Home Travel Exploring Italy’s Salento Region – The New York Times

Exploring Italy’s Salento Region – The New York Times

by Jersey Lady

“Go to one of the inland cities today,” advises the burly fruit vendor, handing me a baratière. A mixture of melon and cucumber, it is native to Puglia, the region that forms the stiletto heel of Italian boots. “Today the sand is blowing on both shores and we cannot see the beautiful colors of the sea.”

In Puglia, wind and sea are always talked about.Sirocco, heat currents from the Sahara, Tramontana, etc., Cold winds from the Alps (not to mention Ponente and Levante), how the wind blows will determine which beach to go to and what to plan for the day. Bartenders, street vendors, and shopkeepers are quick to comment on which works and how best to navigate the tide.

Tonight in Lecce, Tramontana takes center stage, the effect of which is like a medium-speed fan on a quiet, hot night. The doors of the houses on the streets away from the more touristy main street are slowly opened after a long afternoon siesta, and Nonne, in her house dress, chats with neighbors and passers-by. I am drying the laundry.

I take part in evening walks known as Passeggiata, mingling with both Italian and foreign tourists, stopping at many of the city’s churches (there are more than 40 in all) along the way. Rich in stunning architecture and art, the city is best viewed in the last hours before sunset, seemingly lit with golden light from within. It is the limestone of Salento, the southernmost part of this region, where the rock is soft and friendly to sculptors, providing the architectural building blocks here. Carpalo, Mazzaro, Pietra Leccese, Tufa — each stone offers a slightly different patina. Sculptures bring the façade to cinematic life. More stately religious types like angels and saints seem to have little effect.

After hopping around churches, I found my way to Saloon Keeper 1933, a gourmet-style bar with artisanal cocktails, bearded mixologists and mismatched furniture. Antique carpets lie beneath 1920s leather club chairs, and vintage photographs adorn the walls. But what sets it apart from similar sites in New York and London is the smack in front of the Church of San Niccolò dei Greci, a compact and still intact example of the city’s Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture. sitting. Placing a new generation of hospitality and entertainment outposts in the immediate vicinity (and sometimes even within) the region’s most historic monuments and city centres, is a trend throughout Puglia, and especially here in Salento. .

I first came to Puglia in 2005 with my ex-boyfriend. Since then I have been back a dozen times, falling deeper in love with each expedition. But now it’s at the top of my travel wish list.

Despite being connected to the rest of the country by land, the area feels like an island, bordered by the Ionian Sea to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east. Two bodies of water meet at Santa Maria di Leuca, Land’s End in southeastern Italy.

This part of the country had suffered many invasions, and the castles that dotted the coastline were a line of defense against the Saracens, Normans, Turks and Spaniards, and temporarily ruled here. Now, with a gentler conquest, a new generation of hotels, restaurants, bars, beaches and his clubs opened by foreigners attracted to the area, Pugliese seeks to put their region on the map. Life close to the sea.

Athena McAlpine was one of the first hoteliers to move here in 2002 after living in London for many years. She and her husband Alistair Convento di Santa Maria di Costantinopoli by Marittima di Disotransforms the cloisters and monks’ cells of a former Franciscan monastery into a unique retreat with a museum-worthy collection of arts and crafts (432 euros or double from about $440).Rob Potters from Australia Created by Masseria Trapana After visiting the area from Tuscany where he was a hotel consultant. He revived a derelict building just north of Lecce into a bright luxury resort (290 euros he doubled) that had not been lived in for 200 years.

Former Pepsi CEO Massimo Fasanella d’Amore di Ruffano and his partner Diana Bianchi spent four years building a 900-year-old unused castle that belonged to his family. Refurbished, discovered 17th-century frescoes and added new conditions.art cooking school Castello di Ugento The city of the same name in the southern part of the peninsula (double from 400 euros).

And then there were the arrivals of celebrities. Helen Mirren has a house in Tiggiano near Tricase, Meryl Streep has property on the coast and Gérard Depardieu has a pad in Lecce.

“My partner, Steve Riseley, read about Salento and got me hooked,” said Harvey Brown, one of the newcomers to the hotel industry. “I think there’s an energy in the air here that makes you want to create something.” The duo just opened. elvira castle, The 37-acre estate outside Trepuzzi near Lecce includes a castle, a masseria (a stone farm building), cottages, an ancient tower, a restaurant and bar, and doubles as Mr. Brown’s studio. Mr. Brown is also an artist (from €299 he doubles). .

As we crisscross the peninsula in late June, shortly after Italy was given permission to take off its pandemic masks, we wonder what exactly makes Salento so glamorous. , has a spectacular sea with some of the most beautiful beaches and harbors in all of Italy. On Saturday morning, I head to Castro Marina, one of the most atmospheric of the small rocky harbors that dot the Adriatic coastline. I join bodies of all shapes and sizes along the docks and rocks that provide the ocean with a natural diving board for swimming laps in the emerald turquoise water.

When the weather cools down, grab a café lechese (iced iced espresso and almond milk) at Ilios, a small bar by the fishing boats, followed by street food-style fritto mistos. Il Friggitria Porto Vecchio.Another day, I meet my friends at kum, Located near Laghi Alimini, a nature reserve north of Otranto, this family-run beach club is set just steps from the sea on two lakes surrounded by pine forests and native vegetation. The club offers beach chairs and umbrellas, freshly caught grilled fish and refreshing local wines.

Yet another sunny day, this time on the west coast near Gallipoli, to see wealthy couples popping bottles of Franciacorta (Italian answer to champagne) while showing off their Gucci and Missoni bathing suits in Punta Suina. I’m watching it. G Beach ClubThroughout the week we will check out places to swim, such as Punta Prosciutto, Torre San Giovanni and Porto Servaggio.

Away from the coast, we drive through countryside with stone walls and winding olive trees, past fields of long golden grass and wildflowers, and the heat seems to rise through our dirty lenses. Leave the windows open and inhale the scent of figs ripening in the sun around you. An itinerary that includes only churches and cathedrals would allow him to spend a week by car.

In Galatina, about 10 miles southeast of Lecce, the suburbs seem hopeless, but park your car and head into the center to see the extraordinary 14th-century Cathedral of Santa Caterina d’Alessandria and its craggy frescoes. Discover a beautiful golden town with (The town is also home to Pasticciotto, a custard-filled pastry, and a bakery with a lovely Art Deco sign that looks straight out of a movie set). Before heading to the nearby town of Nardo, where churches proliferate on all sides supported by baroque palaces, I took a peek at some of the dilapidated and majestic palazzi for sale. increase.

I have visited Otranto on almost every trip to Puglia. About a 30-minute drive south of Lecce, this UNESCO-listed city is one of my favorite hes in Salento. Its magnificent 12th-century cathedral and mosaic floor representing the “Tree of Life”. You can spend hours looking at images depicting mythical creatures and scenes from the Bible. It’s also a very cool place to sit on a hot day. Outside, it takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the bright sun. Follow the town’s washcream walls, bleached with salt, and watch a pick-up football match on a small beach by the ramparts. The tween boys celebrate each goal by diving into the sea and jumping off rocks with the bravery of former Rome football star Francesco Totti. It is a moment of immense joy.

On my last night, I met hotelier Athena McAlpine for dinner at Tricase Porto, a harbor outside the main town.our first destination Bar Mename Locals sipping on Aperol Sprites as the DJ’s bass nearly moves the chairs below us. From there, travel to nearby Caffè d’Oltremare, new to the port. Here, Greece and Salento meet, and ouzo and local wine are poured in equal measure.

Looking around the port and people, she thinks it’s the perfect place to see the new Salento emerge from the old, and the tourists to mingle with the locals.

“One way to think of it is the arrival of new kids on the block alongside established traditional hangouts,” she says. Taverna del Porto Reinterpreting classic dishes in a fresh and modern way, but also decades-old institutions Bolina and Animesante. “

Afterwards, head to Tricase, perhaps the most beautiful town in Salento and one of the epicenters of second homes in the region.we stop by g&co The Gambero Rosso Food Guide has won the Tre Coni Award for the best gelateria in the country for the third year in a row. Even though it’s midnight, the main square, Piazza Pisanelli, is packed with people.and Pharmacia Balboa Foreign tourists, mostly in their twenties, are drinking artisanal cocktails, and children are free to run around the square. And perhaps that is the main factor in this Salento transition, the many forms of pleasure.

And who doesn’t need it now?

A rental car is essential for exploring Salento. You can pick it up at any of Puglia’s airports, such as Karol Vojtila Airport in Bari or Papola Casale Airport in Brindisi. There is also a high-speed train between Rome and Lecce, taking less than his 6 hours. 

You can either set up shop in Lecce and make a day trip from there, or live in another town in Salento. in Lecce, Fiermontina A collection of thoughtfully reimagined historic buildings transformed into a boutique hotel (double from €320).In addition to the above hotels, non-Lecce options include the 19th century Palazzo Daniele Located in Galliano del Capo, full of contemporary art, close to some of Salento’s most spectacular beaches (double from €423). Palazzo Presta It has 10 rooms (200 to 2 times) in the historic center of the city of Gallipoli.

recently opened Castello di Tutino This 15th-century castle on the outskirts of Tricase now serves drinks and dinners and hosts musical concerts ranging from traditional local pizzica music to jazz.

Ondine Cohane is a regular contributor to Times Travel and co-author of National Geographic’s “Always Italy” and Frances Mayes.

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