For Santa Maria di Leuca we will make an exception: at least for the moment we will not speak of the reference town, Castrignano del Capo, but directly of that which is a fraction of it but above all where the Puglia ends.
The last flap of Puglia
Leuca is the watershed between Adriatic and Ionian, one of the few places where you can witness the rising of the sun from the sea and its setting in the sea, moving only one hundred meters to one side or the other.
To observe from above the encounter between the two seas, but the charts point further north to Capo Palascia near Otranto, you have to move to the immense forecourt of the Basilica of Santa Maria de Finibus Terrae: from there the view is a wonderful postcard that remains imprinted in mind forever.
The basilica was built in the place where the pagan temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva stood.
The sanctuary was destroyed several times and has undergone several reconstructions following the Saracen raids earlier and Turkish later.
The actual one dates back to 1700 and has a Latin cross-section with a single nave and four chapels, two on each side, while on the main altar is the picture of Our Lady with Child painted by Palma il Giovane.
On the square with De Chirico metaphysical influences, face the monumentality of the church the tall cross erected on October 21, 1901, on the occasion of the Holy Year and the Corinthian column of 1694 celebrating the passage of St. Peter. At a short distance, on the headland of Méliso, stands the white light and the majestic lighthouse dominating the space between the Calabrian and Greek coasts.
The harbor below can be reached by going down the 184 steps of the double stairway ramp that make the embankment at the monumental waterfall that marks the end of the Acquedotto Pugliese: exciting to see it working and illuminated!
In the country, on the waterfront, the great noble holiday villas, silent witnesses of other ages, wearing Moresco and Déco style liverys. They are above all those who give charm and elegance to the seaside village. The oldest dates back to the end of 1700, Villa Romasi, but almost all were built in the second half of the 19th century. The first villas were all in Tuscan style, with lace inlays, but in the last years of the nineteenth century there are many styles that distinguish these beautiful dwellings. It goes from Ionic to Gothic style, from French to Pompeian, from Risorgimento to Moorish, from Arabic to Chinese to Liberty.
The villas had the chapel, the well, a large garden with pines, palm trees and Mediterranean scrub, the vegetable garden and of course the “bagnarola” by the sea, a kind of ancestress of the cabanas today in our beaches.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, there were 43 villas, but many in the time, especially during World War II, suffered serious damage: their metal elements were plundered to produce weapons, as well as proprietary requirements and used to welcome displaced.
Among the best preserved that still today can be admired in all their magnificence are Villa Episcopo, Villa Mellacqua, Villa Daniele, Villa La Meridiana, Villa De Francesco Licci, Villa Gioacchino Fuortes headquarters of the local Pro Loco.
The fairy tale has always been a feature of Leuca: its name derives from leukos which in Greek means white and according to a legend in this place approached both Anea (but then the story tells it came to Castro Marina as we told you in our post: https://www.cittameridiane.it/en/the-blue-route-from-otranto-to-castro/) that St. Peter. Other legends say that his name derives from the siren Leucasia who sang and enchants the sailors just as today this place does with all those who decide to spend here a few days between sky and sea.
Finally, take notes for next year to spend a day lying in the sun and swimming between the blue and deep waters of the last flap of Puglia. Three seaside resort in the area tried by us. The first was also the first to open, with wooden platforms on the rocks: Lido Giulia (lungomare C. Colombo – tel. +39 0833 758581). The biggest is the Samarinda Fine Beach (lungomare C. Colombo – tel. +39 392 1950465 – www.samarinda.it) with happy hour and music life. The newest is Relax Leuca (Via F. Filzi – tel. +39 392 4869105) an exclusive structure located on a cliff overlooking the sea to enjoy in full relaxation one of the most beautiful seas in the Salento.
And for a bite to eat? Very welcoming, intimate and family atmosphere and the added value of a wonderful outdoor terrace in the greenery Hosteria del Pardo is located in the heart of the town and a stone’s throw from the sea (Via Doppia Croce, 17 – tel. +39 349 2862788 – www.hosteriadelpardo.com): you are not mistaken choosing local homemade pasta and freshly made fish dishes. More note than positive: our four-legged friends are also welcome!