itineraries

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ALTOSALENTO

The “Alto Salento” territories are situated in the centre and north of Brindisi province and includes the towns of Carovigno, Ceglie Messapica, Francavilla Fontana, Latiano, Mesagne, Oria, Ostuni, San Michele Salentino, San Pancrazio Salentino, San Vito dei Normanni and Villa Castelli. The territory has prehistoric origins, so the artistic and architectural heritage is really variegated. There are many farm houses, manor farms, castles and trulli (typical circular stone structure with cone top-roof). The cathedrals, monasteries, churches show off frescos and oil paintings, antique wood statues, paste, stone, silver etc. Many archaeological sites have been discovered during the years. The area is typically marked with country dry stone walls, olive, almond, cherry  trees, vineyards, wheat etc. The area offers wine production, wine bars, wine and oil mills. Because of the production of wine and oil the area has been nominated “L’appia dei vini” or “Strada dell’olio” (the way of the wine and oil). Each community offers gastronomic products that differentiate themselves and may be appreciated in local taverns, bakeries, oil mills, dairy farms and shops. The historical towns such as Alberobello, Ceglie Messapica, Cisternino, Ostuni, are known for their snickelways and white painted lime houses. The inland landscape is composed of upland that identifies the southern “Murgia”. The coast extends for 40 km along the Adriatic sea, there are long beaches and sand dunes which are covered with mediterraneon scrubs. There are sand inlets and reefs.


MESAGNE

Mesagne is a city located in the center of Salento. It few km far from Lecce, Taranto, Ostuni and from the Itria Valley which has the famous Trullis. Since Roman times, Mesagne was a place where travellers on the Via Appia used to stop and rest. Later it became the holiday resort for the Princes of Taranto. The city boasts a beautiful old town with characteristics  narrow streets and squares. Here you can stop and enjoy  many wine & food places, and eat typical dishes  associeted with a glass of good local wine. The “Norman-Swabian” castle is the emblem of Mesagne. It was built in 1062 and donated to Frederick II Svevo in 1220. The churches date back to different historical periods, as well as several excavations with important finds from Messapic and ancient Rome periods exhibited in the citizen museum.


BRINDISI

Brindisi is situated on the Adriatic Sea. It rises up on a natural harbor that is deeply wedged in the coast. It is a very ancient city, founded between the Messapi and Roman domination. It’s a “bridgehead among East and West: it was so named by Charles of Anjou, infact it has been historically a crossroads of peoples and cultures. The city offers to the visitors the chance to admire palaces, churches and monuments (such as the roman columns and virgilian staircase , Piazza Duomo with the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista, the Alfonsino- Aragonese Castle the Svevo Castle , The Sailor Monument, the New Verdi Theatre and many other monuments), the archaeological sites (archaeological area of San Pietro Degli Schiavoni) . You can also enjoy the wonderful natural reserves just outside of the city. Here you can admire the migratory and sedentary birds that populate the reserves (Cillarese Park, Saline Punta Della Contessa ).


LECCE

Lecce is also known as “Firenze del Sud” (Florence of the South) for its preponderance of baroque art. Its origin goes back to the messapi and roman period. The town offers  to the visitors the possibility to admire its  very famous and really appreciated cultural heritage. Expecially palaces and churches flaunt the magnificence of baroque art; the most known are Palazzo dei Celestini beside the Church of Santa Croce, the Church of Santa Chiara and the Cathedral. Originally the town has four portals: Porta Napoli, Porta Rudiae, Porta San Biagio e Porta San Martino (which does not exist any more).  Archaeological sites are: the hypogeum Palmieri, the Roman amphitheatre near Piazza Sant’Oronzo and the Roman Theatre.


TORRE GUACETO

“Torre Guaceto” is a government owned natural reserve protected by WWF.  The area is extended for 5km from Punta Penna Grossa to Apani. The name has an Arabic origin “Gaw-Sit” meaning area of fresh water. The marsh is rich of cane Phragamites australis. The dunes are high as 10m and long 800m and separate the mediterranean scrub from the sea. There are holm oaks, aleppo pine, juniper, lentisk, various types of cistus, myrtle, thyme, scilla bifolia autumnalis. A variety of migration birds nest in the marshland: the Cenerino Heron, the Egret, the Moorhen, the marsh harrier. The sea is rich of fish, dolphins and the loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta also may be seen. The oasis is open all year round and offers guided visits, bicycle trekking, excursions and only in the summer,


PORTO CESAREO – Torre Lapillo

Porto Cesario raises on the ionian coast, where there is the  Marine Protected Area, Palude del Conte e Duna Costiera. The coastline is characterized with sandy inlets, low cliffs and small islands (the most known is “Isola Grande” also called “isola dei conigli” (island of the rabbits) ).  Among the best beaches there are “Lido degli Angeli” and “Bacino della Strea” where there is shallow water away from the beach. Submarine excursions are possible and glass bottom boats are available for sea exploring. The best area is the Neretina coast. Fishing tourism is encouraged with the local fisherman cook the fresh fish caught. Typical dishes are: linguine ai frutti di mare(flat spaghetti with sea food), risotto alla pescatora (rice with sea food), triglie, alice marinate (marinated anchovies), zuppa di pasce.


ALBEROBELLO

Alberobello appears on the Murgia hills and it has been declared a world heritage by Unesco in 1996. It’s the last town of trulli, there are about 1.500. The main areas are Monti and Aia Piccola. There are many historical, cultural and artistic places to see. From the Terrazzino belvedere from which you can delight of a fantastic view of the historical centre called rione Aia Piccola, dominated by the cone shape tops with their designed symbols in white lime. This area has about 400 trulli. The Oil and Artisan Museum guards old and new trades where local tools are exposed . The city is full of wonderful and important palaces like: “Casa D’Amore” nominated a world heritage, the Basilica Minore dedicated to Santi Medici Cosma e Damiano. At the back of the church there is the Trullo Sovrano (the sovereign trullo). The area Monti has more than 1000 trulli aligned in seven different streets, where mastery of artisans may be admired. The trullo shape Church of Sant’Antonio is located on the highest point of the area is unique. The typical  and most delightful products thatv you can taste here are: almond pastry,” pettole”, the cartellate and amaretti.


THE ITRIA VALLEY

The Itria valley coincides with the southern upland of the Murgia. It’s located in the central part of Apulia and it spreads over the province of Taranto, Bari and Brindisi; it includes the municipalities of Locorotondo, Alberobello, Ceglie Messapica, Cisternino, Fasano, Martina Franca, Noci, Ostuni, Villa Castelli. The Itria valley is modulated by karst ups and downs, characterized by the “Trulli” that have a proto-history origin, typical and exclusive of southern-central Apulia. The valley is characterized by the presence of karstic caverns (the most important are Grotte di Castellana and Grotta Monte Fellone). The toponym has byzantine origins and it is in memory of the Madonna Odegitria, that indicates “the right way” to travellers. The colourful landscape reflecting green olive and oak trees, white trulli and the red land may be viewed and appreciated from the surrounding hills.


OSTUNI

Ostuni is known as the “WhiteCity” for its characteristic. The “Old Town Centre” is all white painted. Various recognitions have been awarded from 2008 to 2013, la Bandiera Blu(the blue flag) Cinque vele di Legambiente and Touring Club (five veils, from the environment association) for the clearness of sea and its long coast with white sandy beaches with jagged inlets and for the service of that’s provided.  The historical centre is built at the top of a hill and its facade can be seen from the coast and dominates all itria valley till the adriatic sea. The landscape from the side facing the coast is appreciated. In the snickelways there is folktale, small artisan shops and taverns that conserve tradition of past time. It’s a city that surprises and leaves you without breath for all its beauties that enhance the heart. The Ostuni territory has been inhabited since the medium Palaeolithic period, excavations have found bones and ceramics; very significant is the finding of a female skeleton “donna di Ostuni” (woman) old about 25,000 years, found in the cavern of the homonymous manor farm,   Grotta di Santa Maria di Agnano. A burial cast may be seen at the pre-classic museum inside the ex convent of the Monacelle located in the historical centre of Ostuni. In the excavation was found a IV-II a.C. tomb near the Forum Boarium (area overlooking the medieval walls).


POLIGNANO A MARE

Polignano a Mare is a small town in the southern territory of Bari. It is built on the top of a cliff 20m high sheer to the sea with caves below. The most famous and amazing you can visit are: Grotta dei Ladroni (the cave of the robbers), Grotta del Guardiano (cave of the guardian), Grotta Azzurra (the blue cave), Grotta dell’Arcivescovo (the cave of the bishop), Grotta Ardito (cave of the brave), Grotta delle Monache (cave of the nuns), Grotta dei Colombi (cave of the doves) Grotta Palazzese (inside it there is a luxorious restaurant, look for “grotta palazese restaurant”) . There are remains of the roman domination in the old town and it’s still possible to cross the Trajan way bridge that crosses Lama Monachile. The town entrance is marked with the imposing Arco Marchesale which conducts visitors to the Piazza dell’Orologio, where are the Palazzo del Governatore and the church Santa Maria Assunta.


OTRANTO

Otranto is the far most eastern town in Italy, its seventy kilometres far from Albania. It faces the “Canale d’Otranto” south of the Adriatic (Otranto channel). The town is known for its natural and artistic beauties. Throughout the centuries has been involved in very important historical events. All the populations living in otranto have left theirn traces: the Palaeolithic the Caves of Cervi; the Messapi, tombs and ceramics kilns; the Greek, monolithic marble columns, capital (architecture), tombs; the Romans a “necropolis”, tombs; the Byzantines , the Church of  San Pietro, the Basiliano Monastery of San Nicola di Casole. Great historical significance has the Cathedral of Santa Maria Annunziata where in 1480 a massacre carried out by the Turks occurred. The coastline is characterized by beaches with white and fine sand and crystalline water. It has been awarded by the recognition of 5 veils by Legambiente (the environment association). At just 8km there are the breath-taking Alimini Lakes. The most important typical products are: sea foods, homemade pasta.


SANTA MARIA DI LEUCA

Santa Maria di Leuca is a hamlet of Castrignano del Capo and arises at the extreme southern point of Apulia, between point Meliso and Ristola. It took the appellative of “finibus terrae” during roman period because that’s the end of Italy. The legend says that the first arrival was Aeneas. Another legend says that Saint Peter arrived from Palestine and started his evangelical service before proceeding to Rome. The passage of Saint Peter is remembered by the corinzia column erected in 1694 in the Basilica square of the Santuario di Santa Maria di Leuca or De Finibus Terrae. Erected during the beginning of Christianity and probably built on an ancient temple dedicated to Minerva. The Church of Cristo Re (the church of Christ the King) is situated in the centre of Leuca, very nice is the mosaic floor and the rose window on the main facade. Since 2006 the territory of S.M. di Leuca is part of the Parco Costa Otranto – Santa Maria di Leuca e Bosco di Tricase established by the Apulia Region Authority to safeguard the eastern area of Salento. Famous are the 18th century ville built in various style: Villa Mellacqua, Villa Meridiana, Villa Tamborino. The coastline is various, high and rocky. The different types of beaches satisfy all types of tourism. The beach establishments allow guided tours and sea sports. There are the caves of Le Grotte di Rada, Le Grotte di Ponente, Le Grotte di Levante.


GALLIPOLI

The town is situated along the coastline and faces the Ionian Sea, divided by the new and old part. The walls and strong ramparts erected around the XV century in defence of the town are still visible. The borgo antico (the old area) the Cathedral of Saint Agata are examples of Lecce baroque. In the Church of San Francesco d’Assisi there is the statue of “cattivo ladrone” (the thief of the cross) crucified alongside Jesus Christ, a wooden statue of great artistic value, mentioned by Gabriele D’Annunzio in one of his writings as “orrida bellezza” (hideous beauty). The winding alleys hide religious and civil architecture, ancient palaces, baroque churches, majestic portals, lordly residence of the 15, 16, 17th century. From the “old area”, there is a stairway which leads to Spiaggia della Purità (beach of purity), from Chiesa della Purità (church of purity), where the statue of Santa Cristina can be seen, patron of the town. The coastline is about 20km long and includes the small towns of Punta Pizzo, Baia Verde, Rivabella e Lido Conchiglie. Every night this area offers variety of entertainment.


CASTEL DEL MONTE

The castle was built in 1240 for the will of Federico II, it reflects the beginning of gothic architecture in southern Italy, though still reflecting the traditional regional roman style. Erected on the highest point of the area probably as a hunting lodge. It has an octagonal plant and towers with sixteen trapezoidal  rooms. The interior is decorated with gothic and Arabic sculptural setting and embellished with floor mosaics. The castle has been declared a UNESCO world heritage in 1996. There are exhibitions, conferences, concerts and other cultural initiatives. Many experts thinks that his structure hides an esoteric meaning and in the past was thought that the Holy Gral could be guarded inside it.