Walking in the Heel of the Italian boot
Lecce-Otranto-Gagliano del Capo-Gallipoli-Porto selvaggio-Nardò-Galatone
Salento is a province of Apulia, the easternmost region of Italy. Situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, it keeps the memory of the different civilizations who have lived in these areas, from the Messapis to the Greeks, from the Romans to the Normans. It was an important area subject for a long time to maritime attacks by the Saracens. Witnesses of this period are the coastal watchtowers. This area is famous all over the world for its cuisine, the blue sea and beaches and for the rhythm of its folk music: the Pizzica.
Your hiking tour starts in Lecce, a Baroque city with important Roman ruins. Take your time to wander through the narrow streets of golden sandstone, for finding hidden piazzas and to enjoy a delicious lunch in one of the wine bars or cozy restaurants, where tasty dishes like the cecamariti pancakes prepared with zucchini, tomatoes, onion and chopped chili and Pucce sandwiches stuffed with meats, cheeses, cold cuts, vegetables in oil and olives.
Another town worth visiting is Otranto, an important commercial harbor in Roman times. Today it is a popular holiday stop with an imposing castle, a Romanesque cathedral and some yummy fish restaurants. The routes will reveal you not only the important sights, but also unknown treasures of the territory, like byzantine crypts or prehistorically sights. For the internal transfers you will use a small local train, which will allow you to conquer more of this wonderful land reaching places that are hardly known but always full of history.
The daily program of the 8-day tour
Arrival in Bari/Brindisi and you go by bus, train or with booked transfer to Lecce. In the late afternoon, briefing about your trip (English). Then you have time to do a short walking tour in the old town of Lecce, the Florence of the South. You will fall in love with its Spanish baroque style and its Roman remains.
Overnight in Lecce
Transfer by train from Lecce to Giurdignano. You walk through fields, beautiful olive groves and reach Giurdignano, where you will visit the megalithic garden with its dolmen and menhirs of the Bronze Age. Then you will head to Casamassella where you will admire the ancient looms brought back into production by the “Le Costantine” Foundation. Walking through the Idro Valley, you will discover an ancient Byzantine crypt. At the end of today’s stretch, you will reach Otranto, the pearl of the Adriatic, with its Cathedral and its medieval “tree of life” mosaic floor.
Overnight in Otranto.
Distance: 14 km / 8,7 miles; Walking times: 4 hours: total Ascent:+ 72m
Today you will explore the natural wonders of the surroundings of Otranto, like the Bay of Orte, then the lighthouse of Punta Palascia and the Bauxite Quarry. Today you will start from the castle of Otranto and go through the Porta a Mare. Once you have reached the main pier, you walk further along the coast towards the Snake Tower, which can be easily reached following easy trails.
You will see imposing cliffs and caves with stalactites and stalagmites. Finally, you will reach the Lighthouse of Punta Palascia and then a bauxite quarry, whose intense colours create a unique landscape. From the cave, you go back to Otranto where you will have your overnight stay.
Overnight in Otranto.
Distance: 16 km / 9,9 miles; Walking times: 4,5 hours; total ascent 182m
In the morning, you take the train from Otranto to Gagliano del Capo (travel time 1 hour and 10 minutes).
You will reach your accommodation and then get ready to walk along the trail called Ciolo, which goes down towards a canal. The footpath will offer amazing views. Once you have reached the Ciolo bridge, take the foothpath of the Cipolliane, which starts right there. The vegetation is particularly interesting (agaves, capers, prickly pears etc.). You will visit the caves of the Cipolliane (with stalactites and columns, galleries and fossils and bird colonies). Back on the trail, you continue to Novaglie, where you can take a break) or go back to the Ciolo Bridge if you like to swim. After passing a reproduction of the Madonna di Leuca, you continue to Gagliano.
Overnight in Gagliano del Capo.
Distance: 13 km / 8 miles; walking time: 4 hours; total ascent: + 192m
This day is dedicated to the discovery of the Cape of Leuca, the southernmost point of Apulia, and of the beautiful town of Gallipoli. First, you will cross ancient paths that connect small villages: the first stop is Patù with its Centopietre, an enigmatic monument created with a funerary function and coming from Vereto, an ancient pre-romanic city situated in the vicinity. In Giuliano you will visit the Church of San Pietro and the castle; in Barbarano you will visit the Sanctuary of Leuca Piccola and its hypogeum, an ancient destination for pilgrims and a stop for the faithful people of Leuca. From the station of Ruggiano-Salve, you take the train to Gallipoli (travelling time 1,5 hour) You have time to visit the old city of Gallipoli. From here you take the train to Gallipoli. You will visit the historic centre, surrounded by the sea and you will get a chance to taste a drink on a terrace with stunning views. Situated on an island, this little fishermen village is surprising for its light, its alleys and its fish market. After a visit, you will take a train to Nardò. (1 hour travelling time)
Overnight in Nardò.
Distance: 9 km / 5,6 miles; Walking times: 3 hours; Total Ascent: +42m
Porto Selvaggio is one of the most striking coastal areas of Salento, which became a regional natural park in 2006: in the area, there are numerous karstic caves with the remains of communities dating back to the Palaeolithic era. From Nardò you walk along ancient dry stonewalls and olive groves and you will arrive at the base of the slope of the Alto promontory where, on the upper plateau, you will find the Tower of Santa Maria dell’Alto, whose construction dates back to 1568. Then you will move down to Porto Selvaggio, admiring the famous Mediterranean Macchia and discovering beautiful caves like the grotta del Cavallo, an archeological site you can only see from outside. Then you will reach the tower of Uluzzo. The itinerary continues towards the Nova Masseria and from here, continuing along small trails, you will go back to Nardò.
Overnight in Nardò.
Distance: 20 km / 12,4 miles; Walking times: 5 hours
Total ascent: 110m
This the last full day of your trip. From Nardò you go to Galatina by train and you will visit the historic centre with the magnificent basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria. Then, still by train, you will reach Lecce. Here you will have a guided tour of the city, also called “the Florence of the South”. You will see Baroque palaces, courts but also a Roman theatre and amphitheatre, Santa Maria della Croce, the Cathedral etc.
Optional: if you wish, you can stop in Galatone and take part in a traditional cookery course (train to Galatone and walk of 5 km towards the villa where the course takes place). Then you will take a train to Lecce, where you’ll have the guided tour.
Overnight in Lecce.
Distance: 3km / 1,9 mi; Walking time: 1h; Total ascent: 12 m
After breakfast ends your walking tour through Salento
Easy, tour for all. Some walking experience needed but particular training are not requested for this tour. Not too many differences of level, almost all walking on very easy terrain. The area is mostly flat, so you will encounter very few ascents. You will walk along secondary roads and walking paths: 50% asphalted and 50% on gravel. Walks between 3 to 5 hours
Average daily distances:
12 km / 7,5 mi – 24 km / 14,9 mi
Total 68 km / 42,3 mi
starting days every Friday and Sunday from 19th March to 10th July and from 27th August to 06th November (last departure date) Other days on request with supplement
1 or more people.
START / FINISH:
Lecce / Lecce