Prehistoric Dolmen, Byzantine shrines, Baroque cathedrals
Salento is in the southeastern most region of Italy lying in the so-called “heel of the boot“. Situated in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, this region is filled with memories of the different civilizations that inhabited it, from the Messapi, to the Greeks, followed by the Romans and then the Normans. Crossing Salento with a bicycle is like cycling through an open-air museum. Prehistoric Dolmen, Byzantine shrines hidden in the caves, Baroque cathedrals, secluded corners of the coast… are all but a few of the things you can see when visiting this area. Salento is also internationally renowned for its characteristic cuisine, which combines flavors from the sea and the earth and the fantastic rhythm of its folk music: most notably the Pizzica Pizzica. It is a territory for the bon vivant of traditional local recipes and for fish lovers.
This cycle tour starts in Lecce, the largest town of Apulia. It is a town with stunning architecture and therefore known as the ‘Florence of the South’ and the ‘Capital of the Baroque’. Take your time to visit the Duomo, Roman theatre and amphitheater, the castle of Carlo VI, and many museums and churches. From Lecce you cycle to Otranto, an amazing town positioned in an area full of Caribbean beaches. It is a place rich in history, art, culture. Entering the old town centre, surrounded by the ancient town walls, through the Porta Alfonsina town gate, you emerge yourself in a labyrinth of alleys, passageways and small cosy squares.
Leaving Otranto you cycle through the coastal natural park ‘Costa Otranto’ to Santa Maria in Leuca, famous for its lighthouse of 47m height. Punta Melisa is the point where the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionian Sea. Gallipoli was because of its harbor and importance as a trade centre always subject to attacks from conquering peoples, like Byzantines, Greek, Spanish and Normans. It is a town where history flourishes at every corner, which can be seen in the mixture of architectural styles.
This tour has a self-guided and group tour version.
The daily program of the 8-day tour
Briefing and bicycle delivery with GPS navigator in your B&B in Lecce.
Overnight with breakfast in Lecce
Today an easy flat route, with many interesting cultural and naturalistic sights. After breakfast you pedal to Acaya, a small fortified town with a huge, renaissance castle from in which you can see the influence Arragon period. Then you plunge down into the natural state reserve “Le Cesine”, a WWF protected area for many species of migratory birds. For the fish enthusiast among you, we can advise to visit San Foca on the sea. You continue cycling following the coastline, passing the remains of the ancient Bronze Age city, Roca Vecchia. You pass the ‘Alimini’ Lakes, where kilometers of beaches, forest and lakes are joined harmonious together. The last stretch of today brings you to Otranto, Apulia par excellence. Visit the San Peter church with its Byzantine frescoes and the cathedral with a very interesting mosaic pavement, a sort of figurative Middle Age encyclopedia.
Overnight stay in Otranto
Distance: 58 km / 36 mi
This short ring tour, gives you the opportunity to discover the surroundings of Otranto and in the same time you can dedicate yourself some more to this lovely town. The route follows the river “Idro” (“water”), which gave originally the name to Otranto. You come to Casamassela, a peaceful oasis where old looms are still being used in the agricultural handmade center “le Costantine foundation” (guided tour). The route continues to Giurdignano, a Bronze age megalithic park containing huge “dolmen” and “menhir” and then goes further to “La Cutura”, a botanic garden, where you can see an incredible plants collection. It is unique in Europe for its extensive cacti collection. Later in the morning you have a tasting of local products in a bakery. Returned to Otranto, you can visit the historical center. Interesting to visit is the twelfth-century mosaic in the Romanesque cathedral. This mosaic is made by a monk called Pantaleone and shows religous scenes like Noah’s ark, but there are also depictions of historical, mythical and even pagan figures, such as Alexander the Great and King Arthur.
Overnight stay in Otranto
Distance: 29 km / 18 mi
Today you cycle along a part of the wildest coastline of Salento. A beautiful landscape of cliffs will bring you to the ‘Palacìa’ lighthouse (extreme eastern tip of Italy) and a little red lake surfaced in a disused bauxite quarry. Then you carry on riding along the coast. The road on high cliffs offer stunning panoramas over the Otranto Strait. With clear weather, you even will be able to see the mountains of Albania and Greece. It is worthwhile to visit ‘Zinzulusa’ cave, going down nearly 200 feet into the earth bowels. This cave is one of the most famous anchialine caves of Italy. The landscape exist of terraces and dry stone walls, ingenious devices of peasants to get arable land in barren and impervious areas. After crossing the bridge over the “ciolo” (a small canyon with a rare flora), you reach the pilgrimage sanctuary Santa Maria di Leuca, built on the promontory Capo di Leuca and the lighthouse, where the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionic Sea.
Overnight stay in Leuca
Distance: 52 km / 32 miles
Today you discover Leuca Cape, the southern part of Apulia. You pass an astonishing defence tower situated in the centre of a small village and continue for a visit of an ancient mill, which is dugged into the rock. Another particularity is the enigmatic funerary monument made by big stones (its name “centopietre”, means “hundred stones”). As a highlight you visit Leuca piccola (‘little Leuca’), an important pilgrimage station which still maintains a vast underground area. Cycling amongst olive groves with dry stonewalls you come to Ugento, where it is worth to visit the archaeological museum. In the afternoon you will reach again the ionic coast and continue till St. Andrew’s island and the Punta Pizzo” natural park. In Gallipoli, called the Pearl of the Ionian, you can enjoy an aperitif on one of the many terraces overlooking the sea. The town is divided in a modern and old city, which is located on an island. This originally small fishing-village is striking by its bright sea light, its small alleys and its fishmarket.
Overnight stay in Gallipoli
Distance: 61 km / 38 mi
A day dedicated to the surroundings of Gallipoli. First stop is in Sannicola where you can visit an underground olive oil mill. You continue to Tuglie with its amazing “rural culture museum”. In Galatone a beautiful Baroque town and the Norman castle of Fulcignano is awaiting you. In the afternoon, you reach Galatina with the church of Santa Caterina, which is totally painted with frescoes in Giottesco style. This town has also a nice historical centre. You can choose to go back by bike or by train. Overnight stay in Gallipoli
On request, instead of the cycling, you can book for a cooking class ‘home-made pasta’
Overnight stay in Gallipoli
Distance 30 km / 18,5 miles or 60 km / 37 miles
The last day of your trip, you pass many 19th century fortified farmhouses and villas. There are also nice towns to visit: Nardò has a baroque style historical centre and Copertino an impressive Norman castle. Some km before Lecce a last stop at the Martina brothers, which skilful keepers of the producing of traditional pottery. Late afternoon arrival in Lecce and bikes drop off.
Overnight stay in Lecce
Distance: 52 km / 32 miles
After breakfast ends this tour full of sea, beaches, art and delicious Salento food.
Salento is a region that is almost completely flat, making the ride a pleasant journey for any level of rider. The daily route are about 3-5 hours of leisurely cycling, mainly crossing secondary roads, with sea-breaks and places to visit. On day 3 there are some more differences in level. This easy tour is meant to fully enjoy the surrounding landscape and culture with all its different aspects. GPS maps will guide you through the most suggestive and less busy roads.
Daily distances between 30 km /18,6 mi and 61 km / 37,9 mi
Total km: min. 272 km / 169 mi or max. 302 km /187,7 mi
self-guided every Friday and Saturday from 19/03 until 10/07 (last departure) and from 27/08 until 06/11 (last departure). Other dates on request with 75,00 € supplement p.p.
Group tour 17/04, 22/05, 26/06, 11/09, 16/10
Self-guided min. 2 people (solo traveller on request)
Group tour with min. 6 people. If less than 6 it is semi-guided.
START / FINISH:
Lecce / Lecce