s finest when heat.
- Pasticciotto – Flaky pastry (often made with lard) filled with custard. Discover it in bars and bakeries for breakfast or as a candy deal with.
- Caffè Leccese – Additionally known 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 below are a few of our favorite locations to eat in Salento.
See our information to the very best 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 fantastic place to strive conventional dishes like ciceri e tria. Don’t miss the vegetarian antipasti to begin.
- Postofisso, Otranto – Tasty puccia (sandwiches). We cherished the vegetarian one.
- Duca, Ugento – A trendy restaurant within the Monteforte Lodge in an untouristy city. We ate on the roof terrace with a view of the citadel. The meals is great and fairly priced for its high quality. They’d just a few vegetarian choices on the menu however provided 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 – Great platters of native merchandise on a fairly piazza.
- Masseria Sant’Angelo – Our Salento feasts whereas staying at this farm had been a few of our most memorable meals. It might be open to non-guests just a few instances 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
The most effective space to remain in Salento is dependent upon your pursuits.
For a metropolis break, Lecce is the very best guess. The walkable historic centre is gorgeous and there are many eating places and bars. It’s centrally positioned for day journeys, so it gained’t take greater than an hour to get anyplace on the peninsula.
We rented an Airbnb, however there are many attractive lodges in historic buildings. At Dimora Storica Torre Del Parco 1419 you’ll be able to even keep in a citadel.
If you wish to keep in a gorgeous city on the coast, contemplate Otranto, Gallipoli, or Castro.
We completely cherished Lodge 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 significant 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 could 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 based mostly on the homes obtainable on websites like Vrbo. This works out properly should you aren’t bothered about strolling to points of interest 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, but it surely’s solely a 10-minute drive to Torre Giovanni seaside.
Seek for Salento vacation leases on Vrbo right here.
Or see a spread of Salento lodging on Reserving right here.
The right way to Get to Salento Italy
Salento is finest explored with a automotive as public transport is restricted and gradual. You’ll be able to lease automobiles on the airports or in Lecce. Examine Rental Vehicles or Kayak for automotive 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.
Examine Kiwi or Skyscanner for flight choices.
If you happen to can’t discover flights to Brindisi, Bari Airport (BRI) additionally works. It’s just below two hours north of Lecce and there are some wonderful locations to discover on the way in which (see our Puglia journey information).
We often fly or take a practice to Bari and lease a automotive there to journey round Puglia.
We did principally handle and not using a automotive once we spent a month in Lecce, however we rented one for 2 days for day journeys.
Lecce is well reached by practice because it’s the final cease on the nationwide community (see Trenitalia). It’s a 6-hour practice trip from Rome.
You’ll be able to hook up with Otranto and Gallipoli from Lecce on the regional practice community (Ferrovie del Sud Est), however there are restricted providers (with none on Sundays) and also you would possibly want to alter. Driving is often faster round Salento.
The Greatest Time to Go to Salento
The most effective months to go to Salento for heat climate however much less crowded seashores are Could, early June, September, and October.
I like to recommend avoiding July and August until you like crowded seashores (there are many events and festivals in case you are on the lookout for 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 on daily basis, but it surely was a bit too sizzling for us.
If it’s a must 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, but it surely was sunny and heat and supreme for exploring the cities.
Map of Salento Italy
Is Salento Italy Price Visiting?
Completely, the Salento is price visiting! Puglia is one in every of our favorite areas in Italy and the Salento is the place to return for beautiful seashores, untouristy cities, fascinating tradition, and naturally, scrumptious meals.