The Salento area is a beautiful region in southern Apulia (Italy), and it is also called Salento Peninsula because it overlooks the Ionian Sea to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east. On the map you can find it on the heel of the Italian boot. Salento is famous for its paradisiacal beaches, for its divine food (just as paradisiacal as the beaches) and for its traditions and culture.
We met Gabriella who told us about her native land and gave us tips on what we really need to do and see if we travel to Salento with kids.
What’s your connection with the Salento area?
“My name is Gabriella and I am a native from Salento. I am married and I have two children (aged 5 and 13). I have been living in Ticino for several years and it is now my pleasure to show you my area. It will win your heart for different reasons: beaches, art, cuisine and hospitality. “
What is the best time to visit Salento?
“The best months are June / July / September, August is best be avoided because it is too chaotic (crowded beaches, traffic, full restaurants, high prices). ”
How to travel to and around Salento?
“In Salento you need to have a car, since the distance from the Ionian to the Adriatic Sea is only about 50 kilometres and public transport (buses / trains) are not efficient at all. If you drive, you will have the If you land in Brindisi (Salento airport) you can rent a car directly at the airport.”
How can we best discover Salento?
“The landscape on the Ionian coast and its sandy beaches is different from the Adriatic coast with sheer cliffs and breathtaking views. Take a walk along the coastal road in Santa Maria di Leuca, with its Basilica and lighthouse. When the sea is calm, you can see the point where the “two seas” meet.
This is where the Pugliese aqueduct plant ends, before flowing into the Monumental waterfall. This sight is open only one day every year, normally in July. If you happen to be in the area, it’s a unique experience.
From S.M. di Leuca continue to Tricase-Marina Serra and dive in the “Cave of Poetry”.
Before reaching Otranto, stop in Porto Badisco and visit the “cave of the Zinzulusa” in Santa Cesarea Terme by fishing boats or on foot. “Zinzuli” are limestone formations similar to stalagtites.
Otranto’s the city of the Martyrs, where 800 people were killed during the Turkish invasion. The Aragonese Castle walls now host exhibitions. There are shops, cafes and restaurants overlooking the sea, where you can dine. On a clear day, you can see the Greek and Albanian coastline.
If you’d like to travel to Greece, check the hydrofoil that leaves from Otranto. The trip lasts a few hours.
Gallipoli is located on an island connected to the mainland by a characteristic bridge; before crossing it, you’ll see an ancient Greek fountain and the Basilica del Canneto. Don’t miss the sunset from the old city walls.Another must-see is Porto Cesareo, with its characteristic natural harbor: the Isola dei Conigli (rabbits’ island), can be reached by boat. Take a trip to the crystal waters of Punta Prosciutto and Torre Colimena, too. If you are tired after a day at the beach, take the kids train through the old town.
What are the best beaches?
Gallipoli: since Salento is the land of “sun, sea and wind”, in Gallipoli you can choose the best beach, according to the wind. So if the wind of the day is sirocco, you go to tramontana.
-Lido San Giovanni, a historic beach club, ideal for families. A-la-carte restaurant, self-service restaurant and a pizzeria.
-Lido baia verde caters mostly to families.
If the wind is tramontana, go to sirocco.
– Rivabella, offers several beaches next to a refreshing pine forest.
– Lido Venere, a beach club with a kids club, a-la-carte restaurant, self-service restaurant, BBQ.
I recommend to bring a change of clothes, because establishments are equipped with hot water showers. This allows you to stay out until late.
If you prefer more natural beaches, with no facilities, there are plenty of them all over Salento.
If the weather is not suitable for a day on the beach visit Lecce, the cradle of the Italian Baroque; or Splash Aquapark in Gallipoli.
Where shall we eat?
“My first piece of advice is to be wary of restaursants offering tourist menus with fresh fish at low-cost prices, because you would neither find fresh fish nor quality.
For a quick lunch I recommend stopping at one of the many bar-rosticceria (the Martinucci chainis the best) that offers very good street food. Foodwise you should try “rustic Lecce” and “pasticciotto” as well as pizza and focaccia.
For dinner, visit a local food fair in any inland village: this way you can sample authentic local dishes at very low prices.
Here’s a list of the best fish and seafood restaurants in Gallipoli:
- Il Bastione
- La Puritate
- Grotta Marinara
- Trattoria Portolano
- Pizzeria Vesuvio
- Ristorante Pizzeria “Villa Excelsa” (Sannicola)
- Ristorante-Pizzeria “Exedra” ( Leverano).
Where shall we sleep?
“I recommend to sleep in a village inland, though not far from the sea. it’s a lot quieter and it will save you a lot of money.