Puglia’s Salento peninsula: unspoiled Italy
As you travel into the deep South of Puglia, you’ll no doubt be struck by the way the landscape changes, how the the lush greenery hills of Bari’s Murgia and the Itria Valley gradually give way to flat, ochre-coloured fields covered with wildflowers in spring, and endless olive groves. A long tongue of land that laps two seas: the Adriatic to the East and the Ionian to the West.
Food and wines
Puglia’s Salento boasts gorgeous beaches, lush farmland, ornate churches, and ancient ruins. It’s also home to many of the foods Italy is famous for. Its deeply-rooted cucina povera tradition means its cuisine tends to be simple and delicious, relying on fresh, local produce. And Puglia and the Salento have lots of fantastic ingredients to choose from—like olive and olive oil, tomatoes, and fresh seafood. The Salento’s hinterland plays a fundamental role in Italy’s agricultural economy, producing enomous quantities of excellent olive oil and full-bodied, robust wines, such as Primitivo di Manduria, Negroamaro and Salice Salentino, increasingly admired wines.
The Salento is home to some of Italy’s loveliest towns.
The historic quarters of Gallipoli, Nardò, Galatina, Maglie, Otranto, Specchia, Leuca and Tricase are all testimony to the craftsmanship of the local stonemasons. But none is lovelier than the city of Lecce, the Salentine capital, home to the rich Santa Croce Basilica and the vast Piazza del Duomo bounded by the cathedral, the bishop’s palace, a seminary and a five-storey campanile.
And the Salento is also full to brimming with small sleepy towns that are off the tourist trail but greatly worth visiting for their unassuming genuineness. In a cluster of villages between Lecce and Maglie, known as the Grecia Salentina, some residents still speak grico, the Italiot Greek dialect, preserving strong historic ties with Greece, dating back thousands of years. Cultural and religious traditions have evident Hellenic roots which are celebrated with frequent festivals, including the hugely popular and energetic Notte della Taranta. Yes, Salento is music and folk dance (“pizzica”), that make the blood run faster, while moving body and feet at music’s crazy rhythm.
Wild coast and sandy beaches
Home to some of Italy’s loveliest beaches and most dramatic rocky coastline, the Salento is a haven for sea lovers. From the southernmost tip near Leuca, running up the west coast to Gallipoli and beyond, is a vast almost non-stop strip of paradisiacal golden sand and transparent azure waters. To the east, the Adriatic coastline is more varied, offering sandy beaches, Karstic grottoes, chalk cliffs and salt-water lagoons.
So, if you’re looking for a holiday destination with a great climate, dreamy beaches, beautiful historic towns, delicious food and wine… come to the Salento.
Spend 4 days discovering warm Puglia’s Salento
An excellent, knowledgable tour manager throughout
4-star hotel accomodation
Enjoy a olive oil tasting
Pasta making class
Cartapesta workshop in Lecce
Only 15 pax per tour
Modern 4 star hotel is just few minutes walk from Lecce historic centre. The hotel’s rooms have an LCD TV and special self-adjusting beds, an ergonomic chair. and free WiFi. Free internet is also available in the 24-hour business centre. You can relax outdoors in the swimming pool, use the 24 hours gym or unwind in the wellness centre featuring sauna and Turkish bath. The restaurant serves an American breakfast as well as typical Apulian meals for lunch and dinner.
Your tour itinerary
Day 1 Lecce + Masseria experience with olive oil tasting and dinner
Meeting with the tour guide in the morning in Lecce.
Lecce is the Baroque masterpiece of southern Italy. Sometimes described as the ‘Florence of the South’, Lecce is really the only city destination in mainland Italy south of Naples which is appealing enough to attract large numbers of tourists. It’s just a gorgeous place, and the historic centre’s small size, restricted to cars, allows to wander among narrow streets of golden sandstone, hidden piazzas, extravagantly carved baroque churches.
At the heart of the city stands a half-buried 2nd-century Roman amphitheater, and everywhere else, elaborately decorated palaces built in local honey-hued stone.
The historic centre of Lecce has three entrances, Porta Napoli, Porta S.Biagio and Porta Rudiae: it is here, in the ancient heart of the city, that Lecce’s elegant baroque palazzi and churches can be found. The finest example of Puglian baroque is, without doubt, the Basilica of Santa Croce, a wonderfully ornate edifice situated next to the Palazzo dei Celestini. Exuberant figurative, floral and mythological motifs characterize the façades of both buildings.
Lecce Papier-mâchè workshop
Well-known for its Baroque style, not many tourists know that the city of Lecce is also famous for the papier-mâché art, cartapesta in Italian. So, what is Papier-mâché? The art of papier-mâché in Lecce, a phenomenon unique to Puglia, dates back to a period between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when the development of arts was linked to the increasing number of churches and monuments. The craftsmen did not have access to precious materials, and as such they were forced to make use of other, poorer materials such as straw, rags, glue and plaster. The small shops around Lecce cathedral are full of painted figures of all sizes, some religious, others peasants going about their daily tasks, or ornamental flowers and jewellery. During the workshop the skillful artisan will explain and show the different phases of the production, which is still carried out according to the ancient tradition handed down from generation to generation. The unusual and fantastical tale of a humble material that gradually became increasingly valuable and unique.
Olive oil tasting
In the afternoon, a short bus ride will take you to a local farm, where olive oil is produced according to the biological method. You will enjoy a walk among centuries-old olive trees and a tour to the onsite oil mill (frantoio) to learn about the processes of making premium olive oil, a tasting will follow. Dinner at the Masseria’s restaurant and overnight in Lecce.
Day 2 Nardò – Gallipoli
Today is time to visit the south-west corner of Puglia.
Nardò is our morning tour. Have you ever visited a new place and felt ‘wow’ about it? For many visitors, it happens at Nardò. For those who love finding places that are off the beaten track, places to discover and feel like you’re a pioneer. Nardò in Puglia is one of those discoveries. Puglia’s Salento is full of surprises and Nardò is one of its best secrets. It is a lovely and charming old town, filled with palazzi, courtyards and churches.
Nardò may not be as popular as other cities in Puglia, but don’t let that fool you. Nardò is a smaller but beautiful upcoming tourist destination that is worth a visit. You will be surprised by this hidden destination. It is a lovely and charming old town, filled with palazzi, courtyards and churches. Like much of Salento, Nardò is a gourmet heaven and acre upon acre of olive trees.
Lunch in Gallipoli (not included)
Gallipoli lives up to the provenance of its name, ‘beautiful city’ in Greek. The old town centre sits on a tiny island connected to the mainland by a 17th century bridge. It is almost completely surrounded by defensive walls, built mainly in the 14th century. Behind its castle lies a maze of picturesque streets filled with quaint shops, cafés and restaurants, as well as historic churches, convents and palaces. Despite its small size, Gallipoli is packed with historic and cultural treasures.
The island heart of Gallipoli is home to numerous impressive Baroque churches and aristocratic palazzi, a testament to the town’s former wealth as a trading port. The labyrinthine weave of narrow streets all eventually lead to the broader sea-front promenade with its wonderful views.
In the 18th century, Gallipoli was home to the largest olive oil market in the Mediterranean. From its ports, ships laden with olive oil sailed to major European cities where the oil was used for lighting. It is said that olive oil from Gallipoli lit the streets of London before the advent of the electric bulb.
At that time oil mills were built underground, for security but also for optimal production. Gallipoli once had an underground network of 35 oil mills. The largest one, Palazzo Granafei, has been restored and will tell you a lot of fun facts.
Back in Lecce, dinner at local restaurant.
Day 3 Santa Maria di Leuca – Corigliano d’Otranto
Today, the tour will take you to the southernmost point of Salento peninsula.
The first leg of the day is Santa Maria di Leuca, the southernmost town of the Salento. At the bottom of the heel, named “finibus terrae” (end of the earth) by the Romans, Santa Maria di Leuca is a beautiful harbour town with a long esplanade and beach.
Here, towering above the point where the waters of the Adriatic and the Ionic sea meet, we find one of Italy’s most important lighthouses: a 48m high structure, situated on the cliffs some 102m above the level of the sea. The light transmitted from its lantern can be seen as many as 50kms away.
Santa Maria di Leuca is famous for the Basilica built to commemorate St Peter’s visit during his travels through Italy. The Basilica is connected to the port by a 184 step staircase. Leuca is also home to a man-made waterfall, built at the end of the Puglia aqueduct. Started in mid-19th century, the aqueduct was finally completed in 1941 with Leuca being the southern most point.
The second leg of the day is Corigliano d’Otranto, one of the nine towns of the so-called “Grecia Salentina”, a cluster of villages between Lecce and Maglie, where residents still speak grico, the Italiot Greek dialect, preserving strong historic ties with Greece, dating back thousands of years.
Before exploring Corigliano D’Otranto, a stop in a local farm to enjoy a tasty light lunch (included) and learn how to make orecchiette pasta is a perfect break.
Back in Lecce, dinner at hotel restaurant.
Day 4 Otranto – Castro – Caves of Zinzulusa
Tucked away in Italy’s heel, in the province of Lecce, the picturesque seaside town of Otranto means different things for different travelers.
Art and history enthusiasts come here to admire the gorgeous 12th-century mosaic floors of its Romanesque cathedral; gourmets for the seafood restaurants lining the scenic waterfront promenades; and incurable romantics to get lost in its postcard-perfect old quarter, crisscrossed by narrow travertine-paved alleyways. In the height of summer, however, everybody fights for beach space along its handsome 10 km-long coastline kissed by dazzling aquamarine waters.
Lunch in Otranto (included)
One of Salento’s most striking coastal settlements is the walled town of Castro. The charming old town, which also has a 12th-century cathedral, the remains of a Byzantine church and a clifftop piazza with delightful sea views, sits above a marina and terraced olive groves leading to a limestone coast riddled with spectacular caves. Just few kilometres from Castro, the tour continues towards the most beautiful karstic cave. There are many caves systems above and below the coasts of the Salento, the most renowned of which are the Caves of Zinzulusa. Odd stone formations twist into a hanging ceiling. These mineral deposits gave the caves their name by resembling old rags or “zinzuli” in the regions dialect language.
Back to Lecce, drop-off at the hotel. End of our services.
Private bus transportation
English-speaking tour guide, escorting the group throughout
3 nights accomodation on half board basis, American breakfast and dinner, shared room
Lunch in Corigliano D’Otranto
Lunch in Otranto
Olive oil tasting
Guided visits as per itinerary, throughout four full day
Hotel city tax (approx. €2 per person per night)
Extras, drinks and personal expenses
Gratuities and porterage
Please note: we can help you with airport transfer and with pre and post-tour hotel booking.
|February 17 -20||May 28 – 31|
|March 17 -20||June 17 – 20|
|April 11-15||September 16 -19|
|May 5 -8||October 21 – 24|