Otranto, the fortified city and harbour, has its own, free and unequipped very shallow beach right along the seafront road within the city/harbour bay – a splendid opportunity that the locals and visitors enjoy a lot. Despite the active harbour activity with lots of small boats and some larger ships mooring, the water quality is exceptional, and the beach is well protected from the waves outside on windy days. To the northern limits of the city, some additional beach facilities, which are tightly equipped with lots of sunbeds and umbrellas, offer their services. A bit further north, the rocky coast is also partially equipped with ‘beach’ clubs that have built staircases down from the 10 metre cliffs to the sea for their guests.
Le Cesine, a number of beaches stretching approx. 2.5 km from the nature reserve “WWF Le Cesine” and the Acaya Golf Resort southwards to Torre Specchia. Not very wide, and mostly not equipped with beds, umbrellas and other structures, they are a favourite spot for windsurfers and kite surfers. Yellow and black sand, some rocky spots turning into solid rocks towards the south in Torre Specchia. Two restaurants directly overlooking the sea offer great seafood dishes: Quintero and Puntarenas.
Alimini, a long stretch of beaches north of Otranto over approx. 4 km from the holiday villages “Serra Alimini” southwards to Baia dei Turchi. Lots of equipped beach clubs with bars and restaurants. Some of them have their parking lots in significant distance to the beach, and transfer guests with bus shuttles. Mostly yellow sand, with some black patches. Windsurfing, Kayak / SUP paddling, jet ski and other water sports rentals available.
Castro / Castro Marina is a rocky coastline town with no beach. Entry to the water is either down at the harbour, or a bit further south through ‘stairs’ carved into the rock. Castro offers a splendid view from its small ‘square’, which is a terrace overlooking the sea and is lined with bars and small restaurants.
Porto Cesareo, well north of the busy beaches around Gallipoli, has a distinct, rough grained, almost white sand, which has a peeling effect to one’s feet. Thanks to those heavy grains, the shallow water is very clear. A number of larger hotels and restaurants offer their services close to the beach.
Santa Maria di Leuca
Santa Maria di Leuca, at the southern tip of Salento, also called ‘caput mundi’ (end of the world) has no beaches, but sits on rocks that open up the view to west, south and east. Always windy due to its exposure, it is the target of many locals and tourists when exploring the Salento to every corner. Cosy restaurants and bars line the main road and offer their services.
Pescoluse, also dubbed ‘le Maldive del Salento’ is part of a very long stretch (approx. 10 km) of very fine grained, very pale and rather shallow beaches that start south of Gallipoli. It is worth to go the distance and start exploring south of Torre San Giovanni, where the beaches (e.g. Torre Mozza, Lido Marini and Pescoluse itself) are significantly less busy than in Gallipoli, and the sunbeds and umbrellas are set in a much wider grid. The name and fame of these beaches stems from the signature green colours of the water that are created by the pale sand.
Round and about
Salento’s beaches are best known for their extra fine sand, which you will find in various colours, reaching from the yellow sand at Pescoluse beaches, to the white sand of the Alimini beaches, to the black sand at Cesine beaches. All of the wonderful beaches have one thing in common: the crystalline water of the Adriatic or Ionian Sea which gently touches their borders. Salento’s beaches have repeatedly been awarded the “bandiera blu” label, a quality award recognised by the Foundation for Environmental Education.
A walk through the towns of Salento is a walk through a thousand years of Mediterranean history. Not only the Romans and the Greeks left their marks, but also the Turks and the Arabs (Saracens) could not resist this part of the Mediterranean. The cities of Salento – as well as their people, stories and dishes – still tell of these encounters today.
Salento is not only best known for its wonderful sea, but also and increasingly more for its extraordinary rich cuisine, whereby rich does not stand for expensive, but for an immense palette of irresistible culinary delights, many of them coming from the rural cuisine, which in the old days was the cuisine of the poors: Vegetables, fruits, homemade pasta in all imaginable variations, sometimes fish and all sorts of shellfishes. Meat is often served as self-made sausages, so called “salsiccia”, for which every butcher even in the smallest village has his personal and secret recipe. The “salentini” mainly cook with the products of their region, of their land and so their cuisine stands for freshness and uniqueness.