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At the end from the heelPUGLIA


At the end from the heel

The articles were published in Speciali di Motociclismo (2002) and Motoitalia magazines (2004).

Salento squeezed between two seas that meet in Leuca: cliffs, caves and crystal clear waters, fishing villages and the Lecce baroque.

Read the story published in the Speciali di Motociclismo magazine.

Read the story published in the Motoitalia magazine.

The time in Lecce is sunset, when the sun lights up the colors, enhancing the fantastic stone of which the city is built. Known throughout the world as the "Florence of the baroque", the city had a notable development between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries even if its clear architectural imprint was given to it in the seventeenth century. This Lecce stone, made of a marly, light and porous, honey-colored limestone, easy to sculpt even with a penknife, allows for the originality and richness of the shapes of the Salento Baroque.

"In Lecce you have to stay longer, to really know who he is, as a person." The poet Alfonso Gatto wrote.

It depends on the time available to individuals, let us certainly allow ourselves to visit the splendid Piazza del Duomo, the amphitheater that could hold as many as 20,000 people, the Basilica of Santa Croce, recognized by most as the highest expression of the Salento baroque.

The sea, the absolute protagonist of the itinerary, is just 12 kilometers away, reachable by a very fast, straight 4-lane freeway.

Adjacent to the seaside resort of San Cataldo is the Le Cesine nature reserve, probably the most beautiful wetland in Salento that stretches between us and the sea.

The reserve, now managed by the WWF, closed to private traffic, can offer the opportunity for a slight digression to the fortified city of Achaea, completely enclosed within the walls and with its fortress, under renovation, which was completely destroyed and devastated by the Turks in the 1714. The return to the sea will take place passing through Vanze.

The road leads us to once again lap the coast, where sandy beaches alternate with eroded cliffs, almost decayed by the incessant work of the sea. The stopping possibilities are endless.

The small fishing towns, now devoted to mass tourism, alternate with some frequency up to the Alimini lakes, an important wildlife protection area.

But Otranto, clearly visible driving southwards, the easternmost town in Italy, and which stretches out towards the sea, seems to attract us towards its walls, with its mighty castle and above all the cathedral, paved with a mosaic, the unique in Puglia almost entirely preserved.

Now the road begins to run hand in hand with the coast, with excellent asphalt, in the most absolute lack of green, which makes the emergence of the white rock even more evident.

Punta Palascia indicates the easternmost end of the peninsula.

But the landscape is now completely dominant, with wild cliffs, splendid coves, such as that of Porto Badisco that occasionally open up to the view.

From here also begins the area of ​​the caves, dug above all by the sea, some of which are open to visitors.

Absolutely worthy of mention is the Zinzulusa cave, called "the pearl of the caves", of extreme interest for the variety of its colors, and which takes its name from the numerous stalactites and stalagmites that the first fishermen who discovered it appeared as hanging rags, called precisely "zinzuli" in the local dialect.

Always following the coast of wild beauty and passing through sunny fishing centers, isolated until a few years ago and then loaned to an exuberant tourism, we reach Santa Maria di Leuca and Marina di Leuca, where the waters are exactly at Punta Meliso. of the Ionian are confused with those of the Adriatic. The slow northward ascent begins now.

The beauty of the coast is unchanged, although to be honest it should be emphasized that in some points, perhaps more than on the Adriatic side, a violent and disordered building growth has encrusted some coastal areas. The most striking thing is the impressive number of second homes, built everywhere without any regard for the environmental impact, such as to make out of season, what were previously small and industrious fishing centers, a kind of modern ghost town. We think of the summer and the endless lines of cars of vacationers and we enjoy the fantastic solitude of mid-May. The coast is dotted with sixteenth-century watchtowers that give their name to the various seaside resorts. The most famous of these is probably Torre San Giovanni, which with its "chessboard tower" dominates a sea, if possible, even more crystalline.

Arrival point, but only recommended is Gallipoli, Kallè Polis, the “beautiful city” of the Greeks, with the suggestive nucleus of the old city which counts as in 1767, about 8000 inhabitants.

Both the ramparts that surround the ancient part and its castle recall the history of the city, made up of sieges and battles with various protagonists: the Vandals in the 5th century, the Turks in 1481, the Venetians in 1484. The castle, built by the Angevins on Byzantine bases, it was remodeled in the sixteenth century, a period from which the current structure that incorporates part of the previous buildings dates back.

To complete the circumnavigation of the historic center which, above the ancient walls, offers very suggestive views of the islet of Campo, of the Nova rock, and of the island of Sant’Andrea, from which the lighthouse protrudes.

And now? Are we going back to Lecce or are we going to the sea?

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