Puglia diaries: southern tip of the heel pt 1

Puglia diaries: Southern tip of Puglia

Hi babes! I'm back with another post about our trip to Puglia this summer. Looking back at these gorgeous blue skies (and even bluer seas) absolutely makes me want to pinch myself - it feels unreal that we spent almost three weeks visiting these stunning places. After enjoying Matera, the area around Polignano and the Itria valley, we made our way down the heel of the boot. We had decided to make Gallipoli our home base for the last week of our trip, to be able to explore both the east and the west coast, and we were very happy with our choice. Although Otranto would also have been a great option for that purpose.

We made a lot of day trips during our week in Gallipoli, so let me show you part one of the southern tip of the heel! Let's start with our Gallipoli Airbnb, which was my personal favourite Italian home away from home. I mean, you can't beat a sea view roof terrace. Total bucket list.

Puglia diaries: Gallipoli
Puglia diaries: Gallipoli

Our Airbnb was HUGE, gorgeously decorated in shades of white and blue (feeling very Santorini - or what I imagine Santorini must feel like) and felt homey. During the day we'd go to the beach or make trips throughout the region, at night we'd cook together, have dinner on the terrace watching the sun set and then watch Married At First Sight Australia from the day beds in the living room. Seriously my perfect way to spend a vacation. Our host was Luca, a super friendly guy who picked us up in a little ape so we wouldn't have to haul our luggage into the old town, where our Airbnb was. 

We loved the character of our apartment, but staying in the old town had its pros as well as its cons: you're in the middle of the action, steps away from all of the markets, stores, restaurants and a town beach, but parking your car outside of the old town (and finding parking space) was challenging at times. Just an FYI!

Puglia diaries: Gallipoli
Puglia diaries: Gallipoli

Gallipoli's old town itself is a lovely place: lively but with plenty of authenticity in the winding little streets on the peninsula. A real fisherman's town during the day, and at night there's music in the air from clubs across the water, in the newer part of Gallipoli. Btw if you ever visit Gallipoli, get pizza at Lievita 72. Their pizza is sensational. I fell in love with their yellow tomato base!

Puglia diaries: Gallipoli
Puglia diaries: Gallipoli
Puglia diaries: Gallipoli
Puglia diaries: Gallipoli
Puglia diaries: Gallipoli
Puglia diaries: Gallipoli

Why would I recommend Gallipoli as your home base? The town is small and cozy, but there's still plenty to see, cool shops to explore, amazing restaurants to try. And more importantly: it's situated near some of the region's best beaches. Think crystal clear water, sandy shores and long stretches of shallow, calm water. Oh, and some cool beach clubs of course. 

We tried Lido Punta della Suina and Lido Blue Bay Beach, and I had a preference for the latter. Better prices and amenities. But there's beach clubs/lidos aplenty here, so you're bound to find one to your liking. Bring a book, order a cocktail and a piadina and you're set! Btw it's easy to rent bikes in Gallipoli to go beach hopping, which is a great option if you don't have a car or don't want to have to deal with the hassle of looking for parking.

Puglia diaries: Gallipoli
Puglia diaries: Gallipoli

The first day trip we planned was to Santa Maria Di Leuca, aka the southernmost tip of the heel of the boot that is Italy.

Puglia diaries: Santa Maria di Leuca
Puglia diaries: Santa Maria di Leuca

Santa Maria di Leuca was quiet, beautiful, very hot and definitely worth a visit. Leuca itself is a sleepy little town with gorgeous architecture (obviously THE place for rich people of bygone eras to have a summer home) and dramatic coastline views!

Puglia diaries: Santa Maria di Leuca
Puglia diaries: Santa Maria di Leuca

We combined our visit to Santa Maria di Leuca with a little detour to Ponte Ciolo: one of those places that you see on Pinterest or Google Images and just instantly anchors itself in your brain as one of your travel must-sees. The drive from Leuca to Ponte Ciolo alone was worth the detour: views of a coastline almost as dramatic and stunning as highway 1 through Big Sur in California. And then you get to a smaller, Italian version of the Bixby Creek Bridge, and you see locals jumping off it to go for a swim, and you've stepped into a movie.

Puglia diaries: Ponte Ciolo
Puglia diaries: Ponte CioloPuglia diaries: Ponte Ciolo
Puglia diaries: Ponte Ciolo

I'd seen some comments on Tripadvisor warning visitors for the stairway and the steep climb, but honestly we aren't in amazing shape and the walk up and down is a breeze. Not something to worry about if you're able-bodied. Be sure to bring water shoes though because the eastern coastline of Puglia is generally very rocky.

Puglia diaries: Ponte Ciolo
Puglia diaries: Ponte Ciolo

Another must visit in the southernmost tip of Puglia is Lecce, aka the Florence of Italy. We didn't have our best day when we visited the city: it was scorching hot, we got into a bit of a tiff and almost everything was closed (first town we visited that did the afternoon riposo where every store takes a break for a few hours in the afternoon). We didn't "click" with this city as much as we did with other places, but please judge for yourself!

Puglia diaries: visiting Lecce
Puglia diaries: visiting Lecce
Puglia diaries: visiting Lecce
Puglia diaries: visiting Lecce
Puglia diaries: visiting Lecce
Puglia diaries: visiting Lecce
Puglia diaries: visiting Lecce
Puglia diaries: visiting Lecce
Puglia diaries: visiting Lecce

I guess we just expected too much, but we felt like what you see online as the "greatest hits" of Lecce are basically all there is to see there. And the famous Roman theatre/courtyard view above (with the palm trees) was hidden by gates (I pointed my camera through the openings), which kind of ruins the view in real life, FYI. Also, the gorgeous Basilica of Santa Croce was covered for restorations when we were there, so maybe it was just our bad luck + our bad mood. Seeing these pictures actually makes it hard for me to understand why we were underwhelmed, so don't take my word for it! We did have great pizza here. Oh, and Lecce gives its name to one of our favourite culinary discoveries from our Puglia trip: the Rustico Leccese. Google it. Weep. Find a recipe and make it yourself (surprisingly easy).


I still have plenty more to show you from our time on the southern tip of Puglia, but that's for my next post. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to drop me a line!

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