The Two Seas Tour: Salento by City Bike - A MULTI-STAGE JOURNEY

Cycling in Salento

A bike tour in the nature, the colors and the scents of Salento.

A ride to the discovery of the "Heel of the Boot", where the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionian Sea. Three stages along the entire Salento coastal road: 126 km from the Alimini Lakes, north of Otranto, down to Gallipoli, through typical landscapes of this corner of Puglia, rich in natural beauty and history.

Legs

Points of interest

ALIMINI LAKES
ALIMINI LAKES

They are two typical Salento lakes, situated just north of the city of Otranto. Connected to each other by a channel named “Lu Strittu”, they are a protected oasis rich in vegetation and a natural habitat for many animals, especially birds. The larger of the two lakes, Alimini Grande (Big Alimini), was generated by the continuing erosion of the sea, and it extends for about 2.5 km with a depth of about 4 meters. Alimini Piccolo (Little Alimini), however, was formed thanks to the freshwater springs and it is also called ‘Fontanelle’. It extends for about 2 km and its depth does not exceed one and a half meter.

SALENTO’s COASTAL TOWERS
SALENTO’s COASTAL TOWERS

Built in the sixteenth century, the towers were ordered by Charles V to defend the Salento territory from the dangers coming from the sea. The rulers of the time used to fortify the towns and castles and protected the coast with an uninterrupted series of watchtowers, to form a “line” to communicate any alarms. On the Adriatic area of the Salento’s coast, from Otranto to Tricase, there are several. In particular: the Lighthouse of Palascia (which replaced the ancient tower of Capo d'Otranto, the easternmost point of Italy), Sant'Emiliano Tower, Badisco Tower, Minervino Tower, Specchio di Guardia Tower, Miggiano Tower, Lupo Tower (one of the oldest in Salento) and Sasso Tower.

ROMANELLI CAVE
ROMANELLI CAVE

Discovered in the early 1900s by Paolo Emilio Stasi, it is one of the most interesting natural caves of the Salento coast in the history of prehistoric studies. With its discovery it was in fact definitively established the presence of the Upper Paleolithic in Italy: the finds inside it highlights the presence of man at that time. With its succession of red and brown layers, rich in finds, the cave has a length of 35 meters and is accessed more easily from the sea. It is situated close to the town of Castro.

SANTA CESAREA TERME
SANTA CESAREA TERME

Located at the entrance of the Otranto Channel, it is one of the best tourist centers in Salento, because it is an important hydrothermal station. Santa Cesarea Terme is in fact situated on a long stretch of coast affected by the phenomenon of hot springs: the chlorinated, iodine and sulphurous waters spring at varying temperatures in four natural caves communicating with the sea, known as: Gattulla, Fetida, Sulfurea and Solfatara.

ZINZULUSA CAVE
ZINZULUSA CAVE

The name of this beautiful coastal natural cave derives from the dialect "Zinzuli", rags, and it is due to the karstic formations, especially stalactites, hanging from the ceiling as if they were hanging rags. The Bishop of the town of Castro, Antonio Francesco del Duca, in 1793, discovered it. However, the first studies began only 150 years later, in 1950, and the cave was opened to the public in 1957. The cave, formed by marine erosion, is ideally divided into three areas (entrance, crypt and bottom), and it is characterized by both marine and sweet crystal clear water springs. It is also important for its wildlife: it hosts an unusual biological diversity, also with unique endemic species.

PORT BADISCO
PORT BADISCO

Known seaside resort on the eastern coast of Salento, famous for its sea urchins’ culinary tradition. Of historical significance is the Deer Cave, the most impressive Neolithic pictorial complex in Europe. The pictograms, in bat guano and red ochre, represent geometric, human and animal shapes, which date back to Neolithic times, between 4,000 and 3,000 BC. The cave is characterized by numerous ravines and coves of exceptional beauty.

OTRANTO - The Castle
OTRANTO - The Castle

The Castle of Otranto is the medieval fort of the Apulian city. It used to create a unique defensive system with the city walls. It has been rebuilt many times through centuries, its actual aspect it’s because of the Spanish Viceroy who turned it into a military architecture masterpiece. Today is a museum open to the public, it is renovated and it can be visited. Curiosity: the fort 'give' his name to the first gothic novel in history, "The Otranto Castle", by Horace Walpole (1764).

OTRANTO - The Cathedral
OTRANTO - The Cathedral

Dedicated to Santa Maria Annunziata, the Cathedral was built under the Normans and completed in the twelfth century. It is built on the remains of a Messapian village, a Roman house and an early Christian temple, and it is the most important place of Catholic worship in the city. Heavily restored after the Turkish ravages at the end of '400, the church houses a masterpiece of medieval art: a huge mosaic floor, completed in 1165, representing a majestic ‘Tree of Life’ with scenes from the Old Testament, from the apocryphal Gospels, the chivalrous cycles and the medieval bestiary. In the Cathedral are also preserved the relics of the holy martyrs of Otranto.

SANTA MARIA DI LEUCA
SANTA MARIA DI LEUCA

Wild and characterized by steep cliffs, sea promontories and pristine nature, Marina di Leuca is between Punta Ristola on the west, the extreme southern point of Salento, and Punta Mèliso on the east. The town is a seaside resort and fishing center, located in a magical place, where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas meet. 'Pearl' of the extreme strip of Italy, it lies in a stretch of coast alternate with cliffs and small sandy coves. The numerous caves are of great historical and natural interest and the seabed are a real paradise for underwater tourism. The name "Santa Maria di Leuca ", according to tradition, was decided by none other than St. Peter, landed here to begin his evangelization, while "De Finibus Terrae", the other epithet with which is indicate the Leuca area, is of Roman origin, and stresses that the area is the southernmost of the territory. Among the town’s beauties deserve a visit: the eighteenth-century Sanctuary of Santa Maria De Finibus Terrae, which has its roots in the early days of Christianity (is located where there was a temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva), the nineteenth-century villas built in various styles, the marina, the lighthouse of Punta Mèliso (almost 50 meters high) and the ‘Omo Morto’ Tower, one of the many watch towers that characterize the Salentine coast and named after some human bones found inside.

CIOLO’S BAY
CIOLO’S BAY

Renowned cove near Gagliano del Capo, Ciolo’s Bay (or Ciolo’s Channel) is a kind of Salento style 'fjord'. Water erosion has created this gorge, which looks like a deep canyon, surrounded by high and steep limestone cliffs rich in caves, that create a small pebble beach and a narrow inlet. The name "Ciolo" comes from magpies, called “Giole” or “Ciole” in Salento dialect, that used to live in the channel. The fjord is crossed by a bridge, suspended at 36 meters high, from which you can admire a breathtaking view overlooking the sea.

PUNTA RISTOLA
PUNTA RISTOLA

The most extreme part of Salento. From the geographical point of view it has an extraordinary importance because it is located in the terminal part of the Gulf of Taranto and for navigation is an orientation point to enter the Channel of Otranto. The whole area is also of relevance for the history of Santa Maria di Leuca because it is home to an area full of events related to the life of primitive man and his cultural evolution. At Punta Ristola there is the Devil's Cave, accessible from both the sea and land through a four meters high and two meters wide entrance. The name comes from the popular imagination that attributed to devils the gloomy rumblings heard from inside the cave. Curiosity: just outside Punta Ristola, 85 meters below sea level, lies the Italian oceanic submarine hull “Pietro Micca”, sunk during World War II.

COSTA OTRANTO-S.MARIA LEUCA-BOSCO TRICASE’s REGIONAL PARK
COSTA OTRANTO-S.MARIA LEUCA-BOSCO TRICASE’s REGIONAL PARK

It was established in 2006 by the Puglia Region in order to safeguard the east coast of Salento, rich in precious architectural monuments and important species of animals and plants. With over 50 km of coastline and 3200 hectares of land, it is the largest regional park in the province of Lecce. A protected area that includes some of the most famous tourist resorts in Salento, for the protection of a unique nature and breathtaking scenery. From the easternmost point of Italy (Punta Palascia) to the southernmost (Leuca), among terraced olive groves, cliffs overlooking the sea, creeks, meadows, pine forests, groves, dry stone walls and deep gullies carved by water. Where the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionian Sea.

ISLAND OF SAINT ANDREW
ISLAND OF SAINT ANDREW

Small flat island of 50 hectares which is just over a mile from the historic center of Gallipoli. Today uninhabited, the island is a unique heritage from a naturalistic point of view. The protected marine area is in fact affected by particularly sensitive habitats, stage of the birds migration routes and botanist place of great scientific value. It is the only nesting site in the Ionian and Adriatic coast of Italy of the Corsican gull.

FELLINE
FELLINE

The village has ancient origins. The area was definitely inhabited since prehistoric times, as in the surrounding area were found some menhir, while the town was founded around the third century BC in Roman times. The historical center of the town is very quaint and it extends inside the medieval walls, of which only few parts remain today. The village is characterized by a maze of narrow cobbled streets, overlooked by ancient courtyard houses with Renaissance balconies and windows and many aristocratic palaces. 'Pearl' of the village is the Madonna dell’Alto Abbey, which is surrounded by large expanses of woods and Mediterranean bush.

GALLIPOLI - The old town
GALLIPOLI - The old town

Also known as the "Pearl of the Ionian Sea", Gallipoli extends into the sea of the Salento west coast. It is divided into two parts: the old town, situated on a limestone island connected to the mainland by a seventeenth-century bridge, and the village, which houses the most modern part of the city. The old town is full of monuments and churches, towers and ramparts, surrounded by fourteenth century walls, modernized in the sixteenth century during the Spanish domination. Of great historical interest is the Byzantine castle, rebuilt over the centuries by Angevins and Aragoneses, the Greek Fountain, believed to be the oldest in Italy (third century BC) and the many churches that are expression of the Salento’s Baroque style, in particular: the Basilica of St. Agatha, St. Mary of Purity, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi and the Sanctuary of Santa Maria del Canneto.

"S.ANDREW ISLAND - PUNTA PIZZO COAST " NATURAL PARK
"S.ANDREW ISLAND - PUNTA PIZZO COAST " NATURAL PARK

Protected area of the Salento Ionian coast, established in 2006, which extends throughout the Gallipoli Bay, from Punta Pizzo to the mouth of the Samari channel, also including the wetland named Li Foggi and St.Andrew island, in front of the old town of Gallipoli. The Park protects a particularly varied territory, an interesting environmental mosaic composed of beaches, Mediterranean forests, damp and marshy areas. This variety of habitats has as a result the presence of different species of flora and fauna, especially aquatic birds. In the humid areas of the Li Foggi channel you can watch the Knight of Italy, as well as on the St. Andrew Island nests a rare species of gull. The Park is also a destination for outdoor activities lovers: here it is possible to take different paths, on foot, horseback riding or by bicycle.

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Technical data

City of departure: Otranto

Departure: Laghi Alimini

City of arrival: Gallipoli

Arrival: Gallipoli

Length (Km): 126

Discipline: Cycling

Type of Itinerary: Half Day