Puglia Grand Tour - 1 From Lecce to Otranto and the southernmost tip of the heel of Italy

Published on:  | Last updated: 14 March 2018

The Duomo di Lecce (Puglia)

The Duomo di Lecce (Puglia)

The route starts in Lecce, which, with its elegant baroque centro storico is an absolute gem. It’s well worth taking a day just to chill out and enjoy the city before starting your journey.

From Lecce we head for the coast, and the coastal city of Otranto then to the Finibus Terra (the south­ernmost tip of the heel of Italy). 

This stretch of coastline with its limestone cliffs eroded into fantastic shapes by the action of the sea, is one of the most scenic in Italy - the caves excavated by the sea make it a popular diving destin­ation. Fortunately it has somehow managed to escape overde­vel­opment is relat­ively unspoilt and now protected.

Torre San'Andrea - Salento coast near Lecce (Puglia). Source: Source Wikimedia Commons

Torre Sant’Andrea - Salento coast near Lecce (Puglia). Source: Source Wikimedia Commons

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Lecce - Otranto 63 kms
Otranto - Santa Maria di Leuca 50 kms
Santa Maria di Leuca - Gallipoli 52 kms


Otranto was founded by the Greeks. The old city with its castle and cathedral is pretty compact and well worth the detour - although inevitably there’s a sprinkling of souvenir shop. If you get the chance, pop into the cathedral and admire the mosaic floor. There are lots of nice places to eat, in the centro storico and in the modern part or town.

Otranto was also the setting for Horace Walpole’s novel The Castle of Otranto the first gothic novel and forerunner to the horror genre. Walpole himself had never been anywhere near Otranto.

Place names:

Otranto was founded by the Greeks and like the other greek words in Italian, the stress is on the next-to-next-to-last syllable instead of the next-to-last syllable as with most Italian place names: so it’s Ó-tranto. The ‘o’ is short like the ‘o’ in ‘hot’ so it’s not ‘oh-trant-oh’. Similar place names (with the stress marked): Gallípoli, Táranto, and Monópoli. The Touring Club Italiano maps helpfully add the stresses to place names that differ from the standard pronunciation.

Santa Maria di Leuca

Santa Maria di Leuca is the south­ernmost tip of the heel of Italy where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet.

According to the legend, the town takes its name from “Leucasia”, a white beautiful mermaid (in Greek “leukos” means “white”) who conquered sailors and farmers by her charming voice. 

At the most southerly point there’s a light­house, and ext to the light­house is the Santuario De Finibus Terrae (“End of the Land”, 1720 – 1755), built to commem­orate the passage of St. Peter here on his way to Roma. 

More information

Places to stay

Hotels and B&Bs

There are plenty of hotels along the way including at Santa Cesare Terme.

Find and book places to stay with Booking.com

Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:

About these links

If you use these links to book accom­mod­ation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.

I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirm­ation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accommodation.

I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the oppor­tunity to let me know if there’s a problem.

Many properties offer free cancel­lation but it’s a good idea to check the condi­tions as these vary from property to property.

There’s a campsite and hostel near Lecce and campsites along the coast (although check opening times), including the Camping Santa Maria Di Leuca , near, you’ve guessed it, Santa Maria di Leuca.

  Map of campsites along the route:  PGT-campsites-map-show map in overlay    |    PGT-campsites-map-show map in new window 

Transport and services


Lecce is the end of the line for the main trenitalia network. There is also the Ferrovia Sud Est network operating local services. Some trains have bike carriage facil­ities, while older models don’t. If you want to take your bike on a train you need to ring the call centre to find out whether and when the more modern trains are running. 

Articles in this series

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Please get in touch if you find any errors in the information, or if there’s anything, good or bad, that you’d want other cyclists to know.

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