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Some of the nearest destinations - Palazzo del Diavolo

Some of the nearest destinations

Salento is a never-ending treasure house. Villa Palazzo del Diavolo and Parabita are in a perfect central position for visits radiating all over the area. To give an example, we mention some of the nearest destinations – not more than 30 or 40 minutes away by car, motorcycle or scooter – which are suitable for short less than half a day trips, to conclude perhaps with a meal in one of the excellent restaurants that the area can offer. We recommend you always to have a map or better a satellite navigator, in order to choose the shortest route (road signs are not always at hand and sometimes seem to send contradictory messages).

Every centre has surprising attractions: a monumental marquis’ or baron’s palace, a mother church with fine architecture, hypogeal olive mills, elegantly-structured nobles’ palaces, squares with attractive geometrical forms, small museums. The itineraries, often flanked by great expanses of olive trees, open up surprising views on both coasts (especially the Ionian coast).

If you are curious about the unknown and the unexpected, you will not be disappointed.

Gallipoli, the “Pearl of the Ionian sea”

From the Greek kalè pólis, “beautiful city”, Gallipoli includes, in the peninsular structure linked to the modern city by a bridge, the historic centre where there are, facing each other, noble palaces, the powerful, recently restored Aragonese castle, where interesting exhibitions are held, and the co-cathedral basilica of Sant’Agata. It is surrounded by ramparts which can be explored both by car and on foot, where there are various churches from which the complex ceremonies of Holy Week depart on Holy Thursday (April 14th in 2017). It is an important fish market, and is distinguished by some high-level restaurants.

Its foundation can be traced back to Greek settlers from Sicily or to groups of Messapian inhabitants from nearby Alezio. It was conquered by the Romans in 265 B.C., after the battle of Canne (Salento sided with Hannibal), then sacked by the Vandals in 450 and later rebuilt by the Greeks of the Eastern Roman Empire, who equipped it with lavish and majestic fortifications and then used it as a harbour to moor their fleet.

It was occupied by the Normans in the ninth century, and was subject to, successively, the rule of the Swabians, the Angevins and the Aragonese. In 1501 the city was again besieged, by the Spaniards, and then by the French in 1528. Finally it became part of the Kingdom of Naples, a period in which the Bourbon king, Ferdinand II, began the construction of the port.

Anyone visiting Gallipoli today can easily realise how much past and present exist together in this city. Gallipoli, the real witness of events that have given root to different cultures within it, the real protagonist, the great spectator of occasions where east and west have confronted each other.


Casarano and Casaranello

Casarano – whose centre does not lack attractions – is the home of the very ancient Casaranello Church of St. Maria della Croce (St Mary of the Cross), which originated in the fifth century, but was broadened and recast in the 13th, 14th and 18th centuries. It preserves Paleo-Christian mosaics covering the dome and the vault of the presbytery. Along the walls and on the vault of the central nave, frescoes have come to light with episodes of the New Testament (Judas’ Kiss and the Last Supper) and scenes from the lives of Saints Catherine and Margaret, painted in the 13th century. Entry free.

Of great interest: Nardò, Galàtone, and Galatina (each half an hour’s distance)

Other interesting localities to be reached with a short trip, in less than half a day, are recommended on the site of the Touring Club Italiano: Alezio, Tuglie, Sannicola, Collepasso, Patù, Matino, Taviano, Ràcale.