Going up the Ionian coast of Salento, about 40 km from Lecce, you arrive at the charming seaside town of Gallipoli. The city is divided into two distinct areas: the historic centre, which stands on a limestone island, and the new town, connected to the island by a seventeenth-century stone bridge. You can lose yourself in the cobbled streets of the ancient city, stumbling across the Church of San Francesco da Paola; the ancient Church of Santa Maria della Purità, home of the brotherhood of the same name and a precious art gallery; and the cathedral of Sant’Agata, one of the greatest examples of Salento Baroque. At the end of the seventeenth-century bridge, you will see the castle, surrounded by the waters of the Ionian Sea, which silently watches over the beautiful city. Gallipoli is sometimes called the Pearl of the Ionian Sea and boasts beautiful beaches of light sand and a clear sea.
North of Gallipoli is Porto Selvaggio, an oasis of peace in a bay dominated by unspoiled nature and protected as part of the Natural Park of Porto Selvaggio. If you want to take a dip in the sea, you can go to one of the pebble beaches; if you want to explore the area, you can walk along the paths through the woods until you reach the Bay of Uluzzo, a palaeolithic site of great importance; or if you are looking for a beach of light sand and turquoise waters, you can continue up the coast to Sant’Isidoro, where you can relax by the sea, snorkel or enjoy the delicacies of the area with your feet in the sand. Further north, in the protected marine area of Porto Cesareo, there is a wonderful beach considered one of the most beautiful in Salento: Punta Prosciutto has high dunes of soft, light sand and shallow turquoise waters surrounded by uncontaminated scenery. The wide coastline extends for several kilometres and is interspersed with centuries-old dunes covered by Mediterranean scrub. The beach is usually empty and so is ideal for those who do not like crowds.