An easy walking tour through the heel of Italy, between nature and culture.
The walking distance every day is between 12 and 24 km, almost all on very easy terrain.
The area is mostly flat, so there are very few climbs.
You will walk between secondary roads and paths: half of the roads are asphalted, the other half are dirt but all will reveal small treasures of the area, such as Byzantine crypts or prehistoric monuments.
For internal transfers you use the local train, which will allow you to go even further into the discovery of this wonderful land, reaching little-known places such as small villages rich in history, nature reserves and medieval castles.
DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN LECCE
In the late afternoon you meet our staff members who will brief you on your trip.
Then we recommend a short walking tour in the old town of Lecce, the 'Florence of the South'. You will fall in love with its Spanish baroque style and its Roman ruins.
DAY 2: THE SURROUNDINGS OF OTRANTO – VALLE DELL'IDRO (14 KM)
Train from Lecce to Giurdignano (1h 50')
Walking through old meadows in the middle of beautiful olive groves, you reach Giurdignano where you visit the megalithic garden with its Bronze Age dolmen and menhirs (enormous prehistorical stones with ritual functions).
Then you head to Casamassella where you visit the ancient looms brought back into production by the ‘Le Costantine’ Foundation.
To arrive in Otranto, you walk through the “Idro Valley”, (the little rivers that gives to the city its name) and where it is hidden an ancient Byzantine crypt, with the remains of mediaeval frescoes.
Once in Otranto, the easternmost city of Italy, you have time to discover its treasures: the ancient church of San Pietro, the walk on the ramparts overlooking the sea, the cathedral with its medieval ‘tree of life’ mosaic floor, full of esoteric symbols.
DAY 3: PUNTA PALASCÌA, THE EASTERNMOST POINT OF ITALY (16 KM)
Today, you explore the natural wonders around the city of Otranto: the bay of the Orte, the lighthouse of Punta Palascia, and the bauxite quarry.
Starting from the Otranto Castle you go down to the port through the Porta a Mare. Once you reach the main pier, you immediately enter the coastal area heading to the Snake Tower, easily reachable through wide paths.
You walk practically on the sea, on ancient paths traced by shepherds or salt smugglers.
You reach the Lighthouse of Punta Palascia, famous for being the easternmost point of Italy and the place where – geographically - the Ionian Sea meets the Adriatic Sea.
After a long stretch along the coast, you will leave the paved road and a pleasant trail will take you – first – to a farmhouse where you can have a cheese tasting, and then among the ruins of an ancient Greek Abbey.
Few more kilometers and the landscape changes its color, giving the impression to be on Mars: you are at the edge of the Bauxite’s lake, from which aluminum was once extracted but which is now a stunning and unique place, destination of migrant birds and tourists. From the quarry you will head back to Otranto.
DAY 4: THE CIOLO CANYON AND THE CIPOLLIANE PATH (13KM)
Train from Otranto to Gagliano del Capo (1h10’)
You start walking towards the Ciolo path: a path stretching between “pajare” (dry walls fabrications), dry walls and a variegated flora of rare species (partly indigenous, partly from the neighboring Balkans). The view over the sea is just stunning.
Once you arrive at the bridge of Ciolo, here begins the footpath of the Cipolliane that winds through walls and terraces and a constantly exciting sea view.
The vegetation is a mixture of huge ‘fichi d’India’ (prickly pears), imposing agaves and capers.
You will see the stones polished by time, air and salt, which form the unusual shapes of the walls constructed to protect the small fields from the strength of the sea and the wind.
You visit the caves of the Cipolliane, an interesting complex of caves where you can admire stalactites, columns, tunnels and fossils, and birds' colonies.
Back on the trail you can continue to Novaglie (where you can take a break) or go back to the Ciolo bridge if you would like to swim.
The canal goes up under high cliffs and ancient caves, and after passing a reproduction of the Madonna di Leuca, you will reach the square from which you can continue on to Castrignano.
DAY 5: DISCOVERING THE CAPE TREASURES AND THE OLD CITY OF GALLIPOLI (9KM)
Walking tour from Gagliano del Capo/Castrignano del Capo to the station of Ruggiano-Salve 8.5 km; Train to Gallipoli (1h 50')
This day is dedicated to the discovery of the small treasures of the Cape of Leuca and the beautiful city of Gallipoli. Firstly, you will cross ancient paths that connect the small villages. The first stop is Patù with its 'Centopietre', an enigmatic monument created with a funerary function and then used as a religious chapel (traces of Byzantine frescoes are visible).
In Giuliano you will visit the ancient “San Pietro Church” (XII century) and its amazing castle. In Barbarano you will visit the sanctuary of Leuca Piccola and its hypogeum, an ancient destination for pilgrims and a stop for the faithful people of Leuca.
From here you will walk on to reach the station of Ruggiano-Salve to take the train towards Gallipoli.
In Gallipoli you will discover the old city, a beautiful island surrounded by the sea linked to the mainland by a XVI century bridge. Get lost in the streets of this ancient fishing village, searching fascinating corners, baroque churches, and beautiful sea views.
DAY 6: DISCOVERING NARDÒ AND PORTO SELVAGGIO (17 KM)
Train from Gallipoli to Nardò Centrale (35') - Walking toward Porto Selvaggio by crossing the historical centre of Nardò - Transfer from Santa Caterina to Gallipoli.
The natural reserve of Porto Selvaggio is one of the most striking coastal areas of Salento, which became a regional natural park in 2006: within the area there are numerous karstic caves with the remains of communities dating back to the Palaeolithic era.
From the old town of Nardò you walk through ancient cuttings between dry stone walls and olive groves and From there you will go back to the promontory and, passing along scenic trails, we will reach the Uluzzo tower.
You will move down to the bay of Porto Selvaggio and from there, following a beautiful path between cliff and the famous Mediterranean ‘macchia’ (scrub) with Aleppo pines, olivastri, lentisco and acacia saligna, you will reach the ‘Grotta del Cavallo’ (an archeological site which one can only view from the outside) known to be a Neanderthal settlement.
After having enjoyed the wonderful view that unfolds below the ‘Belvedere’, you find the Tower of Santa Maria dell'Alto whose construction dates back to 1568.
The itinerary continues towards the seaside town of Santa Caterina, where a taxi will wait fro you and bring you back to Gallipoli.
DAY 7: ON THE WAY BACK, A VISIT TO GALATINA AND LECCE
This day is dedicated to a visit to two of the most important old towns in the province of Lecce.
Galatina: (Train from Gallipoli - 45')
You will visit the town wandering through the streets of the center until you reach the magnificent Basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria where you can admire the many frescoes of Giotto's influence.
Lecce: (Train from Galatina - 1h),
If you did not have time on your arrival - this day - you can dedicate to explore the city: with its historical palaces and their 'courts', the amphitheatre and the Roman theatre, Santa Maria della Croce, the cathedral, etc
DAY 8: DEPARTURE