Via Francigena

Walking along the coast of Salento, from Otranto to Leuca

Redazione AEVF
Redazione AEVF

A walk surrounded by the beauty and colours of the Salento coast from Otranto to Leuca, in the South of Italy.  The Puglian land of ancient tracts, a bridge of intercultural dialogue on the Mediterranean.  


The ancient Appia and the Traiana Appia from Rome aim towards Brindisi, to then proceed along their natural routes until reaching Leuca, De Finibus Terrae.  We are now dealing with the collection of routes so called the Vie Francigene of the South, today at the centre of regional, municipal administration and associative attention, in order to makes the ways available for use and to structure them for the service and use of its travellers.   

Luca Bruschi of the European Association of the Vie Francigene narrates the route along the path of the Salento coast.  

An alternative seven day journey, which is not yet officially signposted so it’s necessary to carry a gps along the whole route.  Trekking poles would also be useful on the demanding tract with continuous climbs and descents that overlook the sea and then unexpectedly re-enter the interior, where the nature becomes wilder.  There tracts are experienced one by one, walking along them and breathing in the scent of the olive trees, the orange and pomegranate trees; the background of crickets that accompany you with every step.  

The sea is the leitmotif of the journey; you come back to it with each leg.  The sea is extraordinarily beautiful, a sparkling blue.  The rocky bays where one can dip their toe in the water are a continuous temptation difficult to resist. 

Departing, you leave behind you the stunning sea of Otranto and walk along a demanding trail of red earth which follows the coast until reaching the lighthouse of Punta Palascia, the most eastern point of the peninsula (71 km from the coasts of Albania).  It’s a mythical place that merits a rest-stop to deepen your knowledge of the stories and legends that surround the lighthouse.  You proceed in the direction of Porto Badisco after having passed the suggestive Torre di San Emiliano, one of the most beautiful towers of the coast of Salento.

The path continues, interchurching dirt tracks and beaches (both rocky and sandy) with the crystal clear sea following until the village of Porto Badisco.  Another long break.  In the following km we begin to meet the Pagliari (o pajaru), rural constructions realised using the drywall technique.  They are still in excellent condition, utilised even now.  In the distance you can see Santa Cesarea: which you reach after a part of the route in tarmac that descends to the sea and the salsobromoiodic and sulphurous thermal waters.  The rest-stop after walking takes place directly in the sea where you can discover and visit some ancient grottos.

The walk departs again inland with a solemn stride until Castro, a medieval villages that merits a rest-stop in the historical part (which is very well conserved), and its little port in which you arrive, descending a trail of stairs immersed among plants and figs of India.  In this moment, trekking becomes more demanding, and for an hour and a half you walk along the cliff.  The exertion is unburdened by the beauty of the landscape, until arriving at the hidden cove of Acquaviva.  The sunset in this cleft is one of the most unforgettable moments of the journey.  

The path proceeds for two km towards Marittima, another small village that conserves all its ancient charm.  Leuca is ever closer even if the exertion of walking begins to be felt, aided by the summer heat that this year was particularly strong.  The Salento way proceeds inland for almost one leg, to then dive into the Tricase waters and proceed until Serra Marina.  In this place you are left fascinated by the natural pool found in the sea, as well as its grottos.  

At this point the path is drawing to a close.  The last day of the walk is an experience till the end.  The tracts follow one after the other: il sentiero del nemico’, the trail of the enemy; la via del sale, the path of the salt; il sentiero delle cipolline, the trail of the onions.  One of the last villages that you pass is Novaglie, where you can have a cooling rest-stop.  You once again pick up the breath-taking trail until the small cove of Ciolo.  An earthly paradise, in the deep south of Salento we are now at the last km.  The plan is the rest at Gagliano del Capo.  I decide, however, to proceed to Leuca, the final objective where the lighthouse divides the seas in half.  I finished the last km by car as in August the path is very congested, and it was best not to risk it.  This does not affect the pathos or allure that this historic pilgrimage destination creates in those who journey there on foot.  

A comment on the gastronomy of this experience is compulsory.  The delicious cuisine is likewise an important reason to discover this land, with its colours, scents and smells: from grilled calamari to orecchiette, from pancotto to octopus, from olives to rustico leccese and pasticciotti.  We cannot forget the wine: Negramaro, Primitivo and the whites of Salento are tasted with ‘gusto’, and the end of each day. 

In the end, the hospitality merits a special mention.  It is often this which makes a journey unique, the people you meet along the way.  People, faces, passion.  One in particular I will keep close to my heart, at the Lavaturi B&B, found in Marina Serra di Tricase, 100m from the sea.  Adelaide and Sergio welcome hikers with open arms.  Their story and love for their land is beautiful, it warms the heart and bring the stunning atmosphere of this journey to life.   

The video of the walk


More information:

  • Legs: 7, with initial trekking in Otranto, the “Perla di Oriente”.
  • Distance: the medium of km per day is 14, with 4,5 to 6,5 hour legs, depending on their difficulty 
  • Difficulty: medium. A minimum training is necessary and appropriate trekking equipment 
  • Rucksack transport service: For those in need, it is possible to arrange transport from one building to another 
  • Water points: during the summer water points are available along the route, across the different villages passed.  It is nonetheless vital to depart with a couple of litres of water in your rucksack.  
  • Reference: S-Cape and SloWays