Published on: 9 April 2013 | Last updated: 14 March 2018
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.
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|Lecce - Otranto
|Otranto - Santa Maria di Leuca
|Santa Maria di Leuca - Gallipoli
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.
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.
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.
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.