Day 1: prologue
Meeting in Lecce. Bicycle delivery, with GPS navigator. Briefing about the route.
Day 2: from Lecce to Otranto
Flat route today, 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 towards the coast, along the ruins of Roca Vecchia – an ancient Bronze age city – and ‘Alimini’ Lakes. Some more kilometers and you are in Otranto, where narrow streets reveal wonders at every corner: the St. Peter church Byzantine frescoes, a walk along the ramparts overlooking the sea and finally the cathedral with its paved mosaic, a sort of figurative Middle Age encyclopedia. Dinner based on seafood in one of the best restaurant of the town.
Day 3: Otranto’s surroundings
Exploring Otranto's surroundings day. Riding along the little river “Idro” (“water”), which gave the name to the city, you arrive in Casamassela, where old looms are still being used in “le Costantine” foundation. After a guided tour you move toward Giurdignano, crossing a Bronze age megalithic park containing huge stones (“dolmen” and “menhir”), and you could decide to visit “La Cutura” botanic garden. Here ‘Toto’ would lead you through his incredible plants collection (unique in Europe for its cactus species). In the late morning you’ll enjoy a wine and cheese tasting in a wine cellar. Return to Otranto and free dinner in the historical centre.
Optional horse riding in the morning or in the afternoon.
Day 4: Otranto – Leuca coast
Today you cycle along the wildest Salento coastal stretch: the ‘Palacìa’ lighthouse (easternmost point of Italy) and a little red lake surfaced in a disused bauxite quarry are between the most interesting spots. Nestled among the cliffs above the sea, this road is a huge balcony that looks onto Otranto Strait. With a little bit of luck we will 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 you can admire some terraces and dry walls, the ingenious devices of peasants to get arable land in barren and impervious areas. After crossing the bridge over the “ciolo” (a small and rich in rare flora canyon carved by the waters,) you reach Santa Maria di Leuca where you visit the sanctuary, following the ancient pilgrims footsteps. Dinner based on seafood in the best restaurant of the town.
Day 5: From Leuca to Torre Suda
Today you discover Leuca Cape, the southern part of Apulia. After an astonishing defense tower situated in the centre of a small village - it is possibile to visit an enigmatic funerary monument made by big stones (its name “centopietre”, means “hundred stones”), coming from Vereto, an ancient pre-romanic town situated nearby. In Giuliano you’ll find a castle and a X century church. Finally you visit Leuca piccola ('little Leuca'), an important pilgrimage station which still maintains a vast underground area.
Through olive groves and dry stone walls you'll reach a farmhouse, for a tasting of organic products. Afterwards, you'll move on to Ugento to visit its archaeological museum and spend the night in a beautiful ‘Masseria’ (farmhouse) overlooking the sea - with dinner served in masseria.
Day 6: Gallipoli and Ionic coast
In the morning we'll head towards the coast for a dip in the sea of the St. Andrew’s island and Punta Pizzo" natural park. Then, we'll move on to Gallipoli where you'll enjoy a rich aperitif. Located on an island, this small fisherman village is striking by its light, its alleys and its fish market. After a delicious ice cream, we ride again toward the San Mauro church: one of the hidden treasure of this country, hosting an ancient Byzantine frescoes cycle. Enjoying the sunset we cycle to Santa Caterina, Quiet village on the borders of Porto Selvaggio Natural Park. In the afternoon optional kayaking in the Park of Porto Selvaggio. Dinner served in Villa or in a nearby restaurant (depending on the size of the group).
Day 7: Gallipoli’s surroundings
Day dedicated to Gallipoli's surroundings. First stop is in Sannicola to discover its underground oil mill, then Tuglie with its amazing “rural culture museum”. We'll go to Galatone to visit its beautiful Baroque old town and the Norman castle of Fulcignano. In the afternoon we reach Galatina where we can admire the church of Santa Caterina, totally painted with frescoes in Giottesco style, and then visit the beautiful historical center of the town. Later stop in the vinery “Santi Dimitri”, to know closer the process of obtaining oil and wine, and for a wine-cheese tasting.
Day 8: way back to Lecce
Last day of our trip. Ww’ll pass by many 19th century fortified farmhouse and villas on our way back to Lecce. We stop in Nardò to visit its decadent baroque style historical center. Next stop in Copertino to discover its impressive Norman castle and listen to stories about Saint Joseph of Copertino, 'the Saint of holy of flights'. Some km before Lecce a last stop at a handcraft traditional pottery, at the Martina brothers, skillful keepers of this ancient art. Late afternoon arrival in Lecce and bikes drop off. Final dinner in one of the best restaurant of the town!
Day 9: Onward travel