When people are planning itineraries for holidays and their requirements include clear sea, unpolluted nature, exclusive events and fulfilling accommodations, Apulia is a top region for both Italian and foreign tourism.
Apulia is a very multi-faceted destination, so it is better to discover its secrets gradually, starting from the land often mentioned by travelers in search of authenticity, Salento, the southern part of the region known as the “heel of Italy”.
Why visit Salento
The boundaries of this area include the province of Lecce, a part of Taranto and Brindisi, furthermore the inhabitants of Salento speak a dialect different from the Apulian dialect, a peculiarity noticed by travelers who come here for the first time.
The climate of the peninsula is humid, summers are muggy but ventilated, while the landscape is dotted with olive trees, masseria (typical fortified farmhouses) and white stone cladding buildings.
We are sure that you will choose Salento due to its eclectic mood, a nice place not only for its wonderful beaches but also for nature trails, cultural itineraries and gastronomic specialties.
The picturesque sea cave of Zinzulusa
Since prehistoric age here lies one of the most amazing caves in shape, size and depth.
The Zinzulusa owes its name to the similarity between its stalactites and rags, called “Zinzuli” in Apulian dialect, the cave overlooks the Ionian Sea along the coast from Santa Cesarea Terme to Castro Marina, you can enter it from the “corridor of marvels”, the path that leads to the so-called “Cathedral”, a large cavity where the rock is more eroded by water.
From here you can descend to “Cocito”, a stratification of waters, we recommend to visit this cave to anyone who wants to discover the beating heart of Salento, a place where the roots are still strong.
The Zinzulusa is open all year round (in July and August the opening hours are 9:00 am to 7:00 pm), the tourist itinerary is 150 meters long and is without doubt a unique experience because of the rarity of fossils found in the cave and the mystery coming from a so ancient place.
The enclave of Salentinian Greece
The oldest evidence of Greek and byzantine civilization lasts in 9 municipalities that are part of the Salentinian Greece, reachable from Lecce, Otranto, Gallipoli and Santa Maria di Leuca.
Customs, traditions, rituals, and architectures are common to those towns that have decided to promote more effectively this territory: here you can see menhir, dolmen, the Sacred Stone of Calimera, a megalith located at the center of a church dedicated to Saint Vitus, a journey that connects the prehistory with the Christian religion, in other words everything here is spirituality, and talking with the locals it’s a chance to know more about the many legends concerning Salento.
The village of Sternatia is one of the places that abridge the identity of this area: Byzantine and medieval churches, noble buildings in Salentinian baroque style as Granafei Palace (which houses several artworks such as a painting by Cesare Fracanzano), which has interiors decorated with rococo frescoes with a mythological theme.
Moreover, it is just in Salentinian Greece that was born the Notte della Taranta, a touring festival of traditional folk music concerts contaminated with other music genres.
The success of this festival make Salento a name known even to those who have never been in Apulia, for this reason we suggest to join the scheduled events from 5th to 23rd August, a way to live the Salento just like the locals. www.lanottedellataranta.it
Baroque in Lecce
It is not excessive to talk again of Lecce, the “Florence of Baroque”, as well as being the main town in Salento has given birth to an architectural style (especially in the facades of palaces and churches) so original to be called Lecce Baroque.
The sublime example of this style is the Basilica di Santa Croce (Church of the Holy Cross), which was completed in 1695: according to historians of art, the decorations on the facade of the church depicts a celebration of the Battle of Lepanto, happened in 1571, which marked the victory of the Christian coalition against the Ottoman Empire.
The gaudy baroque decorations make you think that the artists looked after every detail, just like the locals who are dedicated to guests needs. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why so many tourists are impressed by Apulia and want to come to live here.
The typical Salentinian local products
A day dedicated to the wonders of Salento should ends enjoying the delights of local food and wine. The dishes are simple to prepare and are ideal for summer meals: frise, toasted bread made with barley grain, cut in half, cooked and seasoned with olive oil, salt and tomato; pezzetti, stewed horse meat in spicy sauce; dishes based on fish and in particular the octopus cooked in sauce and scapece, marinated and fried fish with bread crumbs soaked with vinegar and saffron.
The most renowned products of Salento, however, are the extra virgin olive oil, produced since Greek age; the two specialties to taste are the Terra d’Otranto and the Collina di Brindisi, DOP oils that enhance any menu.
The wine of Salento is, by definition, intense; among the reds we recommend DOC Primitivo di Manduria (produced from vineyards in the provinces of Brindisi and Taranto) and Salice Salentino, the best known is the Negroamaro grape, grown almost exclusively in Salento.
Just the flavors, aromas and heady peerless fragrances are the hallmarks of Salento, a spell from which it is pleasant to be caught.