Puglia Cycling Holiday Itinerary
Welcome to the capital of the Salento Peninsula, the elegant Lecce.
Lecce was founded around 2,000 years old and by the 15th century had become one of the most important cities in southern Italy. Over this period Lecce was decorated with important Baroque monuments and under threat from an Ottoman invasion, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, rebuilt the defenses of the city along with a new castle. A well-preserved Roman Amphitheatre and a smaller Greek Theatre, important buildings, churches, craft shops will turn your peeks around into continuous and nice discoveries.
Once upon a time and still today (about 45km)
A day in the countryside between Lecce and the closest coast to the town, where locals can enjoy the sea even if there is no much time available. Frigole is probably not the most famous marine resort but the area around it deserves to be known for its hidden treasures. Cultivated fields and renewable energy plants coexist with old and new olive trees, ancient ruins and protected areas part of the Regional Natural Park “Woods and Marshes Rauccio”. You will go back in time through the visit of Santa Maria in Cerrate, a Medieval settlement where monks lived, worked and prayed. It’s on the route of the old southern Via Francigena.
A tasty stop will be at a surprising bakery in an old Masseria, a big agricultural centre during the Second World War, where you can buy hot specialities and fresh products from the farm.
To the sea: Lecce – Gallipoli (about 50km)
You will leave the main city to go towards the sea on the Ionian coast.
But first you have to pass vineyards, olive groves, crops and small villages. Copertino has a pretty small historic centre and a well-preserved Angevin castle: quick stop for a coffee with ice and almond milk in Lecce style! From here you will cross Nardò that deserves a look on its magnificent Baroque square, Piazza Salandra, maybe with a nice glass of wine of local production sitting at one of the numerous bars. You will reach the sea at the edge of the Reserve of Porto Selvaggio, a real green lung defended and wanted by the population.
This coast is famous for its sunsets: arrived to Gallipoli enjoy it from the small bay of Purità, down from its walls.
Ionian coast: Gallipoli – Leuca (about 50km)
The “Beautiful City” of Gallipoli has been the most important Mediterranean olive oil trade centre in the past: the underground oil mill at Palazzo Ganafei will tell you this piece of history.
From Gallipoli you will cycle along the road parallel to the coastline passing Torre San Giovanni, a small harbour between volcanic low cliffs and fine white sand. Keep going straight to Punta Ristola, the extreme edge of Salento peninsula, a small rocky boss, place of legends and numerous finds dating to the Neolithic. From here a wonderful view of the harbour of Leuca and, even further, of Punta Melisso.
Now it would be perfect a boat trip to discover the many sea caves…
Up to the Adriatic sea: Leuca – Otranto (about 55km)
Up to the Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Leuca, white and blue are the colours all around: you can breathe calm and spirituality looking at this infinitive horizon made of the various shades of blue from sky and sea. Prepare yourself to get surprised many times today along the path. A panoramic stretch of road overlooking the sea will take you until the end to the beautiful Otranto, but before hidden bays and caves, breathtaking cliffs and canyons, enchanting villages full of history will give you many chances to get a break for a WOW!
Among gentle ups and downs you will reach your final goal of the day, your “home” for the next two days.
Stories and tradition from inland (about 30km)
A day around Otranto, an important little town always been, thanks to its position, a connection point for trades, cultural exchanges, invasions between the western and the eastern world. You will explore magical places such as the Megalithic Park near the village of Giurdignano, that preserves an evocative atmosphere of rituals and legends, myths and pagan cults related to the peoples who over the millennia have inhabited and traversed these lands. Then a farm in the middle of nature, that promotes social activities ranging from biodynamic agriculture to handicraft production of rare fabrics.
Before returning to Otranto, you can decide to visit La Cutura Botanical Garden, born from the love of a man for travels and… succulents!
Bye bye sea! Otranto – Lecce (about 55km)
One last greeting to Otranto, its castle, and its imposing Cathedral, an incredible but especially free museum. You can see the largest and most complex paved Mosaic in southern Italy, realised by a monk, Pantaleon, today considered a true encyclopedia of images of the time and culture of the Middle Ages. You will cycle close to the two Alimini lakes before riding again along the coast. Admire the wonders of the bay of St. Andrea and of the Cave of Poetry near the archaeological site of Roca Vecchia, maybe trying the experience of a jump in the sea.
A regenerate ride through the Natural WWF Park “Le Cesine”, along with the discovery of Acaya, a fortified town where time seems motionless, will make gradual your return to the modern civilization and the charming Lecce.
Last morning…it’s time for shopping!
Papier-mâché, coloured pottery, objects made of Lecce stone, textiles….among the many handicraft shops and the local food stores, you will probably need another suitcase to fill!!!