As we all know, when we say Italy, many people think of standard tourist locations like Venice, Rome, Pisa, Florence, and of course Milan. Yes, they are treasures of Italy and no questions. But there are more hidden treasures of Italy that I want to bring to your attention.
If you are looking for an Itinerary for your next location in Italy, you are in the right place.
Let us look at the hidden treasures of Italy in the heel of the boot.
And let me remind this is not a post that just highlights the details of the places to see, but you can actually follow the list one after the other in sequence to complete your whole trip. Bon Voyage!!
Hidden Treasures of Italy
Puglia, the name of the region where we are going to travel for the next few days. You can feel Greece when roaming around in this region, mainly in the south.
How to reach there
There are two airports in the Puglia region. They are in Bari and Brindisi.
If you are looking for budget options, low-cost airlines like Ryanair reach both these airports.
While Bari airport is ideal for exploring the north, Brindisi would be useful to explore the southern part of the Puglia region.
Today we are planning to visit the South of the region, so let us keep the hub in Lecce. To reach Lecce from Brindisi airport there are several ways.
- Taxi – Of course, expensive but more peace of mind.
- Train – If you want to take a train to Lecce, you need to first pick a shuttle from Airport to Brindisi station. Then get a train to Lecce.
- Bus – Next easier choice is to take a bus from Brindisi airport to Lecce directly. It takes around 45 minutes and will cost less than 10 euro. You can get the tickets directly to the Airport once you come out.
Where to Stay
Here, I am not going to recommend any Hotels. The intention of this section is to highlight towns and areas where we can stay if we want to explore the southern part of Puglia.
I have picked the city of Lecce as our center to stay. Lecce, by itself a beautiful city and we can have a day to roam around this city. This city is also called the “Florence of the South”.
My recommendation to stay here is not only because this city is beautiful, but also because it is a big city, and has good connections to other places you want to visit. There is a train station, which connects you to many interesting towns we are planning to visit next.
What to See
Keeping Lecce as our hub have its own advantage. This is almost in the center of southern Puglia, with good access to other regions and beaches. Although there are many cities and towns which are very nice attractions, let us concentrate on a few of the historic towns which are interesting.
In this Itinerary, we do not have any “activities to do”. But it's mostly “beauties to view”. So, all we do is reach our destination and walk around relaxed.
We will visit the following places.
- Martina Franca
- Torre del’Orso
The above lists are easier when done in the Car. But if you are depending only on the Train/Bus, then we will need to skip a few of them. Places that are in bold can be accessed easily by public transport.
OK, now that we have narrowed down the list of places, let us check in to the hotel in Lecce, and have a nice sleep dreaming about the things to come following days.
On the first day, our plan is to explore the city of Lecce.
One good thing in Lecce is that you can walk around most of the attractions once you are in the center. Most hotels are around a radius of less than 2Kms, so depending on your hotel location, you can directly walk to the center too.
So, have a nice breakfast and head out before 9am from your hotel. Start walking.
All the main roads get you to the Public Garden, called “Villa Comunale G. Garibaldi”. This is a nice park to take some rest and also have a small Bar to have some refreshments. If you are with kids, will be a good point to break here for a while. They will enjoy the amenities here.
Basilica of Santa Croce
Our next stop is the “Basilica of Santa Croce“. Once you are out of park, reach the Via Umberlo through the Via Matteotti.
There in front of you, you will find majestic architecture a bit different from other Basilicas you have seen. Yes, this architecture is called the Baroque architecture of the Salento. Salento is the name given to this region of the Puglia.
The Baroque architecture, which started around the 16th century, is one which has everything gigantic, twisted pillars, and a big central hall from where anyone can visualize the main altar. These are a few characteristics of this architecture.
Even before you enter the Basilica, if you raise your head to see the front facade, you will appreciate the architecture. You will be welcomed with a gigantic Romanesque window in the center. Decorated with animals and pillars crafted with beautiful carvings.
Enter the basilica, and you will be amazed by the gigantic inside with no walls in the middle.
As you walk through I am sure you will be appreciating the paintings and the artwork displayed between each of the pillars in there.
When coming out, do not miss the Administration office of the Lecce, which is just next to the Basilica.
If you walk a little bit inside the Via Umberlo, you will see the Church of Greece.
Piazza San Oronzo.
Walk back in Via Umberto, and you will end up in the Piazza San Oronzo.
This is a large square in the center of the city where you will see the remains of the Roman amphitheater. Only part of the structure is visible today and the other portions are underground. Over this, there are many building that is constructed.
This square is the largest square where you can watch street performers. When we were there, since it was Christmas time, there was a tall Christmas tree-like architecture full of colorful dancing lights. Since you stay in Lecce, make a point to visit here at night. You will love it.
Once in this square, do not miss to visit the Tourists Information office. It's souvenir time.
Coming out of the office, you will see a tall column with a statue on the top. This is no one than Saint Oronzo. The statue is one among the pair and the other one still stays in Brindisi.
Do not miss the clock on the corner of the Square.
If you are there around mid-day, you cannot miss the opera songs suddenly coming out of nowhere. It's actually coming from this clock.
From here, take the Vittorio Emanuele street. This street is for shopping, window or real. And this street leads you to the Cathedral in Piazza Duomo, which was built around the 12th century. This was also restored to the Baroque style in the 16th century by Giuseppe Zimbalo, the same person who is also responsible for the Basilica architecture.
In this square, you will notice that the cathedral is along with the other buildings, including the bell tower, the bishop’s residence, and the seminary. This cathedral is of Our Lady of Assumption.
There is also a bell tower in this square adjacent to the Bishop Palace where the Archbishop of Lecce stays.
Now, it's time to look around the old town of the Lecce.
Just opposite the square, you will find a street names Via G.Palmieri.
Walk along this street and you will come across old buildings and reach the Porta Napoli. Historically, there were three major gates to enter the City of Lecce, and this is one among them.
You have a nice small park here, and also the Lecce University. If you cross the road, on the other side you can find the cemetery.
And do not miss tasting the local food – Puccia.
This basically completes the tour for the first day. Time to head to the hotel and call it a day!
Today we plan to go outside Lecce. The main attraction is the Brindisi, Alberobello, and Ostuni town. And on the way we could also pass through nice towns like Locorotondo and others.
Our first stop is Ostuni. Ostuni is also called as “La Citta Bianca” or “The white city”. And it has a history.
In the olden days, there was a plague that killed many around here. But the intensity was less in houses painted with such white paints. And the reason was credited to the calcium carbonate that was used to paint the walls. Even today, there are subsidies provided by local governments to have their houses painted white – both healthier and also to attract tourists to this historic land.
You can clearly see the white-washed walls of the houses, which will give a feeling of you being in Greece. The city would look like built with no plans. You can see a maze of houses on every side of the narrow streets, a staircase that connects roads to houses, etc. You will also notice many archways that support the houses built around here.
The web of streets and its maze is a perfect way to confuse their enemies in the olden days. After getting lost in the maze of streets, you will find yourself on the top of the hill. From here, you have a beautiful view of the Adriatic Sea.
Our next destination is Alberobello. And it is a UNESCO world heritage site for its special architecture of the house in here. Those are called Trulli. It's more like a hut-like structure.
On the way, we will be crossing 2 towns called Cisternino and Locorotondo. The reason I included this two tow before Alberobello is that they also have a few of the Trulli in and around. And since these are not busy tourist centers, you can walk around leisurely to admire those beauties.
We will arrive at Via Indipendenza Street, and once in Alberobello, you will see Trulli on either side of the road. You can start exploring on either side and come back to this street again to get back to your next destination.
One of the main attractions here is the Trullo Sovrano. This is basically a Trulli which is not changed to a museum that helps to look at the architecture of such buildings. They charge like 1.50 euros for entrance, but I believe it's worth having a glimpse of how it looks inside.
Then we return back to Brindisi through the Martina Franco. By the time we reach here, it should be evening. Head straight to the Harbour. The cool breeze will invite you to take a short stroll there. Also, you can walk around Brindisi streets admiring the historic buildings.
And now it's time for back to Hotel in Lecce.
Today it's a long drive along the coasts of Italy, and visiting the place which is the southernmost tip of Italy's heel. And it's all a visual treat, I am going to keep my words less, and picture talk more.
Santa Maria di Leuca
Our first stop will be in the town called Leuca. We reach this place through the Gallipoli. If you have some time, you can enter this town and have a nice view of the beaches here.
In Leuca, you will get to see the place where the Adriatic Sea is joining into the Ionian Sea. You could reach the tip in any of the two points – Punto Risolta or the Punto Meliso. Near the Punto Risolta, you have a cave called “Grotta Porcinara”. You can visit the cave on a nice clear day.
You will have an excellent view of the lighthouse on one side. This site is where you actually have the Punto Meliso. When you reach this Point, you will visualize the port of the Leuca. Here you also have a Church of Leuca which is adjacent to one of the most important lighthouses in Italy. The lighthouse is not a regular cylindrical lighthouse. This is a white octagonal tower little less than 50 feet.
The vast open space will invite you with a cool breeze since it's the end of the land of Italy along the coast of the Adriatic Sea. From here, you have a staircase that leads to you a fall. But this waterfall is opened only on special days.
From here, we will take the road called SP358. This road runs all along the coast till Porto Badisco and from there, it turns to SP87 which we will use to reach Otranto.
You have many interesting points to stop at and enjoy the beautiful view of the beach. Feel free to make a stop in each of the viewing areas. Especially during the summer, these will be very busy due to the nice beaches all along.
At the end of the SP87 just before entering Otranto, you have a Bauxite mining place. This is closed to the public for now but will be good to have a look at this place with Red soil all over.
Le Due Sorelle
Our next attraction is the “Le Due Sorelle” or the “The two sisters” just before the town of Torre Del’Orso.
This is actually 2 rocks sitting next to next on the beach near the town of Torre Del’Orso. The excitement is in the walk that you need to take from the roads to the cliff. The path is full of dense trees, and the moment you cross this, you are welcomed by a white rock mountain. You can also walk down to reach the white sand beach.
Do not forget to imprint your names on those rocks, provided you have some free space to write yours !!!
Then you can reach the town of Torre Del’Orso. Even though you cannot reach the beach from here, the view from here will be mesmerizing. Keep following the same road and you will reach San Cataldo through San Foca. You will find some nice restaurants along the beach once you pass San Foca. Do not miss that seafood!
And finally, it's time to drive back to Lecce.
I hope you had a nice vacation visiting the hidden treasures of Italy in Puglia.
Do not hesitate to drop in your queries, I will be more than happy to help.