Nothing says Mediterranean like white-sand beaches, soft wind, and gentle waves. And the Salento peninsula in Italy’s Puglia region is surrounded by all three on three sides. With so many options, it’s sometimes hard to pick which beach to visit. This guide will help you find just the right one.
The Salento peninsula has the Adriatic Sea to the east and the Ionian Sea, with the Gulf of Taranto, to the west. As a general rule among locals, if the wind is blowing from the east, the Ionian Sea is more gentle, and if the wind is from the west, expect a mild Adriatic Sea. But don’t expect Pacific Coast-style waves, the Mediterranean Sea is gentle 9 out of 10 days.
Located on the Adriatic, this beach is my favorite. It exudes a magical feeling with cliffs wrapping up and down the coast on either side of it while the remains of an old tower stand on the cliffs to the left. Unfortunately, the small beach is very crowded in August. From Lecce, the #103 Bus runs every few hours in the summer and takes 30 minutes.
Located on the Adriatic, this is one of the longest beaches in Salento and it features a cold spring that flows from behind the beach into the sea. If the Mediterranean isn’t cold enough for you, the spring waters certainly will be. Kitesurfing is very popular up the beach, where rentals are available. From Lecce, the #34 Bus takes visitors to the beach in about 30 minutes. Parking is widely available.
Located on the Ionian Sea, the beach in Gallipoli can be cramped in the summer. But it does offer a perfect combination of sand and sun with a quintessential Italian town as a backdrop. The city of Gallipoli is one-half island and one-half mainland, and the two are connected by a short bridge that pedestrians can comfortably access. The beach is located on the small island and is within easy walking distance to incredible sites, such as an Aragonese Castle and the Baroque Catedrale di Sant’Agata.
Located on the Ionian, the beaches of Porto Cesáreo are numerous because the city is itself built on a small peninsula. A protected bay ensures that the surf at these beaches will always be friendly. The most easily accessible beach is located on the southern side of the city. If you want a truly private experience, a series of small islands fill the bay and fisherman charge a small fare to take visitors to them.
Santa Maria di Léuca
The city of Santa Maria di Leuca is located on the very tip of the Salento peninsula. Once you’re there, there’s nowhere else to go but straight into the sea. The town offers many beach amenities, from umbrellas, beach chairs, and cocktails, to comfortable bars and seaside dining. Find more secluded beaches on the western side of the city, where large floats have been built for sunbathing right on top of the waves.
The Cliffs of Gagliano del Capo
If you prefer cliff jumping to lying in the sun, you should check out Gagliano del Capo, located far south on the Adriatic. A tiny inlet, popular among locals, sneaks inside the otherwise sheer cliff coast. Highway SP358 actually crosses over the inlet on a bridge that affords striking views of the sea and those jumping into it. A stairway behind the bridge takes you down to the sea the gentle way.
During July and August, the beaches in Salento can be overrun with Italian tourists, so it’s important to arrive early to get a good spot.
Written by and photos by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com