This web page comprises affiliate hyperlinks. Please learn our disclosure for more information.
The Salento peninsula, a subregion of Puglia in southern Italy, is understood for its white sandy seashores and calm turquoise sea.
It’s a well-liked summer season 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 interesting native tradition with many festivals.
It’s additionally dwelling to Lecce, a metropolis of golden baroque structure that’s probably the most beautiful in Italy.
We’ve visited Salento many instances together with most just lately for a month-long summer season keep.
On this detailed Salento Italy journey information, we share our suggestions for one of the best cities, seashores, actions, and meals, plus the place to remain and easy methods to get there.
On the finish of the put up, 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 (often known as 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 top of this put up, I share a Salento Italy map and particulars of easy methods 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 numerous different lovely small cities to go to. Particularly inland, you’ll usually discover historic streets, historical castles, glorious eating places, and only a few vacationers.
Lecce is a Salento should see. This small college metropolis is nicknamed “The Florence of the South” as a consequence 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 glorious 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 surprising 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 seashore and swimming within the turquoise water.
The principle attraction is Otranto Cathedral with its enormous mosaic flooring 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 seashore 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 previous 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 right place for a drink at sundown. We loved aperitivo at Trattoria Scoglio delle Sirene with an exquisite view.
One of the attention-grabbing 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 tools 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 seashore and is a brief drive from a few of the finest seashores in Salento.
That is a particularly common vacation spot with Italians in summer season and we discovered the crowds on our August night stroll right here fairly overwhelming. It’s way more nice exterior excessive season.
Castro is much less visited than Otranto or Gallipoli and is my new favorite coastal city in Salento. Even in the course of 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 seashore 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 previous city (accessed by a shuttle practice or steep stroll), one of many prettiest small cities in Salento. There’s a fortress and a clifftop piazza overlooking the ocean.
The wine bar Delizie in Contea is a superb place for a drink and platter of regional delights.
Castro is about half-hour south of Otranto on the Adriatic Coast and I extremely advocate persevering with the coastal drive all the way down to Santa Maria di Leuca (see issues to do under).
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 well-liked spa resort with the higher courses from Lecce who constructed ornate, vibrant villas right here. Two of essentially the most iconic are the Moorish-style Palazzo Sticchi and Villa Raffaela with its Disney fortress vibe.
We loved strolling alongside the seafront however didn’t fancy soaking within the sizzling waters within the peak of summer season. 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 under).
The preferred 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 observe 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 seashore, simply 10 minutes away. It was very quiet on a summer season morning, however I think about it’s livelier within the evenings.
As all the time, the centro storico is the place you wish 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 probably the most spectacular castles within the space and also you’ll doubtless 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 realm and listen to the native pizzica folks 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 fortress and essentially the most lovely piazza embellished with fairy lights.
There’s not a lot to see in the course of the day (besides the close by iContadini store, see under), so come for dinner at one of many eating places with exterior seating.
Vite Colta, which is run by a neighborhood winemaker, is our favorite. Antico Monastero is the preferred 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 purpose 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 distinct 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 seashore golf equipment are perched on the rocks.
Lidos (seashore golf equipment with umbrella and sunbed leases) dominate the Salento coast, however there’s all the time a free part. Anticipate excessive crowds in July and particularly August.
These are our picks for one of the best Salento seashores:
Torre San Giovanni
The Salento coast is filled with fashionable seashore cities like this. They lack fairly historic centres however provide the amenities you want for a seashore vacation.
The seashore within the centre of Torre San Giovanni is rocky however simply south is an extended stretch of soppy white sand backed by dunes. The ocean may be very shallow and heat.
There’s an extended string of lidos with free sections in-between. We appreciated the free space simply earlier than Lido Isola Seashore.
Within the evenings, the promenade again in central Torre San Giovanni is a pleasant place for a stroll.
For sundown views, we appreciated aperitivo at Vespera Bar on the water and pizza and puccia (sandwiches) throughout the street at A Puccia Salentina.
Marina di Pescoluse
Additional south on the Ionian Coast is Marina di Pescoluse, often called 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 seashore.
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 seashore is free, however we had been capable of lease an umbrella and beds from a vendor (€18) and set them up in a chief front-row spot.
Baia di Torre Lapillo
Porto Cesareo is a well-liked Salento seashore city additional north on the Ionian Coast. The city itself has no actual seashore so head north to Torre Lapillo and Punta Prosciutto.
We visited Torre Lapillo, a 4km lengthy seashore 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 seashore, 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 package deal was very costly (€220 in peak season), we had been ready to make use of the charge as credit score in the direction of foods and drinks (champagne helped us use it up!). It was price it for a snug, stress-free day on the seashore on the busiest time of yr.
For a really completely different seashore 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 season.
You need to stroll by way of pine timber to succeed in the seashore. We parked by the Villa Tafuri entrance, which is just a 10-minute stroll to the seashore on a rocky path (uphill on the way in which again).
The seashore 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 enticing rock formations referred to as Le Due Sorelle (The Two Sisters). There’s a mixture of public seashore 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 (it’s also possible to begin in Otranto).
The winding 35km street follows the dramatic rocky shoreline with sea views a lot of the method. It takes about an hour to drive, however there are many potential stops together with:
- Grotta Zinzulusa – A cave you possibly can take a tour of. We skipped it because it appeared too busy and business.
- Castro Marina – A fairly 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 seashore.
- 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 possibly can stroll down the steps to the tiny rocky seashore for a swim, but it surely will get packed in summer season. In cooler climate, take a look at the climbing trails.
Don’t blindly comply with your GPS on this route because it’ll attempt to take you inland.
We’ve pushed this street in August and September and it’s way more pleasurable exterior the summer season. Whereas the street itself was quiet in August, the cities and swimming spots had been rammed and parking was very tough. Begin early when 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. Situated on the tip of the peninsula, it’s the place the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet, so you possibly can 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 regarded 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 straightforward to drive, comfy, and had area to lie on the cushions on the entrance. There’s a 10km restrict on the place you possibly can go, so you possibly can’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 would 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 possibly can 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 related boat journeys we did in Corfu.
Subsequent time, I’d love to do this kayak tour, which appears to be like like a greater option to discover the caves.
Take a Cooking Class
A cooking class is a superb option to study Salento meals and revel in a scrumptious meal. Lecce has essentially the most selection of courses.
We did a category with Cooking Expertise in Lecce, which included procuring 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 little thing we’d made.
Learn extra about our Lecce cooking class.
Different Salento cooking courses embody:
Uncover Native Festivals
The Salento’s geographical isolation has led to a robust id with its personal delicacies, traditions, and music, influenced by its Greek previous.
There are numerous festivals in villages and cities throughout the area, particularly in summer season. It may be laborious to seek out info, 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 folks music and dance. The principle live performance takes place in Melpignano, however there are small occasions all around 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 workers communicate a number of languages and can introduce you to the varied merchandise. You are able to do a tasting to determine what you’d like to purchase—it’s free and parts are beneficiant.
In the event you 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 little thing we purchased, however our favorite was the sundried tomato patè.
In contrast to 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 understood for its Salice Salentino wine, a full-bodied pink produced from Negroamaro grapes. Primitivo is one other common pink selection. In summer season, I’m an enormous fan of Salento rosato (rosé).
Our favorite place to strive Salento wines is Enoteca Mamma Elvira in Lecce, the place you possibly can strive all kinds of wines by the glass accompanied by tasty small plates.
In the event you’d want to study native wine from an skilled, contemplate this Salento wine tasting in Lecce the place you strive six wines with native merchandise.
Visiting a neighborhood 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 exterior 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 few of the pasta is fried so as to add crunch.
- Sagne ‘Ncannulate – An extended twisty pasta sometimes served with a sauce of tomato and robust ricotta.
- Rustico Leccese – Puff pastry stuffed with mozzarella and tomato. Present in bakeries as a snack or typically 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 referred to as caffè salentino exterior 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 here are a few of our favorite locations to eat in Salento.
See our information to one of the 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 – An ideal 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 Resort in an untouristy city. We ate on the roof terrace with a view of the fortress. The meals is excellent and fairly priced for its high quality. That they had 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 inventive toppings, though we most popular the traditional Margherita.
- Delizie in Contea, Castro – Fantastic platters of native merchandise on a reasonably piazza.
- Masseria Sant’Angelo – Our Salento feasts whereas staying at this farm had been a few of our most memorable meals. It could 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
One of the best space to remain in Salento is dependent upon your pursuits.
For a metropolis break, Lecce is one of the best guess. The walkable historic centre is gorgeous and there are many eating places and bars. It’s centrally situated for day journeys, so it received’t take greater than an hour to get wherever on the peninsula.
We rented an Airbnb, however there are many beautiful resorts in historic buildings. At Dimora Storica Torre Del Parco 1419 you possibly can even keep in a fortress.
If you wish to keep in a gorgeous city on the coast, contemplate Otranto, Gallipoli, or Castro.
We completely cherished Resort La Roccia proper on the water in Castro. Rooms are easy however all have sea views and embody a assured spot at their lido. This was a serious benefit in August.
In case your precedence is to spend a lot of time on the seashore, Torre Lapillo, Torre San Giovanni, and Marina di Pescoluse have lodging choices as do many seashore cities on the Ionian Coast. My choose could be a vacation rental proper on Torre Lapillo seashore.
There aren’t any actual beachfront resorts in Salento.
We often keep in vacation leases. Twice we’ve chosen random areas primarily based on the homes obtainable on websites like Vrbo. This works out properly when you aren’t bothered about strolling to sights and plan to take day journeys.
On our most up-to-date summer season 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 seashore.
Seek for Salento vacation leases on Vrbo right here.
Or see a variety of Salento lodging on Reserving right here.
Methods to Get to Salento Italy
Salento is finest explored with a automotive as public transport is proscribed and gradual. You’ll be able to lease vehicles on the airports or in Lecce. Test 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 price range airways like Ryanair.
Test Kiwi or Skyscanner for flight choices.
In the event you can’t discover flights to Brindisi, Bari Airport (BRI) additionally works. It’s slightly 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 with out a automotive after 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 experience 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 may want to alter. Driving is often faster round Salento.
The Greatest Time to Go to Salento
One of the best 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 if you’re 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 day-after-day, but it surely was a bit too sizzling for us.
If you need to go to in summer season and the busy coastal cities get an excessive amount of, head inland the place the cities are a lot quieter. And go to the seashore early (earlier than 8am) to keep away from the crowds.
We additionally discovered April a nice month in Salento. It wasn’t fairly seashore climate, but it surely was sunny and heat and splendid 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 come back for beautiful seashores, untouristy cities, fascinating tradition, and naturally, scrumptious meals.
Extra Puglia Posts