Salento is in the south-eastern most region of Italy lying in the so-called "heel of the boot". Situated in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, this region is filled with memories of the different civilizations that inhabited it, from the Messapi, to the Greeks, followed by the Romans and then the Normans. Crossing Salento with a bicycle is like cycling through an open-air museum. Prehistoric Dolmen, Byzantine shrines hidden in the caves, Baroque cathedrals, secluded corners of the coast... are all but a few of the things you can see when visiting this area. Salento is also internationally renowned for its characteristic cuisine which combines flavors from the sea and the earth and the fantastic rhythm of its folk music: most notably the Pizzica Pizzica.
Salento is a region that is almost completely flat, making the ride a pleasant journey for any level of rider.
Meeting in Lecce, where you will be delivered bicycles with GPS navigator, and show the following days itinerary. To enjoy your journey since the first day, we suggest you to visit Lecce, baroque city with many different souls: enjoy a walk through its historic center, from the majestic Dome to the Roman Amphiteater, and visit the permanent artisanship exposition to admire the artistic works of local masters. For dinner you will only have to choose between a proper meal – fresh fish, maybe? - and a fast “puccia”, a typical kind of bread with different fillings. Keep some space for a delicious “pasticciotto”, to be eaten warm.
Flat route today, with many interesting cultural and naturalistic sights. First you will visit Acaya – a fortified city with a huge castle -and then you will plunge down to “Le Cesine” – a WWF protected area, crossing point for many species of migratory birds. From there you'll head towards the coast, along the ruins of Roca Vecchia – an ancient Bronze age city – and ‘Alimini’ Lakes. Some more kilometers and you'll be 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.
Exploring Otranto's surroundings day. Riding along the little river “Idro” (“water”), which gave the name to the city, you'll arrive in Casamassela, where old looms are still being used in “le Costantine” foundation. After a guided tour you'll move toward Giurdignano, crossing a Bronze age megalithic park containing huge stones (“dolmen” and “menhir”), and you'll 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 you will visit 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.
Today you will cycle along the wildest Salento coastal stretch. You'll visit ‘Palacìa’ lighthouse (far east point of Italy) and a little red lake surfaced in a disused bauxite quarry. Then you'll carry onriding 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 you'll 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 will reach Santa Maria di Leuca with its Sanctuary, following the ancient pilgrims footsteps.
Today you will 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 you'll reach Ugento, maybe to visit its archaeological museum. In the afternoon you’ll reach again the ionic coast until the St. Andrew’s island and Punta Pizzo" natural park. In Gallipoli you 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 dedicated to Gallipoli's surroundings. First stop is in Sannicola to discover its underground oil mill, then Tuglie with its amazing “rural culture museum”. You'll go to Galatone to visit its beautiful Baroque old town and the Norman castle of Fulcignano. In the afternoon you will reach Galatina where you'll be able to 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.
Last day of our trip. you’ll pass by many 19th century fortified farmhouse and villas on our way back to Lecce. You will 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.
Late afternoon arrival in Lecce and bikes drop off.
Last day included. Service ends after breakfast.
Nights in *** hotels and B&B with breakfast
Grand Hotel is located in the historic center just 200 m from Lecce Railway Station. The location is elegant and refined with Leccese Baroque architecture. Rooms are spacious, well-finished and beautifully decorated and have these comfort: air conditioning, telephone, TV, free Wifi. Breakfast is rich of savory and sweet dishes served at the poolside or into a loggia.
Hotel San Giuseppe is set in a 16th-century farmhouse typical of the Puglia region and it's a well-finished and relaxed location in Otranto's historic center just a few steps from the sea. Rooms are well-furnished and beautifully decorated with air conditioning/heating, TV, free Wifi. Quality breakfast is rich. Staff is helpful and courteous.
The hotel is decorated in a typical Mediterranean style, and offers panoramic views overlooking the Marina of Santa Maria di Leuca. It offers modern, welcoming and bright rooms with air conditioning, balcony, TV, minibar, free Wifi, external swimming pool. Breakfast is served at terrace. Staff is helpful. Is recommended the restaurant that offers tasty fish dishes and Mediterranean cuisine.
The 33 Baroni Hotel in Gallipoli is a brand new hotel, at just 300 meters far from the old town and 80 meters from the sea. It offers clean and comfortable rooms with TV, air conditioning, soundproofing, free Wifi, telephone with direct line. Breakfast is served on the terrace with sea view. Staff is helpful and courteous.
From Bari (BRI) or Brindisi (BDS) airports, you need to reach the relative city stations. Train connections to Lecce are available from there.
On departure from Lecce you can take the direct train to reach both Bari or Brindisi train stations, where you find connections to the relative airports.
For more information about trains visit the website www.trenitalia.it.
GPS tracks are available on request.
What is included
· Nights in *** hotels and B&B with breakfast
. 2 tastings with wine, cheese and local products
· luggage transportation from hotel to hotel
· maps and detailed description of the itinerary
· 24h travel insurance
· Phone assistance in case of emergency
What is not included
. Transfers to the starting location and from the arriving location of the tour
· lunches and dinners
· visits and entrance fees - tips
· personal expense
· possible sojourn taxes
· everything that is not mentioned in the "What is included" section.
These services can be added to the ones included in the base price of the tour:
· Single room supplement
· Half Board supplement
· e-bikes/bikes rental
· Transfers to reach the starting location or to leave the arriving location of the tour, which will be quoted on request.