Puglia is the southern region that forms the “heel” of the Italian boot. It is famous for the hilltop towns with their characteristic white plaster, for the countryside with an ancient flavor, and for the hundreds of kilometers of the Mediterranean coast. Bari is the main city of the region and it is a lively port, with an important university, while Lecce is known due to its Baroque architecture. Alberobello and the Itria Valley are instead the home of “trulli”, the traditional stone buildings with a characteristic conical roof.
The crystalline sea of Puglia is certainly one of the major attractions of the region. The coast that runs from Otranto to Capo Santa Maria di Leuca, the last part of the Adriatic Sea, is one of the most evocative and unspoiled in all of Puglia and it is no coincidence that it is under the protection of the Costa Otranto-Santa Maria di Leuca and Bosco di Tricase Regional Park.
The Ionian coast, made up of low and sandy coasts, welcomes instead a family tourism in search of white sands with campsites, villages and residences for all needs.
Here, from the Adriatic to the Ionian Sea, following the coast, are the most beautiful beaches of Puglia, scattered along the 800 kilometers of coastline that attract tourists from all over the world.
Torre dell’Orso beach is a half-moon of sand of almost one kilometer dominated by the sixteenth-century watchtower, not far from the small town of Melendugno, which is only 9 km away. It has stretches of equipped beach and others with free beach. Two imposing stacks of pale stone are reflected in the waters that the sea currents of the Canale d’Otranto keep transparent. Torre dell’Orso is accessed from the town of the same name, about 20 km north of Otranto. Just south of the inhabited center there are some paid parking lots at the edge of the pine forest; entering the trees, various paths allow you to discover the beautiful bay from the top of the cliffs. In the vicinity of Torre dell’Orso there are other famous places on the Salento coast, such as the cave of Poetry and the famous stacks of Sant’Andrea.
Baia dei Turchi
Just before the city of Otranto, near the bay of Alìmini, you will find this little gem. Announced by the dense Mediterranean scrub and the unmistakable scent of the pine forest, the strip of white sand embraces the sea. It was on this stretch of coast that the Ottoman fleet landed and besieged Otranto in 1480. The parking lot is located along the road; from here it is a short walk to the bay. It is also possible to park at the long beach of Alimini and then continue on foot, along the sea, towards the south. Not far from Baia dei Turchi there is also the long beach of Alimini, bordered by dunes, perhaps the longest and most accessible of the Adriatic Salento beaches. The sand is clear and sometimes black with establishments and a free beach.
Porto Badisco is located halfway between Otranto and Santa Cesarea Terme and is a natural inlet as narrow and deep as a fjord. The towers of Sant’Emiliano and Minervino stand out on the beach. Legend has it that Aeneas and her companions landed here on their epic journey to Italy. Here also hides one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe, the cave of the Deer, with prehistoric paintings. But the great attraction is the sea. With cobalt blue coves, which stands out against the white of the limestone rocks: a paradise for divers. The beach of Porto Badisco, characterized by the presence of a spring, is small and characterized by rocks, very sharp as in various points of the Adriatic coast of Salento. A few kilometers south of Porto Badisco, just after Santa Cesarea Terme, you arrive at Porto Miggiano: a tiny beach surrounded by an ocher-colored cliff. It is accessed via a staircase in the rock.
Marina di Pescoluse
On the Ionian coast, 10 km north of Santa Maria di Leuca, is Pescoluse, with a white sand beach, islets that peek out from the sea surface, and shallow waters, for relaxing baths and moments of leisure that continue until sunset. There are many stretches of equipped beaches and the same number of free beaches where you can lie down and sunbathe. The beach is four kilometers long, with white sand, crystal clear waters and shallow waters, dunes covered with acacias and white lilies, islets of sand, kiosks that pop up among the reeds and palm trees. Access to Marina di Pescoluse is from the car park located directly from the provincial road. The section called Maldives of Salento is the most crowded. The beach continues up to Torre Pali, with various access and parking points along the dunes.
Lido Marini is particularly easy to reach and the closest center is Ugento, even if the beach is located in the Municipality of Salve. It is a perfect stretch of sea for families and the water is usually a few degrees higher than the Adriatic side. The sandy beaches are wide with the sea accessible to children and families and along the sandy coast you can take advantage of a free beach or equipped bathing establishments. The seabed is very shallow and ideal for those who love underwater fishing or for excursions in the Ionian Sea of Salento. In this place you can visit the typical Mediterranean vegetation with the presence of the characteristic olive tree and a very varied migratory fauna. Near Lido Marini there is the equally beautiful beach of Torre Mozza. Between the two, the dog-friendly beach of Paduli: dogs and owners can reach it by continuing south from Torre Mozza.
Punta della Suina
Punta Suina is located about 10 km south of Gallipoli and is accessible from various points along the coastal road. Punta Suina is located in a jagged and mostly sandy stretch of coast, alternating here and there by rocky areas, perfect for hours of sunbathing and relaxation as well as for fun dives in the sea. This area overlooks a wonderful sea with incredible reflections, and, in the hinterland, is characterized by a fresh and fragrant pine forest rich in flora and fauna. In fact, you will have the opportunity to stroll among myrtle, orchids and fragrant marigolds, perhaps spotting the rare species of the Corsican seagull, which nests on the nearby island of Sant’Andrea. The bay of Gallipoli can be reached with a walk in the green, made of dunes, rocks that slope towards the sea, natural pools of turquoise water, white sand. In the vicinity of Punta Suina there is Lido Pizzo, or otherwise the long and crowded beach to the north, towards Gallipoli.
Porto Selvaggio Beach
Between Gallipoli and Porto Cesareo a verdant pine forest laps a rocky promontory overlooking a small cove mainly of gravel. It is precisely the conformation of the coastal stretch that gives the sea crystalline reflections. We are in the Porto Selvaggio and Palude del Capitano Regional Natural Park, among the most intact stretches of the entire Salento. A nature reserve to be discovered on foot along a path that winds its way through gorse bushes, rock roses and sea lilies. Porto Selvaggio can be reached by walking in the pine forest, but above all from the sea, thanks to the boats that shuttle from Porto Cesareo. Here there is very little sand and a lot of rock, but unforgettable colors of the sea. The cave of the Horse is famous, where the oldest remains of Homo sapiens in Europe have been found. From the beach of Uluzzo, on clear days, you can see Calabria.
Torre Chianca is located just north of Porto Cesareo, in a densely populated and crowded area. This place takes its name from the sixteenth-century watchtower of the same name, now partially ruined, built by the Spaniards to defend Salento from attacks by Saracen pirates. Framed in the protected marine area of Porto Cesareo, it is the ideal starting point for diving enthusiasts. Its depths are in fact a true submerged treasure. It is possible to admire, without facing particular depths, five Roman columns in porphyry, which ended up in the sea after the shipwreck of the ship that transported them. There are several coves separated by rocky headlands. In the vicinity of Torre Chianca there are also many sandy beaches. In the immediate hinterland we find the Bosco e Paludi di Rauccio Regional Natural Park.
Crystal clear waters, long beaches of fine white sand, eight-meter-high dunes, and expanses of Mediterranean scrub are the characteristics of this protected marine area about ten kilometers from Porto Cesareo, beyond Torre Lapillo. We find a vast spontaneous vegetation along the coast of Punta Prosciutto up to Porto Cesareo. Here beaches stretch out for several kilometers delimited by the typical sand dunes, characteristic of this area. There are numerous bathing establishments that can be discovered in this locality and of course there is also a large availability of free beach where you can practice trekking, sailing, diving or kitesurfing on the windiest days. The “Salina dei Monaci” locality, on the west bank of Torre Colimena, is the realm of pink flamingos. In this area there are not only wonderful natural places and paradisiacal beaches, the coast is in fact characterized also by important historical sites located along the coast, such as Torre Colimena, Torre Lapillo and many other coastal towers.
The seventeenth-century Moline watchtower, one of the hundreds that line Salento, announces the coast of Campomarino di Maruggio. It is one of the most beautiful places in the upper Salento, one of the many gems along the wonderful Ionian coast, which stretches for about nine kilometers and has even been defined as “the Caribbean of Manduria”. The sea is turquoise colored and there are seabirds, dunes covered with thyme and junipers. Here stretches of soft sand alternate with rocky cliffs, flanked by large expanses of fragrant Mediterranean scrub, dry stone walls and imposing millenary olive groves. One of the most beautiful stretches of the Ionian coast, where you can discover on foot the beach of Ayala or del Conte, preferred by naturists, without equipped beaches, with few people and transparent waters.
Torre Guaceto beach
Located 15 kilometers north of Brindisi, Torre Guaceto is a protected marine area set between the rocks of Apani and Punta Penna Grossa. It is a unique ecosystem for biodiversity, a stop for migratory birds, with golden yellow beaches, a dense Mediterranean scrub of myrtles, mastic trees, holm oaks, junipers. But also mirrors of salt water, dunes and reeds. In particular, the sandy bottoms and marine flora constitute an ecosystem in perfect balance, which allows the proliferation of numerous animal species. The area is in fact characterized by a low and sandy coast bordered by dunes and interrupted, from time to time, by rocks. In the sea with mask and fins you can swim over spectacular seabeds covered with Posidonia meadows. A naturalistic Eden made of sandy coves, transparent sea and many fish, Torre Guaceto welcomes you in the shadow of the Aragonese tower for a stay full of nature, relaxation and sport.
Vignanotica Beach, one of the most popular beaches in the Gargano, is located along the Provincial Road that connects Vieste to Mattinata, right on the border between the two municipalities. This splendid beach of sand mixed with pebbles, about 500 meters long, is characterized by the presence of multiple caves dug by the sea and by the high and white limestone cliff behind it, very steep. It is also called the “beach of the seagulls” because in the evening seagulls land here and have their nests among the rocks. A mask and fins are enough to discover the depths rich in fish at a depth of a few meters. But before going down to the sea, it is worth stopping at the belvedere furnished with wooden benches and canopy, in front of a postcard landscape. For several months the beach is lonely, quiet, and uncrowded. But in the highlight of the summer, it is populated and the bathing establishments are very well equipped.
About ten kilometers from Peschici, within the Gargano National Park, Zaiana beach is a small natural oasis enclosed between rocky ridges covered with Aleppo pines and Mediterranean scrub, which can be reached along a steep staircase carved into the rock. The sand is fine and golden, the water is crystal clear and warm, only a few straws and bamboo huts on the beach instead of sun umbrellas. During the day Zaiana beach is calm, but in the evening it turns into an open-air disco for a party on the beach to entertain tourists and young people until the morning. In the high season, it is quite crowded, but in September it is almost empty. A short distance away is the cave of Manaccora.