Hiking with Zina in Southern Salento
The Salento area, characterised by the presence of the sea, almost like an island, offers infinite spaces that can be travelled in all four directions. The area expands into various micro-worlds that preserve the simplicity of life linked to the farming world, to the value of essential gestures, to the slowness of time punctuated between dawns and sunsets, between one coast and another.
Zina is a passionate trekker, and thanks to a vast amount of experience, it is now possible to explore and discover more and more paths, some of which are unknown to most and accessing beaches that are not easily accessible and well protected from mass tourism.
1. Porto Badisco-Torre Sant’Emiliano
We start out at the beach of Porto Badisco (believed by locals to be where Aeneas landed while fleeing the Trojan war) and then head north up a pathway flanked by coniferous woods, pastures, stony soils and cliffs along the edge of the sea.
The walk continues towards the Sant’Emiliano tower, harking back to its role as sentinel against the Turkish invasions that battered the area for years. The rocky and desert-like landscape sprawls out to the east, which on a clear day offers a view of the Albanian coast and several Greek islands. After reaching the tower, we head back down to the beach.
Duration: 2h30. Level: Moderately strenuous.
2. Faro di Punta Palascia-Orte-Torre del Serpe
This walk passes through the easternmost point of Italy. We begin in front of the elegant lighthouse and then head up along the coastline, in some spots overhanging the sea amid craggy rocks and wild Mediterranean shrubs, towards the bay of Le Orte. After a short stop at the Bauxite Lake (a former quarry abandoned during the 70s), we continue on to the Torre del Serpe (Tower of the Snake).
Lunch can be enjoyed at the nearby Agriturismo Nonna Marta, which offers top-quality locally-produced food, in line with the family’s traditional respect for nature. After lunch, we head back to the lighthouse by way of Le Orte.
Duration: 4 hours, 6 hours if lunch is included. Level: Strenuous in the first section
3. Il Ciolo-Novaglie-Gagliano del Capo
From the outskirts of Gagliano del Capo, we walk down along the Ciolo gully and then north up the coastline with a stop at the evocative Cipolliane caves overlooking the sea, once inhabited by primitive man. The trail then takes us to the small harbour of Novaglie, and we continue uphill back to Gagliano del Capo through stretches of countryside featuring dry-stone walls, olive groves and ancient mountain villages.
Duration: 3 hours. Level: Moderate.
4. Porto Selvaggio, from Torre Madonna dell’Alto to Torre Uluzzo
A full excursion through this immense green lung, starting out at the majestic Inserraglio tower and then heading down to the pebbly beach of Porto Selvaggio. We continue past stretches of stony flatlands dotted with shrubs and plants of the Mediterranean maquis. A brief stop at the prehistoric cave of Uluzzo, which is only visible from outside due to the archaeological excavations currently underway. The path then leads to the nearby tower of Uluzzo, from which we head back to the Madonna dell’Alto tower by crossing through the sprawling pine grove.
Duration: 4 hours. Level: Moderate.
5. Madonna del Lattarico-Torre del Sasso-Tricase Porto
This walk, mainly at a high elevation, heads in a southerly direction, along a trail flanked by cultivated fields, olive groves, and the remains of Salento’s ancient steppes.
After reaching the Sasso tower, we continue along a network of dirt roads amid olive groves and Valonia oaks all the way to the charming village of Tricase Porto, where lunch can be enjoyed at one of the two superb fish restaurants. The walk continues to the church of Madonna del Lattarico built next to a Byzantine crypt, which bears traces of a fresco depicting the breastfeeding Madonna.
Duration: 4 hours, 6 hours if lunch is included. Level: Moderate.
6. Massi della Vecchia-Otranto: amid dolmens and menhirs
A long walk interweaving nature and history, through fields, olive groves and villages, including visits to several menhirs and one dolmen. The walk culminates in the sunlit beach of Otranto, and the soaring expanses that face eastward.
Duration: 4 hours, 6 hours if lunch is included. Level: Easy