The Salento is the tip of the heel of the Italian boot:
the southernmost third of Puglia.
Brindisi is home to the airport that’ll get you into the region. You can rent a car from there or hop on a bus that will take you directly into Lecce, the so-called Florence of the South (even though it’s more atmospheric, friendlier and less touristy than its northern counterpart).
Lecce is also the ideal place to begin your Salento Adventure:
Join in the Lecce Movida
Leccese are keen to point out that their version of the evening stroll is a Movida (in English, a movement) rather than the traditional Italian passeggiata. That’s because their nightly journey involves more than just walking through its beautiful streets and past its baroque architectural masterpieces. There’s always at least one stop for gelato, local delicacy Pasticciotto, or a slice at Lecce’s best pizzeria, the bustling and always friendly Pizza & Co.
Taste History at Alle Due Corti
The Salentini are rightfully proud of their ‘cucina povera’ culinary heritage. And there’s nowhere it tastes better than Alle Due Corti in Lecce. You want authentic? How about a menu written entirely in local dialect? Their crowning glory is Ciceria e Tria, a miraculous chickpea dish, uniquely made with both boiled and fried pasta. Simple food, prepared exquisitely.
Drink Coffee on the Rocks
Coffee is more than a beverage in the Italian South. It’s an essential part of life. And they take coffee particularly seriously in the Salento, developing and perfecting Caffe’ in Ghiaccio – literally, coffee in ice. A solution to the summer heat, try it at the Avio Bar, where it comes with an extra treat – a silky smooth coffee cremina.
Create your own Salentine Supper
Ask anyone south of Brindisi and they’ll tell you, it’s not Pugliese Cuisine, it’s Cucina Salentina! To discover what makes the food of this region so special take at least one culinary class in Lecce, ideally with the brilliant and hilarious Gianna Greco at Cooking Experience Lecce. Educational and hugely entertaining, you’re guaranteed to learn, laugh and leave very full.
Relax in Italy’s Ultimate Beach Zone
With two coasts lined with spectacular beaches, you’re never far from the opportunity to jump into the clearest seas in Mainland Italy. Hire an umbrella and loungers for a day and soak up the luxury. Perhaps the best of the beaches is at Torre dell’Orso, a kilometre of golden sand bookended by magnificent cliffs and Dentoni, the Salento’s best beachside bakery-café.
Watch the Sunset in Gallipoli
The old town of Gallipoli sits on an island on the Ionian coastline and has been continually occupied since being colonised by the ancient Greeks. That’s given them time to perfect the art of seafood. Eating the divine creations on the terrace at Il Bastione restaurant as the sun sets over the sea is a memory to be cherished.
Walk on History in Otranto
There’s a millennium of vivid history in the coast town of Otranto, but nowhere is the past more vibrant than on the floor of its imposing Cathedral, where a massive mosaic of the Tree of Life has been dazzling visitors since the thirteenth century. The mosaic veers between the historical and biblical, sacred and supernatural. Between the wildly imaginative monsters look out for Alexander the Great, King Arthur (riding a goat) and a flamboyantly moustached Satan.
Star-spot in the Deep South
Even though the Salento’s popularity with travellers is growing, tourism has yet to reach the very bottom of the peninsula, including the magical old town of Tricase. That might change soon, as cocktail bar Farmacia Balboa has been opened by local resident Helen Mirren. Richard Gere, Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro all drank there this summer.
Taste Wine at Castello Monaci
Puglia’s two great reds, Negromaro and Primitivo, can be sampled all over the Salento. But for an unmatchable wine experience, take a tour of Castello Monaci, one of the region’s biggest wine producers who just happen to have built their empire in and around a renaissance castle! Explore its halls and cellars relaxed in the knowledge that there are many glasses of delicious vino to sample when you’re done.
Party on the Streets
Throughout the summer every town, no matter how small, will host a Sagra, a street party of epic proportions. The inspiration, naturally, is food. Merine hosts a raucous celebration of grain. In Martignano, it’s a three-day festival of sausage and Greek salad. Eggplant. Chickpeas. Beer. Whatever the produce at its heart, the sagra is an opportunity to drink and dance to Pizzica, the fast and frantic local folk music. Party on!
Travel tip shared by Espressino Travel