5 ways to discover lower Salento, South Italy, and love it

What to do in lower Salento and how South Italy can steal your heart forever

We were preparing our bags for a trip to Bologna, Italy, when we received this strange email. Actually, until the very last day we thought someone was joking with us. What was in it? It was an invitation to attend a press trip in the area of Tiggiano, Salento, South Italy. Never heard of it? Neither had we.

Tiggiano is a small municipality at the end of the heel of the Italian boot – an area totally unknown for us, and apparently for the English speakers around the world. However, despite everything looked so suspicious, we immediately agreed to go. There is no way we deny a trip to Italy, especially in the south. Exploring an unknown area has always been a dream of ours and we were eager and impatient to discover the Salento area and learn why a tourist should go there.

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Саленто 39.933400, 18.352600

And now, after this absolutely amazing trip, we want to share with you some ideas what to do in Salento.

Explore the small towns and villages and feel the spirit of Salento

If you want to escape from the busy city and go to a different world where people live calm, never work on Sunday and look really happy and peaceful – go to Tiggiano, Patu, Tricase or any other town in lower Salento. This is the south Italian way of life – neat small villages with stone houses and castles, some of them centuries old, habituated by people living a peaceful and calm life, enjoying the nature and peacefulness all around.

Tourists, especially foreigners, are a rare attraction here and everybody will be happy to talk to you, if you can speak at least a little Italian. Our group of journalists attracted a lot of attention in this calm area and we were happy to see the local way of life from a closer look. While learning about local houses hundreds of years old, we were given fresh apricots and figs by a nice lady that was willing to share her story with us.

Warmth – this is what anyone could feel in the villages and towns of Salento. And it is one of the few places left where you can enjoy the really natural local way of life, without the need to go to museums and official places.

Tiggiano, lower Saento, Southern Italy

Tiggiano. Southern Italy

Tiggiano

Tiggiano, Salento, Southern Italy

Tiggiano, Salento, Southern Italy

Our tour around Salento was organized by the Tiggiano municipality and we had many opportunities to enjoy this beautiful small town. Tiggiano, where we stayed, is a home to Serafini – Sauli Palace, one of the largest noble palaces in the province of Lecce.

Serafina - Sauli palace (Palazzo Baronale) in Tiggiano, Salento, Southern Italy

Serafina – Sauli palace in Tiggiano

The palace has recently been renovated and hosts the local town hall and museum which you could easily visit. But the most important part of the palace are its gardens where magnolias, pines and oaks grow, together with olive and orange trees. The Serafini – Saulli woods is also a home of some of the world’s shyest animals and also features a garden where a local variety of parsnip is being grown, together with tomatoes and zucchini.

The town hall of Tiggiano

The town hall of Tiggiano

You can also go on the roof and enjoy the marvelous view to the whole area and the .

Churches in Tiggiano

If you are a church lover, try to visit the church St. Hypattas and the Oratory of Saint Archngel Michael, some 100 steps from each other. However, if you want to go inside, you may need first to contact a local travel guide.

Tiggiano, Salento, Southern Italy

Tiggiano



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Tricase

A real must-visit town in the area is Tricase – the biggest town in the Cape of Leuca. With its beautiful marinas, churches, castle and old streets, it can bring you joy for an entire day.

The centre of the city will stun you with its beautiful square, surrounded by the medieval castle and the San Domenico convent. Climb to the 600-year old Turris Magna tower in the castle and do not miss to see the old prisoners’ cells whose walls are decorated with many different carvings by inhabitants.

San Domenico church in Tricase, Salento, Southern Italy

San Domenico church in Tricase

The churches of Tricase will also stun you – the mavellous San Domenico convent and the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, just by the castle walls. You will be amazed by the size and beauty of these two buildings.

The several chapels in San Domenico represent not only religious, but also historical events, like the fights with the Turks trying to invade the area. The different chapels, dedicated to life, death, sun, lie and truth, will steal your eyes forever.

Continue your walk in the opposite side of the square to visit the Nativity church that shines with its volume, form and amazing decorations. You could easily lose sense of time when visiting these two amazing places, but you will find there peace, adoration and positive emotions – the most important things for a great holiday.

Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Tricase, Salento, South Italy

Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Tricase

Tricase proved to be a very nice town with many churches and other minor attractions, including the one below. Can you guess what is this?

Stairs for getting on the horse in Tricase, south Italy

Guess what these stairs were used for

Gallone palace in Tricase, southern Italy

Gallone palace in Tricase

Drawings by brisoners in the palace of Tricase, Salento, Southern Italy

Drawings by brisoners in the palace of Tricase

Salve

Then say Salve (Hi in Italian) to Salve – another charming town in lower Salento, home to the regional cultural and tourist organization Arches. Just near the central square you will find their office where you can ask them to recommend local attractions according to your interests and take touristic brochures and maps.

The central square of Salve, Southern Italy

The central square of Salve

Just steps from their office there is a local weaver workshop where local young people are trying to preserve the old habits of weaving. It looked very nice but it was hard for us to find it too impressive after we had visited the carpet factory in the Bulgarian town of Kostandovo where huge carpets are being made daily.

Another interesting place in Salve is the old underground olive oil factory. In case you are there outside working hours, you have no problem to visit the place by yourself – it is open and free. However, we will not advise you to do this in the night.

Old olive eoil mills in Salve, Southern Italy

Old olive eoil mills in Salve

More towns and habits in Salento

If you cannot take your eyes and soul from those cute small streets with stone houses and castles, make a stroll through Patu, Giuliano, Ruggiano or any other village of your choice in the area. Even the smallest one has some attraction to offer – would it be an old church, a castle or a terrace. Every step in Italy is historical.

We were lucki to be on the right palce at the right time and enjoy the procession for Corpus Domini feast in Patu. It was very interesting and emotional to witness this event.

The town of Patu, Salento, Southern Italy

The town of Patu

The carpet of flowers for the Corpus Domini feast in Patu

The carpet of flowers for the Corpus Domini feast in Patu



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Go back to the middle ages in the steps of pilgrims and kings

Salento area has always been an important geographic crossroad. From its coasts you can see the mountains of Albania but also the coast of Calabria. The cape of Leuca hosts the second most important lighthouse in Italy and the area has also been an important destination of Christian pilgrims, heading to Santa Maria di Leuca sanctuary.

The santuary was built to commemmmorate the passage of Saint Petr during his travel to Italy. Once on this place there used to be a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva.

View to Leuca

View to Leuca

In those ages, Salento was a place of numerous fortifications, castles and towers that are still present and reminding of those glorious but also dangerous ages. Some examples are the Torre Nasparo, outside Tiggiano, Torre Vado, Torre Pali (nowadays half-submerged near a nice beach).

The sanctuary Leuca Piccola is another sacred place in the area, visited by many pilgrims. Once it served as a hostel for pilgrims heading to Santa Maria di Leuca. Today you can still see the wall where horses were being left, the underground area with stone beds and the old well supplying water to the pilgrims. The chapel above hosts centuries old frescoes, still feeling as a sacred place and deserving its attention.

All around the area you will also notice the small stone houses known as pajare – similar to the trulli in Alberobello. Centuries ago, they used to accommodate local peasants living in small groups. These houses can be seen all around Salento and you can try to enter some of them.

Pajare house in Salento, Southern Italy

Pajare house in Salento

Enjoy the nature by trekking at Ciolo paths

Despite being a home to so many historical and religious sites, Salento is not a busy place and not very popular among tourists. This makes the area a great choice for those who are looking for a calm retreat among a lot of nature.

Ciolo fiord in lower Salento, South Italy

Ciolo fiord in lower Salento, South Italy

Salento is a home to many natural phenomena, among the caves and natural pools by the sea that will leave you stunned. The miracles of nature have no limits. To explore some of them, you can do the easy and pleasant trekking in the Ciolo area. There are several paths, not very long, but very picturesque. One starts just next to the bridge at Fiordo del Ciolo – one of the most stunning natural formations in the area. There is a small beach at the foot of the bridge and if enthusiastic, you can swim there.

Otherwise, put your trekking shoes and take the path up to Gagliano del Capo – a pleasant 2-km walk by the rocks, offering stunning views toward the fiord.

Trekking path at Ciolo area

Trekking path at Ciolo area

Another amazing idea is taking the path on the opposite side of the road, starting just next to the bar, on the stairs down. Passing by the amazing seaside, it will take you to some of the most impressive caves in the area. Actually, the place was once underwater, covered with ice in the ice age. After the meltdown many seashell fossils were left on the rocks and now you can see them everywhere. The path is easy and the best time to take it is the late afternoon – around 5-6 pm in the summer, to enjoy the beautiful sunset and avoid the local heat.

Seashells on the walls of a cave near Ciolo, Salento, Southern Italy

Seashells on the walls of a cave near Ciolo

Cave Cipolliane  - Grotte Cipolliane

Trekking in Salento, Southern Italy – walking the most beautiful path in the area

July 17th, 2017 Андрей АндреевA walk with stunning seaview by a beautiful fjord and ice age caves Ciolo fjord – I never imagined that there are fiords in Italy! Somewhere near Gagliano del Capo, on the Italian boot's heel, Adriatic sea makes a small and beautiful fiord, named after a bird. In Italian Ciole means magpie and these small…

Take some rest and sun on the beaches of Salento

Of course, this picturesque area surrounded by waters has some beautiful beaches to offer to the tired visitors. Among them is Torre Pali, named after the medieval tower that is now the main attraction there. The tower was built as an observation point against pirates and now you can easily put your towel a few metres from it and enjoy the views and the sand.

Torre Pali beach in Salento, Italy

Torre Pali beach in Salento

Torre Pali beach, Italy

Torre Pali beach

If a sandy beach does not sound interesting enough for your adventurous soul, try bathing in any of the natural pools and caves in the area. Among them are La Piscina di Marina Serra e La Grotta della Poesia. Piscina Naturale is the keyword for you if you are looking for something like this. Also, don’t forget the option to swim in the Ciolo fiord.

In the calm countryside of Salento you can also find many private farms, some of them featuring luxurious hotels. 

Luxury private farm with hotel in Salento, Italy

Taste everything you can and fall in love with local

In our opinion, it is a crime to go to Italy and abstain from trying their incredible food in every possible occasion. For us, is an essential part of travelling. You could not feel a place without tasting it. And Italy has a lot to offer.

Yes, sometimes it can be hard. We got really tired of eating –  Stanchi di mangiare, as said in Italian. But we are not sorry for trying either of the tens of meals we tried in 3 days.

7 different types of pasta, more than 10 starters and side dishes, more than 10 seafood meals, 5 or more different desserts, and not talking of the more than 5 types of pastries for breakfast. In Salento seafood is very popular, especially in the summer, so you won’t make a mistake to order either fish, squid, shrimps, octopus or anything else. Sometimes they put strange things in the pasta – like chickpeas or parsnip. But be brave to try it – it may be incredibly delicious. We plan to write a separate article about food in Salento, so I stop here. Just take a look of some of the delicious meals we tried.

In addition, dare to taste the local wines – we really loved them.

Another thing you could taste is olive oil – the area is famous with its olive oil production so ask in the tourist information office where to go and taste.

Where to go to party in Salento?

After three days of seeing, tasting and exploring, we still think of Salento as a land of mysteries. The more you discover, the more you want to see, taste and explore. If you are a fan of such calm, natural places, that have preserved their authenticity for centuries and do not plan to change in the future decades – you will love Salento. If you start to get bored of this peacefulness – jump to the nearby town of Gallipoli – the capital of summer nightlife in the area. Then, when you get tired of dancing, you can easily go back to your retreat at Tiggiano or somewhere else.

Tips and useful information about visiting Salento

Salento, Southern Italy

How to reach Salento?

The Salento airport is located in Brindisi and there are regular flights from Rome and some other cities. You can also arrive in Brindisi by a ferry from Greece or Albania. However, once there, your best choice of moving around is a rental car. None of the local travel guides recommends using the public buses and trains. Well, if you looking for an adventure, you could try.

What is the best time to visit Salento?

In the summer Salento becomes more and more popular among tourists that fill the beaches and enjoy the sun. However, the area is still calm and not too crowded. Separately from the beaches, the towns look still calm and peaceful. If you are not planning to go to a beach holiday, it is good to visit in April, September or October. is a great time for the beach and July and August might feel really hot. However, the constant winds there make the heat bearable.

Language adventures

If you are not speaking even the least Italian, you might be a challenge for others. Foreign languages are not very popular in the area so be prepared that the English speakers around will be very few. But isn’t this great – you want to escape from the everyday life, don’t you?

Our cheerful group of journalist from Italy and Poland, some local tourist guides and two bloggers (us) from Bulgaria

Our cheerful group of journalists from Italy and Poland, some local tourist guides and two bloggers (we) from Bulgaria

Andrey Andreev Photography team - Andrey and Mimi

Andrey Andreev Photography team



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