They will take care of you
Self-guided – 8 days
Walking through the Salento peninsula
A walking tour from Lecce to Leuca in order to reach the “end of the world” like the ancient pilgrims. A journey through the history that begins with the unmissable visit to the elegant baroque capital and then continues almost in constant contact with the Adriatic Sea, which is particularly crystal clear in this coastal stretch. Here it is also scattered with watchtowers, cliffs and sea caves among the most beautiful ones in the world.
Even the hinterland of the Italian heel is just as impressive. You will see some pajare guarding the countryside and timeless small villages where you can enjoy the specialities of local food and wine.
DAY 1: LECCE
Arrival and accommodation in Lecce. Welcome briefing with a member of Puglia Hiking Tours staff.
DAY 2: SAN FOCA - FRASSANITO
After the evening in Lecce walking around the wonderful baroque old town, you will be taken to San Foca by a transfer. The walk starts from the medieval coastal tower. You will see many other of these towers: it’s about military buildings built around 1500 in order to defend the Salento coast from Saracen invasions. After few steps you will reach Roca Vecchia, an archeological park of great importance, which is home to the archeological excavations of a settlement born in prehistoric times and then survived until the Middle Ages. In front of the ruins of Roca, you will come across the “Grotta della Poesia”, one of the 10 most beautiful natural pools in the world (as National Geographic recently stated). From here begins a stretch of coast with high cliffs overlooking the sea: the path runs between the cliff and a thick pine forest, and you will be constantly enchanted by the colors of the forest, the sky, the sea, the beaches. Along the way, you will pass through Torre dell’Orso, a seaside resort that takes its name from another coastal tower, and which is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in Puglia. Here you can taste a pasticciotto on the terrace of Caffè Dentoni. The first stage ends in the village of Frassanito, just a few steps from the two lakes Alimini.
Difference in altitude: +110 m / -95 m
DAY 3: FRASSANITO – OTRANTO
The second stage begins to tell about the great and unexpected variety of the Salento landscape. We will quit the sea for a while and without going too far, we will spend the whole day by walking next to two lakes. It’s about Alimini lakes, which are two coastal lakes, one of fresh water and the other of salt water. The latter is connected to the sea by a channel. We will walk between the two lakes and the typical Salento countryside, and here you will see a typical cultivation of this area only, the barbatelle, the vine shoots which are prepared here so that they take root and become the basis for new vineyards all over Italy. You will come to Otranto by land and you will enjoy the first sight of it from the chapel of the Madonna dell’Altomare, a beautiful 17C chapel in a splendid panoramic position. A staircase will bring you to the beach and after a few other steps you will be under the large entrance door of the historic centre, a fortified town that ends with the majestic castle. This castle is often the site of important art exhibitions. The ancient village of Otranto was declared UNESCO World Heritage.
Difference in altitude: +89 m / -101 m
DAY 4: OTRANTO – BADISCO
The third stage is one of the most beautiful coastal paths that you can cover along the Adriatic. Within a few kilometres it encloses extraordinary places and stories. Immediately after Otranto you will enter the natural park “Parco Naturale regionale Costa Otranto-Santa Maria di Leuca e Bosco di Tricase”. Henceforth you will continue within the park boundaries for most of the tour. The first sighting is the Torre del Serpente, a coastal tower that is partly ruined. Straight after you will see one of the most hidden and unusual natural pearls of Puglia, the pond of Orte. It’s about an artificial lake created after some excavations for the extraction of bauxite – or better to say, the excavation is artificial, while the emerald water in it naturally comes from the aquifer and creates incredible chromatic contrasts with the bright red of the steep banks and with the shades of blue of both the sky and the sea that surround it. We will continue on a narrow but smooth path until Punta Palascia, where an imposing lighthouse, which seems to dive into the sea, is the first to see the sunrise every morning. We are in the easternmost point of Italy. At some point, (this time from below) you will look at Sant’Emiliano, which dominates the coast from the top of a cliff. A few more steps and we will be at the end of the stage, in Badisco, a small fjord with a beautiful beach where Aeneas, the hero of Virgil’s epic, is said to have landed.
Difference in altitude: +176 m / -175 m
DAY 5: BADISCO – CASTRO
A lot of sea, again, in the fourth stage. The first kilometres will be just few metres from the water, along very ancient traces. Along the way you will meet your immovable and majestic fellow travelers: the medieval watchtowers. We will look at Torre Minervino from below and at Torre Specchia di Guardia from above. In the middle of the stage you can make a stop in Santa Cesarea, renowned for its thermal baths, with splendid villas in the Moorish style. Here we suggest you stop at a café and order a “caffè leccese”, an espresso which is poured in a glass with ice cubes and sweetened with almond milk. It is one of the most authentic Salentine specialities. Not long after Santa Cesarea, this stretch of rocky coast offers us one of the most spectacular sea caves of the Mediterranean, the Zinzulusa cave. Discovered by the bishop of Castro at the end of 1700, it is now accessible since 1957 and it deserves a stop. A few hundred meters after the cave, the stage ends with the arrival in Castro.
Difference in altitude: +252 m / -164 m
DAY 6: CASTRO – TRICASE
We continue with the discovery of the many wonders Salento has to show: castles, villages, ancient trees, dry stone architectures. You will begin the stage from the Angevin Castle, which gave its name to the city (from the Latin Castrum = fortress), built on the highest point of the promontory around the 12th century. Around the castle is spread the village, surrounded by walls as a defence – as well as Otranto – against the constant assaults from the sea. Just outside of Castro you will notice one of the traits of the southernmost part of Salento, the presence of many small villages, sometimes far from each other just a few hundred meters. In a few steps you will pass through Vignacastrisi, you will glimpse the village of Diso and you will be already inside the small town of Marittima. From here on out, you will enjoy a long path of typical Salento countryside, with some sea views and the presence of several “pajare”, which are circular or square buildings entirely built in stone by local farmers over the centuries. They served as home or shelter for animals and tools. Just before you arrive in Tricase you will meet an enormous tree, an almost 1000-year-old Quercia Vallonea. It is an authentic monumental plant, considered among the most beautiful trees in Italy.
Difference in altitude: +148 m / -129 m
DAY 7: TRICASE - LEUCA
In the previous stage you already have traveled long stretches of it, but it is in this last stage that the whole path exactly coincides with the last part of the Via Francigena. Yeah, just that way that in the past took people from Canterbury to Rome (through France, that’s why “Francigena”), and then to the seaports of the eastern end of Italy, in order to embark for the Holy Land. In October 2019 the 900 kilometres of the path that lead from Rome to the Salento have been ratified, and this last stretch has been made official part of the Via Francigena and the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe. Our sixth stage fully covers the last 18 kilometres. Once again you will start by passing through small towns very close to each other, and then you will enter a long hike in the most typical Salento countryside. The arrival is a real plunge into the Mediterranean, with the last steps in the forecourt and under the porticos of the sanctuary of Santa Maria de Finibus Terrae. In this location there is also the monumental waterfall that marks the end of the Apulian aqueduct, an immense work of hydraulic engineering with over a century of life. It is still one of the largest aqueducts in the world.
Difference in altitude: +109 m / -156 m