In the last few days, I accompanied you in the discovery of the wonderful beaches of the Adriatic coast of Salento. Today, as promised, we are going to continue our journey moving to the Ionian side, which can offer just as many marvels.
You will also find some practical advice to live your holiday at best, as well as useful information on how to move through Salento. Let’s start now!
MAIN CHARACTERISTIC OF THE IONIAN COAST
The coasts along the Ionian Sea are generally wide and characterized by long traits of white and thin sand. The water is transparent and have some unusual colors, varying from emerald green to intense blue.
TOP SALENTO BEACHES ON THE IONIAN COAST
For each beach you will find a short description, photos, curious facts and eventual legends.
1. MARINA DI PESCOLUSE (SALENTO’S MALDIVES) – SALVE (LECCE)
Marina di Pescoluse is also known as Salento’s Maldives, because when the north wind blows, it turns into a true paradise, with limpid and crystal-clear waters that have nothing to envy from the Caribbean sea. You will find a 4 km long stretch of white thin sand, almost iridescent, as it seems to change colors when the sun changes its position.
The sea floor is low and transparent, and it’s easy to see isles emerging from seawater, as well as acacia, lily and juniper covered dunes. It’s a very well developed area regarding touristic facilities, therefore it is great both for young people and for families with children.
2. TORRE SAN GIOVANNI – UGENTO (SALENTO)
Torre San Giovanni is in Ugento and gets its name, as it is often the case, from the tower that was built in the area in the 1500s at the behest of Charles V. It has now been turned into a didactical museum and made unmistakable by its walls, checkered in white and black.
From Torre San Giovanni to Torre Mozza you will find 7 km of beach, without any buildings closer than 500 meters from the water with a thick Mediterranean vegetation, trails on which to go for a nice walk and an area with low dunes. This area of the sea in among the clearest and most suggestive of the Ionian sea, with thin white sand and floors full of marine flora and fauna.
There are isles that can only be reached by sea and niches that look like small paradises. Long sandy portions are alternated with low cliffs. Truly enchanting, believe me! Besides, in this area the Salento nightlife is truly developed, thanks to the establishments that offer aperitivi along the sea, DJ sets and music until dawn. Still, there are many quiet areas where you can let yourself relax completely. And near the harbor, you will also be able to rend boats and water crafts.
A piece of advice: if you can, avoid visiting this paradise in August, as it is one of the most touristic parts of Salento.
3. TORRE SUDA – RACALE (LECCE)
Torre Suda also gets its name from the sighting tower wanted by Charles V that has a circular shape, 13.5 meters tall and with a high staircase that leads to the lifting door on the first floor. It seems like its name is owed to the fact that, once it wasn’t used for sighting anymore, the tower was used as a tank and when the water inside of it leaked out, it looked like the tower was sweating.
The seaside location is made up of low cliffs with white rocks, skillfully smoothed by the sea. In spite of the rocks, the sea is easy to reach and has extremely clear and clean water, with natural bays and Mediterranean vegetation as a beautiful frame. This is another beach that gets very crowded, especially in August.
4. PUNTA DELLA SUINA – GALLIPOLI (LECCE)
This amazing stretch of sea is located in the famous town of Gallipoli, and it is officially known as “the Caribbean of the Ionian sea”. The reason why is easy to grasp: golden beaches, crystal-clear water and lots of untouched nature that can be enjoyed while relaxing completely.
It is a spectacular beach that descends towards the sea with a rocky coast, protected by luxurious nature. It is particularly loved by young people, who often stop by until the late afternoon to admire wonderful sunsets. It is very crowded, especially during July and August, while locals go there during the rest of the year.
5. BAIA VERDE – GALLIPOLI (LECCE)
Baia Verde is one of the beaches I love the most. In the last few years, its beauty has been attracting tourists from all over Italy and the world. It is a particularly well protected beach due to its territorial conformation and its geographic position. In fact, the sea is usually calm and clean and it shows shades varying from emerald green to cobalt blue.
There’s room for everybody, thanks to the kilometers-long, soft and white sanded beach. In the southern part there is a pinewood where you can rest in the hottest hours and some of the most famous bathhouses in Salento as far as nightlife and happy hours are concerned.
In short, a beach for those who love fun and don’t want to give up on comfort.
6. SANTA MARIA AL BAGNO – NARDO’ (LECCE)
Santa Maria al Bagno is a pretty suburb of the town of Nardò, in the Lecce province. The sea is exceptional, mainly rocky but with small stretches of equipped beach with some establishments. The seafront is particularly suggestive because, as you’ll see, the coasts are extremely close to the city center and there are columns and big palm trees near the sea.
Besides, it is located in a site of historical interest, thanks to the remains of several tombs excavated into the rock. Santa Maria al Bagno was depredated by Saracen, Venetian and African pirates, so Charles V decided to have the beautiful Torre del Fiume built, with its four towers, to protect both the city and the sweet water spring that was always assaulted by the pirates for supplies.
7. PORTO SELVAGGIO – NARDO’ (LECCE)
Porto Selvaggio is in Nardò too, it is a park made up of woods and rocky niches. You will reach the sea after a nice walk of approximately twenty minutes in a pinewood that leads to one of the Ionian’s most beautiful and untouched coves. The beach isn’t made of sand, but of many small pebbles.
The turquoise water is definitely deep and allows to the bravest people to feel the excitement of jumping from rocks and small heights into a limpid and crystal-clear stretch of sea. I suggest visiting this area to those who love nature’s wildest side, avoiding, if at all possible, the months of July and August, during which this protected area is very crowded.
8. TORRE LAPILLO – PORTO CESAREO (LECCE)
Una foto pubblicata da @faustopoli1 in data:
Torre Lapillo could easily be confused with one of the most beautiful Caribbean landscapes too, but it is still in Salento. A 4 kilometer long bay delimited by two towers: Torre Lapillo and Torre Chianca. The beach here is characterized by one of Salento’s thinnest and whitest sands that reaches an intense turquoise sea, which hosts a wonderful coral barrier. Basic immersion equipment is enough to explore it.
The beach is particularly fit for young people, thanks to the establishments that offer the rhythms of the true, untiring Salento nightlife, but also for families, due to the water that remains shallow for several meters from the shore. In short, a true paradise for everyone!
9. PUNTA PROSCIUTTO – PORTO CESAREO (LECCE)
Punta Prosciutto is definitely one of the wildest beaches of Salento, a true untouched natural paradise. The beach is characterized by century-old dunes, surrounded by woods and by the local Mediterranean vegetation.
It is particularly optimal for tourist families, because the very shallow water allows children to have fun while staying completely safe. This stretch of sea is also good for sportspeople who want to go sailing or snorkeling along the enchanting sea floors there.
The beach is several kilometers long, free and very clean with white, thin and soft sand. The water is crystal-clear and transparent here too. There are very few establishments, small grocery stores and a few bars.
10. SAN PIETRO IN BEVAGNA – MANDURIA (TARANTO)
We are now in the Taranto province, in Manduria to be precise, on the San Pietro in Bevagna beach, 4 kilometers long and unbelievably beautiful. It is a free beach with a gangway that leads directly to the shore, useful not to damage the luscious Mediterranean vegetation that surrounds it. It has low cliffs and wonderful floors that allow admiring, while immersed, ancient Roman tombs. It is very crowded with Italian and foreign tourists during high season.
The legend says that Saint Peter, surprised by a terrible storm during a sea travel, was shipwrecked in the exact spot where the small town church is today. Tired and thirsty, he started searching for a water spring and found a sweet water well near which stood the statue of a Pagan god, probably Zeus. Once he saw the sculpture, Saint Peter crossed himself and immediately, the statue broke, falling to pieces at his feet. The people who saw everything declared it a miracle and began converting to Christianity.
After a while, Saint Peter left again and the small town was filled by people come from far away to visit the place in which the apostle had made the miracle and where today there is the church called Chiesa Rupestre or Cripta del Redentore.
11. CAMPOMARINO DI MARUGGIO – TARANTO
The Campomarino beach is located in the town of Maruggio and it is characterized by soft white sand, equipped with umbrellas, sun-chairs, bars, restoration point and children games. It is a private and very well-groomed beach, with a limpid sea whose color varies from emerald green to cobalt blue.
The coast is low here, the floors descending and rocky in certain spots. I therefore suggest you use appropriate shoes and pay attention when entering the water. It is the ideal spot if you want to go snorkeling, but I advise against going there in high season, as it is very crowded, especially at weekends, when both tourists and locals go there.
12. MARINA DI LIZZANO – TARANTO
Marina di Lizzano faces the Taranto gulf and it is often populated by Italian and foreign tourists. It is characterized by white sand, there are both free and equipped areas, separated by luscious Mediterranean vegetation as well as protected flora such as the “Cuddly juniper”.
The color of sand is so light that it gives the sea, especially when the north wind blows, the typical colors and shades of the Caribbean and the Maldives seas. The sandy stretches are often alternated with medium-low cliffs and there are dunes everywhere, often interspersed with small swamps and “lecci” and Mediterranean pines woods.
Let’s now see some useful suggestions I want to give you to make your Salento holiday even nicer.
- If you can, avoid the months of July and August, because all of Salento is considerably more crowded than it is the rest of the year.
- Keep the winds into consideration when choosing a beach, as the sea will be more or less calm depending on them. Therefore, if the north wind blows (cool and dry), go towards the Ionian coast, where the sea will surely be very calm, while the sirocco makes water less limpid and transparent.
Again, in the Adriatic stretch that goes from Otranto to Santa Maria di Leuca, prefer the north wind, as the sirocco brings a rough sea, definitely unsuitable for baths, especially as the coast is rocky there.
From Otranto to Brindisi, though, it’s better to choose the days with south-west or westerly wind to have a calm sea.
To sum it up, when the sirocco is blowing, you should go for the Adriatic coast. With westerly wind, go to Santa Maria di Leuca. With the north wind, the wind us Salento people prefer, go toward the Ionian coast, where you will find a Caribbean-like sea, calm and flat.
- Try to reach the beach before 10 a.m. because after that time, tourists assault the most wanted beaches. The best thing to do is to get there early in the morning, or after midday, where most people leave for lunch.
- Visit the local festivals to taste Salento’s typical dishes, made with genuine ingredients: you will spend much less than at a restaurant.
- Don’t just visit the beaches, also take some days to discover churches, monuments and small towns. You just can’t miss Lecce’s baroque old town center, Santa Maria di Leuca’s seafront caves, the Salento castles including Otranto’s, Gallipoli’s old town and many more small characteristic Salento towns, with their lovely souvenir shops and small artisanal boutiques.
To move around, I suggest “Salento in Bus”, the initiative of the Lecce province that facilitates transportation for tourists from June to September. 9 bus lines cover all of the area with the main bathing locations of Salento, as well as the areas with the highest numbers of residing tourists.
You can find the details and the timetable for each bus line here.
For transportation not towards the seaside, I suggest you use the train. South-eastern railways (FSE) are the main public transport company of the Puglia region, joining Bari with the provinces of Brindisi, Taranto, and Lecce.
Here’s the websites with timetables and maps.
Well, here’s where our journey to discover Salento’s seaside ends. I hope you enjoyed it and it can turn out to be useful in case you decide to spend your holidays in this paradise.
If you need further information or you want to give me your opinion, leave a comment underneath.
If you think this post might be useful for someone you know instead, feel free to share it!