From Otranto to Casalabate

And here is the “dog days” season when Salento becomes its enchanting framework with its landscapes of culture and tradition that go hand in hand with the sunbeams playing on the waves.

The itinerary that offers starts from Otranto, considered the “gateway to the East” of the Salentinian peninsula. Here, in addition to basking in the crystal clear waves of the Adriatic sea, you can take a long walk to discover the city “treasures”. As a first step we will admire the Cathedral, with its characteristic mosaic floor; then the Byzantine Aedicule of St. Peter, which is said to have arisen in the place where the Saint preached in Salento for the first time. Then we will cross Porta Alfonsina, enclosed between two cylindrical towers in the turreted walls of the medieval town; then again a look at the Castle, built at the end of ‘400, where, at the entrance, stands Charles V’s coat of arms. So let’s go to the Church of S. Maria dei Martiri, which in fact commemorates the 800 Christian martyrs slain by the Turks during the their sacking in 1480. And then again to the Caves of S. Giovanni dating back to the 12th century and afterwards used as a hypogean oil mill; the Crypt of Spices with a nice dovecote and the characteristic Greek inscriptions; the Hypogeum of Torrepinta, which shows a 33 m “dromos” (entrance corridor to tombs) and numerous “arcosoli” (niches dug into the tuff), with a vault rich in pictorial decorations. In short, a journey based on history and culture that can be interspersed with refreshing swims under the warm sunbeams … But, let’s move on. From Otranto we can reach the nearby Alimini Lakes, which were once used as a hunting reserve by Frederick II and then by the Aragonese. The town is divided into Alimini Grande, which today communicates with the sea through a narrow passage limited by a bulkhead, and Alimini Piccola, better known as Fontanelle. The latter is a depression, now become so deep as to reach the water table and thus give rise to the characteristic sources of fresh water … Now we can reach Carpignano Salentino, a small inland town with the remarkable Palazzo Orsini, the Church of SS. Marina and Cristina and the Sanctuary of S. Maria della Grotta … And then Torre dell’Orso, for a dip in the Adriatic sea to protect ourselves from the omnipresent burning sunbeams. Then we will move to Roca Vecchia for a visit to the Messapian archaeological site. And to Melendugno for a look at the D’Amely Castle and, in the surrounding area, to discover the impressive Placa Dolmen. Then we will go to S. Cataldo where, once again, we will enjoy the refreshing waters of the Adriatic sea. But we can’t miss a visit at the Nature Reserve “Le Cesine” …

As last “leg” of our journey, we can reach Casalabate and, more precisely, the Abbey of Santa Maria di Cerrate, located outside the town. Here we will visit the Museum of Popular Salentinian Traditions that will show us a Salento seen under a different viewpoint. And finally a stop in Casalabate to “take advantage” of its beaches that become almost a gate to the fresh coming and going of the waves.

(Translated by: Prof. Rocco Merenda)