Salento is mostly identified as the “heel” of the Italian peninsula. You will spend seven days on pedals, following our gps maps leading you in the most evocative corners, to the countryside roads, small villages and handcraft laboratories in small sleepy towns that are off the tourist trail but greatly worth visiting for their unspoilt historic centres and their genuineness.
Day 1: Indivual arrival in Lecce
Meeting in Lecce. Bicycle delivery, with GPS navigator. Briefing about the route.
Day 2: Lecce – Otranto 56 km
Flat route today, with many interesting cultural and naturalistic sights. First we visit Acaya – a fortified city with a huge castle -and then we plunge down to “Le Cesine” – a WWF protected area, crossing point for many species of migratory birds. From there we head towards the coast, along the ruins of Roca Vecchia – an ancient Bronze age city – and ‘Alimini’ Lakes. Some more kilometers and we 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.
Day 3: Otranto’s surrondings 35 km
Exploring Otranto’s surroundings day. Riding along the little river “Idro” (“water”), which gave the name to the city, we arrive in Casamassela, where old looms are still being used in “le Costantine” foundation. After a guided tour we move toward Giurdignano, crossing a Bronze age megalithic park containing huge stones (“dolmen” and “menhir”), and we arrive to “La Cutura” botanic garden. Here ‘Toto’ will lead us through his incredible plants collection (unique in Europe for its cactus species). In late morning visit to a characteristic stone-made oven, where we will have a typical bread cheese and other baker product tasting. Return to Otranto and free dinner in the historical centre.
Day 4: Otranto-Leuca coast 52 km
Today you cycle along the wildest Salento coastal stretch. You visit ‘Palacìa’ lighthouse (eastERNMOST point of Italy) and a little red lake surfaced in a disused bauxite quarry. Then you carry on riding along the coast: nestled among the cliffs above the sea, this road is a huge balcony that looks onto Otranto Strait. With a little bit of luck you 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 we 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.
Day 5: Leuca – Gallipoli 61 km
Today we discover Leuca Cape, the southern part of Apulia. After an astonishing defense tower situated in the centre of a small village – it is time to visit an ancient mill, dug into the rock, and then an enigmatic funerary monument made by big stones (its name “centopietre”, means “hundred stones”), coming from Vereto, an ancient pre-romanic town situated nearby. Finally we visit Leuca piccola (‘little Leuca’), an important pilgrimage station which still maintains a vast underground area. Through olive groves and dry stone walls we’ll reach Ugento, maybe to visit its archaeological museum. In the afternoon we’ll reach again the ionic coast until the St. Andrew’s island and Punta Pizzo” natural park. In Gallipoli we could enjoy an aperitif on a terrace overlooking the sea. located on an island, this small fisherman village is striking by its light, its alleys and its fish market.
Day 6: entroterra gallipolino 30/60km
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. Possible return by train.
Day 7: S. Caterina – Lecce 42 km
Last day of our trip. We’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 ‘the hopi of flights’. Some km before Lecce a last stop at a handcraft traditional pottery, at the Martina brothers, skillful keepers of this ancient art.
Day 8: Breakfast and end of your bike tour.