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Otranto & Salento

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Otranto & Salento, A Pleasant Journey Along the Adriatic Sea

Take some time off the beaten track! Cameras at the ready for this magnificent coastal drive along the Adriatic Sea. A full day tour will take you all the way to Leuca, the tip of the Italian heel: rocky coastline, tiny quaint fishing villages, grottos, watchtowers etc. are waiting to be experienced in the most remote area of Puglia region.

The journey starts with the visit of Otranto, the Easternmost Italian city: walk the historical centre, right on the ancient walls and learn about the infamous slaughter of the 800 martyrs by the Turks, which happened over 5 centuries ago. A visit to the unusual Cathedral will surprise you with its stunning floor mosaic and the skulls of the martyrs on display.

A photo stop by a former open sky mine, locally called 'bauxite lake', is the beginning of the most famous seaside drive of Puglia. Only few miles away and you will be at Punta Palascia, the lighthouse where many young Italians gather early in the morning on the 1st January every year, to catch the first sunrise of the country. On a very clear day, from here you can spot the mountains of Albania, on the other side of the Adriatic.

A series of Saracen watchtowers will accompany you along the road to Santa Cesarea Terme: be captivated by amazing spectacular rocky cliff, overlooking the famous turquoise coloured waters. An easy stroll on a safe path and you will be on the right spot to take beautiful pictures. Santa Cesarea is also the town where a series of monumental villa were built between the 19th and the 20th century and house a famous complex of thermal baths.

A dramatic opening on a wall that towers over the sea leads to the Grotta Zinzulusa. The numerous concretions, (stalactites and stalagmites) found inside this cave reminded the local population of what they referred to as "zinzuli" - old, threadbare clothes, hence its name. Beyond the entry lies a karstic tunnel that penetrates inland for about one hundred metres, until it reaches the Duomo, the final hall of the above ground stretch open to tourist. Unique living fossils were found here, as well as large stalagmites on the ground to witness a long period of emersion of these environments. The visit of Zinzulusa Grotto is weather permitting.

Castro is probably the best place if you want to bathe and also a suggested break for lunch - you are now in the heart of Salento. Just before the end of the 'heel' is Ponte del Ciolo, a 20 meters high bridge from where locals dive sometimes. This is also a nice spot from where you can bathe or snorkel in the crystallin water of the Adriatic sea - If interested we may do a short trekking to reach a more seclude spot.

Santa Maria di Leuca (Caput Mundi) is the end of the tip, where the Adriatic meet the Ionian Sea. A Sunset Boat Ride is the best way to experience the "Heel of the Italian's Boot", a relaxing cruise to view the beautiful grottos around it and unique coastline (weather permitting).

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