Lecce is the triumph of Baroque you can discover with a walk in the center of the village among churches, squares and buildings that reveal clear signs of it. The Basilica of Santa Croce is an extraordinary example of the Baroque art. Next to it, there is the magnificent 16th century Palazzo dei Celestini, now the Province and the Prefecture building, while a few steps away is Piazza S. Oronzo dominated by the column with the statue of the saint, the Amphitheatre and the Sedile. Churches are so many and very different: the Church of St. Matthew, the Church of St. Clare, St. Irene and the Church of the Rosary. To be seen the Castle of Charles V, the seat of events and exhibitions, the historic Paisiello Theatre (1870), the three gateways of the city (Porta Rudiae, Porta Napoli, Porta San Biagio) and the lovely Piazza Duomo, considered the living room of Lecce: it is a spectacular space with the Cathedral, the Bishop’s Palace, the Palace of the Seminary (late 17th century), today the Diocesan Museum and the Bell Tower in the Baroque style.
Otranto. The most eastern city of Italy has a unique historic center, its monuments have almost a thousand years of history: starting from the San Pietro Byzantine Church. The Cathedral, in Apulian-Romanesque style, has a valuable floor mosaic dated 1163, representing a huge tree of life and the chapel with the relics of the Martyrs of Otranto beheaded by the Turks in 1480. The magnificent Aragonese Castle appears with his pentagonal plant, three cylindrical towers and a mighty bastion that arrives to the port. You can also discover valleys around, like that of the Memorie or of Idro that preserve the evidence of rock civilization, with crypts and tombs, such as the Torre Pinta. In 10 minutes, going to the north, you can reach the beautiful beaches of Alimini. On the south, the coast has a more wild and untouched aspect until Porto Badisco, a natural deep and narrow inlet surrounded by prickly pears and myrtle.
Gallipoli. The old town of Gallipoli is enchanting and connected to the mainland by a 17th century bridge. It’s nice to walk without a defined path to discover the fortress palaces, the typical courtyard houses, walls, ramparts, squares and the many churches of the brotherhoods, like that of the Crocifisso, the Immaculate Conception, St. Francis and Purity, which lends its name to the small beach in front of it. The Angevin Castle is beautiful, the Baroque facade of the cathedral of St. Agatha is majestic, the Diocesan Museum and the mill excavated in the rock are very interesting.
Grecìa Salentina (Salentinian Greece). “Kalòs ìrtate stin Greek Salento” is the sentence that welcomes in countries where griko was still talked some years ago: Calimera, Carpignano Salentino, Castrignano dei Greci, Corigliano d’Otranto, Cutrofiano, Martano, Martignano, Melpignano, Soleto, Sternatia and Zollino. They are places full of memories of the ancient past, suspended between the Middle Ages and the East. To be seen the churches-convent, like that of the Augustinians in Melpignano, in front of which every year the famous big concert “Notte della Taranta” is held, the towering castles, like that of Corigliano d’Otranto, the towers of which the Giulia Orsini in Salento is a splendid example and then the court houses, the pozzelle (public tanks) and many baronial palaces.
Santa Cesarea. Santa Cesarea, a renowned spa town since 1899, is located downstream of a lush hillside with original eclectic villas on the boardwalk, such as Villa Sticchi, in Moorish style. It became famous thanks to the sulfur springs flowing from four nearby caves: Gattulla, Bath Marina, Solfurea and Fetida. Some kilometers further south is the beautiful resort of Porto Miggiano, with a crystal clear emerald sea and a marina carved into the rock, similar to a natural pool.
Santa Maria di Leuca. The southern limit of the Salento peninsula, Santa Maria di Leuca preserves one of the most important lighthouse in Italy, built in 1864 and 102 meters high. It is said that St. Peter, traveling to Rome, stopped here and so the temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva was turned into a Christian place of worship: the Sanctuary of the Madonna de Finibus Terrae, elected to a minor basilica in 1990. Many caves along the entire coast, between the two headlands of Punta Meliso and Punta della Ristola, rich of Greek and Latin inscriptions, like the cave “Porcinara” and Neolithic cave as the “Devil’s cave”.
Castro. On a hill overlooking the sea, the old town of Castro is nestled between the Romanesque Cathedral, the towers and the castle. The Navy is opened up in one of the most beautiful bays of the Apulia. It is a fishing village with ancient origins, as demonstrated by recent excavations that unearthed the remains of the “temple of Minerva” and the caves already inhabited in prehistoric times, from the Romanelli to Zinzulusa, a gorgeous spectacle of stalactites appeared to fishermen who entered as Zinzuli, ie rags hanging.