In recent years Salento, at the tip of Italy’s heel, has become a popular destination for British travellers.
This stunning small peninsula can be divided into the west coast and the east coast. Most of the facilities and popular beaches are on the crowded west coast. But if you are looking for a relaxing and authentic destination, the east coast has a few hidden gems to explore.
Lecce is a city you need to visit for its baroque architecture and its tradition of papier mâché. However, our journey begins in Otranto.
Otranto is the best place to stay if you are spending one or two weeks in the south of Salento. You can visit its peculiar Cathedral, where you can admire one of the oldest mosaic floors in Italy.
The second monument to visit is the Castello Aragonese, which is rich with history. It is famous as the setting of the first Gothic novel, The Caste of Otranto, written in 1764. Besides those monuments, Otranto has many pleasant restaurants to discover the authentic culinary taste of Salento.
The beaches in Otranto
At North of Otranto, there are some sandy beaches. Baia dei Turchi and Frassanito are the most popular. Here, you can enjoy crystal clear water and have a glass of refreshing wine at one of the beach kiosks—the local rosé is a must.
If you are looking for a place with easy access to the beach and resorts, you can go to Laghi Alimini, a family-friendly beach. It is a nice place, but from the second half of July and into August it gets very crowded.
Scenic drive: Otranto to Santa Maria di Leuca
If you need a one-day break from the beach, you can take a road trip and drive south to Santa Maria di Leuca. Here the landscape and the atmosphere have a Greek touch. The sandy beaches turn into a beautiful rocky coast with cliffs overlooking the azure sea.
Along the journey, you can discover the charm and authenticity of Salento. From thermal baths to celebrity spotting, the drive offers a little something for everyone.
Santa Cesarea Terme and its thermal baths
The first town where you can find interesting things to do is Santa Cesarea Terme. It is the most important place for thermal baths in Salento, and is famous for therapeutic treatments.
If you want to spend a relaxing day at the spa, you can opt for one of the indulgent wellness packages. This is also the place to consider if you are looking for a week of pampering treatments and stress relief in front of the sea.
Tricase: where VIPs spend their summer
It is not a coincidence that Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep bought villas in this little town. In fact, it is considered one of the most authentic villages in the South of Italy. Taking a detour to the upper town will give you the chance to discover a hamlet rich in history, with plenty of churches and castles to visit. If time allows, you can have a nice aperitivo at the Farmacia Balboa.
When to go
June and September are the two best months to visit Salento. In those months the region is not too busy or crowded. Many hotels and beach resorts consider them off-season, so it’s likely that you’ll find accommodation that’s good value for money. The weather is good at that time of year too: temperatures can reach 27C (80F), avoiding the heat of July and August, which can reach 32C (90F).
So if you fancy an Italian holiday with a difference, why not try Salento this year?