These are the towns you should visit in Salento


10 May 2024
Written by
Lucrezia Worthington

From baroque painted façades to the best sea-view towns


Picture this: endless stretches of golden coastline caressed by crystal-clear waters, quaint villages bursting with history, and vineyards that produce some of Italy’s finest wines. But it’s not all about soaking up the rays and sipping wine (although, that’s a big part of it). Salento’s got a rhythm all its own, with lively piazzas echoing with the sounds of traditional folk music and locals passionately debating the best way to make orecchiette pasta. From the iconic Baroque architecture of Lecce to the stunning sea caves of Santa Maria di Leuca, here are the best towns to visit in the southern part of Puglia.

Otranto

Located along the southern coast of Salento, Otranto is enriched with landmarks that reflect its storied past, including the magnificent Otranto Cathedral with its stunning mosaic floor, the imposing Aragonese Castle overlooking the azure waters of the Adriatic Sea, and the picturesque Old Town with its narrow cobblestone streets and charming piazzas. All of this is only enhanced by the beautiful rocky and sandy beaches of its coastline, including Baia dei Turchi, Porto Badisco cove and Baia dell’Orte from where, one of natures spectacular formations is located: the Cava di Bauxite. Last but not least, Otranto boasts wonderful landscapes including the Archi degli Innamorati, viewed from the nearby fishing village of Torre di Sant’Andrea and the Faro di Punta Palascia – both the ultimate destinations to witness awe-inspiring sunsets and sunrises.

Gallipoli

The town’s historic center, situated on a limestone island connected to the mainland by a 16th-century bridge, is a labyrinth of narrow streets lined with whitewashed buildings adorned with colourful flowers. Gallipoli’s lively waterfront promenade is dotted with seafood restaurants, gelaterias, and cafes where you can take a seat at sunset and admire the view with an Aperol spritz in hand. With a very rich maritime heritage, Gallipoli is filled with fish markets that come alive in the early morning hours as fishermen unload their catches of the day. Visitors can wander among the stalls, buy fresh catch of the day, or dine in one of the restaurants to savour quality produce cooked in Salento style.

Faro di Punta Palascia, Otranto
Gallipoli

Lecce

Lecce is the perfect example of opulent baroque architecture in Italy, showcasing intricately carved façades of churches and palaces lining the historic centre, including a fair share of aristocratic and noble palaces (check out our itinerary around Lecce here). One of our favourite ways to live this city is by sitting in a café, such as Caffè Alvino, and ordering a Caffè leccese with a pasticciotto and enjoy the bustling life of the central piazza, before strolling around its idyllic town. The city is also very avant-garde in terms of its culinary offerings, with a handful of Michelin starred restaurants, family-run eateries and quirky, fun and young outlets where food travels beyond tradition.

Presicce

Presicce is a captivating destination that still retains its full authenticity. Similarly to other towns in Salento, it boasts a rich architectural heritage highlighted through important landmarks such as the Palazzo Ducale, a magnificent palace dating back to the 16th century, and the Church of San Giovanni Battista, known for its Baroque architecture and stunning frescoes. Centrally situated in Salento, Presicce also offers beautiful countryside trails, to walk in untouched nature amid olive groves and mediterranean scrub.

Santa Maria di Leuca

Known as the “Finibus Terrae” (end of the land), it boasts breathtaking views of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas converging. Visitors are drawn to its crystal-clear waters, pristine beaches, and dramatic cliffs, making it an ideal spot for relaxation and seaside adventures. The town is dotted with historical landmarks, including the iconic Santa Maria de Finibus Terrae Sanctuary, perched majestically overlooking the sea.

Lecce
The cliffs of Santa Maria di Leuca

Nardò

Nardò is another charming town in Salento that offers a lot more that baroque palazzi and traditional piazzas. It’s the simplistic air of southern Italian lifestyle that invites you to live the town slowly, sipping your morning coffee in a local café and leisurely strolling around its historic quarter. There are a few, very cute accommodations hidden amid the streets that we highly recommend, including Area 8, Casa Piana, Palazzo Ventidue and Casa a Corte.

Tricase

Situated close to the ruggest, southern Apulian coastline, Tricase boasts a plethora of historic landmarks, including the majestic Palazzo Gallone, a beautiful example of Baroque architecture, the Capuchins’ Church and Convent, and the Church of San Domenico, adorned with exquisite frescoes and intricate details. Nearby is Tricase Porto, with family-friendly sandy beaches and one of our favourite restaurants in Puglia: Taverna del Porto, where you can savour delicious, fresh seafood overlooking the sparkling sea.

Specchia

Specchia is a charming village founded in the early Middle Ages, deeply steeped in tradition; it is therefore dotted with historic landmarks such as the Castle of Specchia, a medieval fortress that offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and the Church of Madonna del Carmine, with its elegant Baroque façade and intricate details. Specchia’s relaxed atmosphere and authentic vibe makes it a perfect destination for travellers seeking to immerse themselves in the laid-back lifestyle of southern Italy.

The Capuchins’ Church and Convent in Tricase
The historical centre of Specchia


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