In the summer of 2015 I had gone to work out of the country. I left shortly after the birth of our daughter. During that time my wife went to stay with her parents in the southern part of Italy. I was to come home mid October, so we would be apart approximately 6 months. As is life, not everything went as planned with my work, although I believe it to have been a good experience. Late July we decided I would change the date for my flight and come stay in South Italy for the month of August before my wife had to return to work in September.
We had gone to visit for a few weeks just the year prior. It was at the beginning of my wife’s pregnancy, so we did our best to get out of the house and enjoy the sun, but it wasn’t always easy. This time, we would be packing around a 5 month old wherever we decided to go.
Truthfully having an infant changes the way you vacation, things get more complicated for sure. The trade-off is each activity brings more joy. Possibly because ‘The More the Merrier!’
I want to share with you some fun things we found while staying there last August.
Let me start with the city we’d be staying in. On the ‘heel of the boot’, or otherwise known as the peninsula ‘Salento,’ you can find Lecce. My in-laws have a flat within a 10 minute walk to the center of Lecce (which by the way is beautiful.) All Italian cities have an older feel when you enter the historical center, but southern italian towns radiate this feel wherever you go.
As mentioned in my previous post, August is a month where most Italian small businesses, at least in the northern region, shut down. If not the whole month, at least 2-3 weeks. Everyone travels either out of the country, or to the south to enjoy beautiful beaches and sunlight. Italians live a lifestyle surrounded by good food, and good company. You can easily find both during this time.
Each town in southern Italy has a festival where they put up lights and invite vendors and musicians to line the streets with their wares. Products are cheap, so make sure to bring money with you to enjoy some street side crepe vendors, or a souvenir of your stay.
Our goal for this trip was to get out to the beaches in the morning, maybe an afternoon, come home for lunch and spend the evening with friends or walking downtown. I’ll get to the beaches in a moment, but take a look at some of the sights you can see as you walk through a city claimed to over 2000 years old.
In no specific order, here we have the famous beaches of Salento. First we’ll start on the Mediterranean side of Salento. With multiple locations to choose from, we only visited the closest beach to Lecce, Porto Cesareo. We went on two separate occasions, to two different parts of the same beach zone. That’s what is fun, it seems that no two beaches are exactly alike, so you can explore and decide what you like most. The first day, accompanied by some friends, we drove to the north side and parked near Torre Lapillo. It was nice day, the beach was beautiful, but taking a swim proved difficult. With the combination of vegetation and rock ledges in the shallow end, most people stayed on the beachside. For this reason, we chose to move sites then next time we made the venture.
Connected to the center of town you can find small boats that for a fee will take you across to a small island. There is an option to cross by wading through from a point further to the south, but with kids and food/coolers we pulled out the pocket book. A quick ride left us in a small paradise. We spent a few hours baking in the sun, wading around and exploring the island. We stayed longer than we probably should have considering how old little ‘K’ was at the time.
The hot spots
Next up, San Foca. Because of its vicinity to Lecce, San foca with it’s beautiful beach, remains a hot spot for local youth and tourists alike. I don’t have any pictures to post of San foca, but you can always do a Google street view ‘daydream vacation’.
Likewise, Torre dell’Orso We spent a day on the beach and found it to be so crowded if you don’t arrive early enough, you might not find space. The only space we found open was in the vicinity of a garbage can all the way to the back. Needless to say, we didn’t stay near our towels very much. If you don’t mind crowds and are looking to ‘rub shoulders’ with some strangers (almost literally) then this is the place for you!
Another fun spot to hang out for is called ‘Grotta della Poesia.’ Anyone out there a cliff-jumper? Amongst the rock cliffs the sea etched a 30 meter hole. Not hard to imagine why it’s a popular site amongst the youth.
Our best photos came on a visit to this little beach front town. I can’t help but share them. Little ‘K’ seems to think she’s a model. We stumbled on the beach on accident. It is basically a continuation of the popular zones being just a few kilometers to the south. There were less than 70 people in the beach access, but since it was fairly small there were barely and places to put down a towel. Little piece of advice, bring a chair when you visit. It seemed to me to be a great place to set up base and go snorkeling to view the surrounding rock cliffs.
One day a friend invited us to the ‘Laghi Alimini.’ -Alimini Lakes- I’d never heard anyone mention it, but it turned out to be one of the best day trips we took. We followed the google maps navigation and it pointed us to the west side of the lake. Upon arrival we found a small, looked as if to be, campsite. We were greeted by two gentlemen sitting in camp chairs and quickly learned we were at a canoe rental business. We took a picture to commemorate the event and drove to where the mouth of the lake met the sea. We never actually found our friends, though later found out they were just some minutes away on the same beach.
I’d heard stories of Otranto, but nothing prepared me for a visit. Otranto, is quite possibly THE most or one of the most beautiful cities on the Adriatic. With it’s southern appeal, it brandishes a shopping zone with a cliff view 80 feet above the water’s surface. We found some parking on the edge of town and made a tour of the shopping district before finding some space in the central swimming area nearby. Truth be told, I plan to purchase a vacation property nearby. Nice retirement plan, right?
Among those who live nearby San Cataldo is known to be less popular. Although it is the closest beach in proximity to Lecce, you can find a small number of people even on the nicest days on the beaches of San Cataldo. Having a reputation for having senior citizens, the younger generations, choose to travel a bit farther to San Foca and other popular zones. This quickly became one of our favorite spots to swim. We found that if you explore a bit you can find a piece of sand off the beaten path, and enjoy some real privacy.
Last of all was a fun experience. We went to this beach twice. It being closeby, and seeming to be similar to San Cataldo. Finding parking was simple, and the walk wasn’t too demanding. We laid out our towels on the edge of a zone where the sea mixed with the cold water of a freshwater stream. The shallow water made the surface warm on hot days, but under the surface in certain areas you’d encounter a refreshing burst of cold water. What made this memorable was that on one of the days we went, a thunderstorm started up. As we arrived everyone left. The locals/brave, stayed to enjoy the darkening sky and lightning in the distance. After long it looked like the rain would finally reach us so we packed up and left, ending with driving home in a rain storm.
This is just a small list of beach zones that you should explore on your visit to Salento. I believe it would take years to discover everything. I plan on going back, so if you have a suggestion for our next trip, or would like some advice on things to do, add a comment, or message us on any number of social platforms.
Till next time