The South Cultural Routes project aims to develop and coordinate work to promote pedestrian and cycle routes, from religious to historical routes, from Green Roads to cycle routes and, in general, to all types of slow mobility.
As part of this ambitious project, the European Association of the Vie Francigene, in coordination with the region of Puglia and Puglia Promozione, has initiated the mapping and detection of 3 routes: the Via Francigena del Sud, from Brindisi to Santa Maria di Leuca, the Via Leucadense, from Lecce to Leuca and the Via Sallentina, from Taranto to Leuca. These are three very different routes, both in terms of historical-culture and the morphology of the territories crossed.
The stretch of the Via Francigena of the South, the subject of the work, starts from the Roman columns of Brindisi, term of the Via Appia – la regina viarum – and leads to Lecce, the imposing capital of the Apulian Baroque. Here the route turns decisively towards the east and winds through the olive trees, up to the fortified citadel of Acaya, dating back to the sixteenth century. It continues towards the sea you reach Otranto, the most eastern town in Italy. Entering the Porta a Terra you cross the historical centre until reaching the Cathedral, renowned for its rich 12th century mosaic representing the Tree of Life, a real encyclopaedia of medieval culture images.
From here the road proceeds decidedly towards the south, alternating olive groves to coastal stretches with breath-taking views. Finally we reach Leuca, the tip of the heel and Italian Finisterre; going up to the Basilica of Santa Maria de finibus terrae, the view sweeps over the two seas, the Adriatic and the Ionian, which merge to symbolically indicate the end point of the route.
The Via Leucadense develops entirely inland but is no less scenic; it begins in Lecce and crosses the Serre salentine, the plateau area characterized by numerous agricultural terracing. Along the way you will encounter small towns embellished with baroque artifices and shrines cloaked in charm, like Leuca Piccola, a few kilometres from the head.
Lastly is Via Sallentina, a long route that starts from Taranto – a fascinating city of Greek origin strategically positioned on two gulfs.
At sunset on a clear autumn evening the view goes so far as to touch the coasts of Calabria and the wind blows giving substance to the popular saying “Lu Salentu: lu sule, lu mare, lu ientu”.
South Cultural Routes is an ambitious and strategic project for the touristic development of southern Italy and these territories have the necessary qualifications to play a leading role in attracting walkers and taking them to the discovery of gastronomic, artistic, cultural and scenic excellences of the final part of Puglia.