A Cycling tour thought not only to discover places and people of Salento, but also its culinary tradition.
A tradition that it is based on the Mediterranean diet with its land’s products (olive oil, flour, legumes), seafood and cheese. Almost every day, during the tour, we plan for you stops directly to the producers to know their stories and to taste their products: cheese, wine, olive oil, bread and vegetables pickled in oil.
Riding between 40 and 60 km a day, among villages and hidden beaches, you burn all the accumulated calories and in the evening you can go - guilt-free - to dinner in the best restaurants in the region, which are included in the tour. Overnight stays in villas, farmhouses, historical palaces and charmed hotels.
DAY 1: PROLOGUE
Meeting in Lecce with our staff, bicycle delivery, with GPS device and briefing about the route, while tasting some local wine.
Dinner reserved in a restaurant of the historical center, where typical dishes of the Apulian tradition await you.
DAY 2: FROM LECCE TO OTRANTO (58 KM)
Totally flat route, with many interesting cultural and naturalistic sights.
First, you visit Acaya – a fortified city with a huge castle - and then you plunge down to “Le Cesine” – a WWF protected area, crossing point for many species of migratory birds.
From there, you head to the coast, along the ruins of Roca Vecchia – an ancient Bronze age village – and then ‘Alimini’ Lakes, home to many different animal species. Some more kilometers and you are in Otranto, where narrow streets reveal wonders at every corner: The San Peter church and its Byzantine frescoes, a walk along the ramparts overlooking the sea and finally the cathedral with his paved mosaic – one of the biggest in Europe! a sort of figurative Middle Age encyclopedia.
The day will end with a fine dinner reserved in one of the best restaurant in town.
DAY 3: OTRANTO’S SURROUNDINGS (29KM)
Day dedicated to explore Otranto's surroundings.
Riding along the little river Idro (“water” in Latin), that gives to the city its name, you visit a byzantine crypt of XIII century and then you arrive in Casamassela, where ancient looms are still being used nowadays at “Le Costantine” foundation.
You, then, move towards Giurdignano, crossing a Bronze age megalithic area, observing closely the so called “dolmen” and “menhir”, that are prehistorical monuments. For lunch, visit and tasting in one of the most characteristic bakery in the region, where a farming family has decided to transform ancient grains into baked goods with an ancient flavor.
Way back to Otranto and you are free to enjoy the afternoon visiting the town, swimming in a little beach close to the town or making a horse ride along the cliffs at sunset (suitable also for beginners).
DAY 4: THE “PARK ROAD”: FROM OTRANTO TO SANTA MARIA DI LEUCA (54KM)
Today, you cycle along the wildest coastal stretch of Salento: the lighthouse of Punta Palascìa, in the extreme east of Italy, and a unique lake emerged in a disused bauxite quarry are among the greatest beauties you see just outside the city.
Nestled among the cliffs above the sea, this road is a huge balcony that looks onto Otranto Strait and with a little bit of luck you will be able to see the mountains of Albania and Greece.
You could visit ‘Zinzulusa’ cave, going down nearly 200 feet into the earth bowels. On the way to Leuca, you can admire some terraces and dry walls, the ingenious devices of peasants to get arable land in barren and impervious areas.
Leaving the gracious harbor of Tricase, in Marina Serra there will be our friends from Celacanto waiting for you - they prepare a tasting based on local products, produced by farmer of the Otranto – Leuca reserve.
After crossing the bridge over the “Ciolo”, a small canyon carved by the waters and rich of rare flora, you reach Santa Maria di Leuca where we visit the sanctuary, following the ancient pilgrims’ footsteps.
We take care of the dinner this evening too, Federico will be happy to host you in his restauants.
DAY 5: FROM SANTA MARIA DI LEUCA TO UGENTO (47 KM)
Today, you discover the area known as “Capo di Leuca”, the southern part of Apulia, one of the less know area, but the most suggestive of Italy.
Within few kilometers you pass by small hamlets, each one with its little treasure: in Salignano, an astonishing defense tower situated in the center of a small village, in Castrignano you visit an ancient olive oil mill, dugged into the rock, and then an enigmatic funerary monument made by big stones, in Patú, (its name “centopietre”, means “hundred stones”), with byzantine frescos inside; then, you cross Giuliano with its ruined castle and finally, you visit Barbarano - or Leuca Piccola - ('little Leuca'), an important pilgrimage station which still maintains a vast underground area. You keep cycling through olive groves and dry stone walls, crossing the countryside area named “Li Fani”, you reach the seaside known as “Salento’s Maldives”- and you can imagine why! In the afternoon, you dive again in the countryside for a tasting of sun dried tomatoes, artichokes and more specialties made by one of the best producer in the area,”I Contadini”.
Overnight in Ugento, where you can visit an archeological museum, or in a resort nearby the seaside.
The day finishes with a dinner of local dishes.
DAY 6: GALLIPOLI AND IONIC COAST (45 KM)
In the morning, you head towards the coast for a dip in the sea of the “Saint Andrew’s island and Punta Pizzo Coast Natural reserve”.
Then, you move on to Gallipoli: located on an island, this small fishermen’s village is striking by its light, its alleys and its fish market.
In the afternoon, Cantina Coppola, one of the ancient vineyards of the area, will host you for a wine tasting. Enjoying the sunset, you cycle towards Santa Caterina, a quiet village on the borders of “Porto Selvaggio Natural Reserve”.
Dinner based on excellent fish in the nearby village of Santa Maria al Bagno.
DAY 7: GALLIPOLI’S SURROUNDINGS/ OPTION COOKING CLASS (45 KM/ 30 KM)
Today, it is possible to book a cooking class in a farmhouse – Tenuta Donn’Anna (Galatone) – where one of our colleague’s mum will wait you to cook together some traditional dishes: you get there by bike, you might be accompanied by one of the team. Alternatively, you can do a longer tour – skipping the cooking class – and go to Galatina, where you can admire the church of Santa Caterina, totally painted with frescoes in Giotto's style, and then visit the beautiful historical center of the town and have a tasting of local product in a Bottega, where the owner - Salvatore - will be happy to host you and let you taste the best products of the area.
DAY 8: WAY BACK TO LECCE (42 KM)
Last day of your trip.
On your way to Lecce, you pass by many 19th century fortified farmhouse and villas that characterized this part of the territory, until you get to Nardó to visit its remarkable baroque style historical center.
Few kilometers out of Nardó, you stop in a renovated farmhouse - “Masseria la Cornula” - for an olive oil tasting. Next stop is in Copertino to discover its impressive Norman castle and listen to stories about Saint Joseph of Copertino, 'the Saint of holy of flights'. Late afternoon arrival in Lecce and bikes drop off.
Final dinner in one of the best restaurant of the town, we greet you with a culinary journey that will leave you speechless.
DAY 9: ONWARD TRAVEL