reasons why you should travel to Salento

9 May 2024
Written by The Italy Insider

In the southernmost region of Italy in the heel of the boot you will find the most authentic part of the country. Located between the Adriatic and ionian seas lies this treasure of Puglia: when you drive into the region you are surrounded by the feeling of tranquility. All you have to do is let the beauty of the olive fields, great stone walls of the ancient villages, quiet rocky beaches and the local people take you away. The beauty of the region attracts you by itself, but if you still need convincing: here are five reasons why you should visit Salento. 



The beautiful historical palazzi

The palazzi of Salento are renowned for their elegant Baroque and Neoclassical facades adorned with intricate carvings, majestic balconies, and imposing entrances. Each palazzo tells a story of the region’s aristocratic history, with many once serving as residences for noble families. Today, these palaces often house museums, galleries, or even hotels allowing travellers to immerse themselves in Salento’s captivating history and architectural grandeur. Among the standout structures are Palazzo Celestini and Palazzo Adorno in Lecce, renowned for their Baroque grandeur, Palazzo Tamborino-Cezzi in Galatina which showcases refined Renaissance features and stunning frescoes and the Villa Sticchi in Santa Cesarea Terme, a 19th century, moorish style building that is currently closed to visitors but even from the outside it is absolutely marvellous. In these spaces, marvel at the beautifully preserved architecture and frescoed ceilings and learn about the rich heritage of Puglia.


secluded coves and crystal-coloured waters

Salento’s beaches are some of the most beautiful in all of Italy. Some of them have even been called the Maldives of Europe. With beautiful white sandy beaches, adventurous rocky spots and hidden coves, you can discover something different every day along this special, southern coastline. Sandy beaches are mostly found along the west coast of Salento, from Gallipoli to Santa Maria di Leuca, but for the secluded, picturesque coves you’ll have to venture between Santa Maria di Leuca and Otranto. Some of our favourites remain the rocky Cala dell’acquaviva, Porto Miggiano in Santa Cesarea Terme, a secluded cove nestled within the rocks, Bagno Marino Archi beach club and Ponte Ciolo in Gagliano del Capo.


Authentic towns

Nestled amidst the sun-drenched landscapes of Salento in Italy lies a tapestry of enchanting old towns, each exuding its own unique charm and centuries-old allure. From the labyrinthine streets of Lecce, adorned with elaborate Baroque architecture and ancient Roman ruins, to the picturesque squares of Gallipoli, where the scent of the sea mingles with the aroma of freshly caught seafood, or lose yourself in the timeless beauty of Otranto’s fortified walls and Byzantine mosaics. Whether strolling along the medieval lanes of Galatina or savouring the medieval atmosphere of Specchia, exploring the old towns of Salento is a journey back in time, where each cobblestone street holds secrets waiting to be discovered and stories longing to be told.


Traditional flavours

Salento’s traditional food reflects its coastal location and agricultural abundance. One cannot mention Salento without highlighting its famous “cucina povera” or peasant cuisine, which celebrates simplicity and resourcefulness. Staples like orecchiette pasta, often served with rich tomato sauces or bitter wild greens, capture the essence of Salento’s rustic gastronomy. Seafood takes center stage along the coast, with dishes like “frutti di mare” (mixed seafood) and “riso, patate e cozze” (rice, potatoes, and mussels) showcasing the region’s maritime bounty. Olive oil, a cornerstone of Puglian cuisine, infuses many dishes with its golden richness, while local wines like Primitivo and Negroamaro complement meals with their robust flavors. Dining in Salento is not just about sustenance but a celebration of tradition, flavor, and the vibrant culinary heritage that defines this enchanting corner of Italy.


Tarantella and Pizzica Salentina

There is an evening in August when one of these arts is celebrated extensively. During La Notte della Taranta, which takes place on the 24th August in Melpignano, the whole of Salento dances the traditional Tarantella. The Tarantella is a southern Italian folk dance with high tempo music accompanied by tambourines. It began as a cure for a condition called tarantism, which was believed to be caused by the bite of a spider widely thought to be poisonous. The spider’s victim, who was typically a woman, engaged in a dance, to expel the venom from her system. Different regions in the south have their own version of this dance. In Salento, we dance the pizzica. This is also celebrated in smaller villages in the evenings leading up to the big event in Melpignano. 

This article was written in collaboration with Marcella Cazzato, founder of Tre Gioie dalla Puglia

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