Walk a 70-km journey over 6 days with an average of 11.7 km per day. The routes mainly follow rocky coastal footpaths with some stretches through low vegetation and sections on mule tracks, narrow paths or surfaced roads entering towns. Though the daily distances and overall elevation are not great, we have graded the route as moderate due to rocky terrain and occasional challenges in route-finding.
Start: Otranto Finish: Lecce
Settle in at your accommodation then step outside and breathe in the incredibly fresh, crisp Mediterranean air. Wander Otranto’s dreamy town centre in the evening light, then select a spot for dinner. An introduction to the delights of Puglia, a moment to fill all five senses and a chance to prepare for the phenomenal walking adventure ahead.
Start out with an ideal warm-up hike into Idro Valley, which gives Otranto (‘Hidruntum’) its evocative name. The source of the Idro River lies hidden just 5km from Otranto, at a place called Monte S. Angelo. Walk into earthy aromas on fertile land filled with orchards, olive trees, orange groves and vegetable patches. Begin by hiking the left bank upstream, cut past gnarly olive trees and stop for a quick pic at the sturdy stone chapel of S. Angelo. The walk the right bank back into Otranto, affectionately known for its beauty as Italy’s ‘Pearl of the Orient’.
Challenge: 2 hours, 7.5 km, 95 m ascent, 95 m descent
Negotiate an intriguing maze of lanes as you trek through the old town toward the new port. Then pick up a flat, gravel coast path passing idyllic coves and ominous reminders at WWII bunkers. Opt for a short detour inland to a colourful ‘bauxite lake’ then hurry on to choose your favourite of many enticing beach stops bathed by crystal-clear waters. Heading for the unmistakeable lighthouse at Punta Palascia, you squeeze confidently through knee-high Mediterranean bushes knowing you are on the right track! Clear days afford views to the Albanian mountains as you gaze out over the Adriatic Sea from the easternmost point of Italy just 71 km away from the coast of Albania.
Challenge: 5 hours, 12.5 km, 270 m ascent, 240 m descent
The first stop on today's walk coincides with the beautiful inlet at Porto Badisco, just opposite the local bar/newsagent/supermarket where they make great coffee and sandwiches to go. Stepping out along a shepherds’ trail, you hug the coast and pass typical stone ‘pagliari’, round, flat-topped shepherds’ huts. Six kilometres into the walk, your route moves inland and climbs up toward a plateau where you traipse through high fields on footpaths. Plan to pause for a picnic at a pretty pine grove for some welcome shade on sunny days. A surfaced road leads downhill, as you hike the last section into the exotic spa town of Santa Cesarea Terme with yet a few more fab swimming spots.
Challenge: 4 hours, 13 km, 200 m ascent, 170 m descent
Hiking up a surfaced road out of Santa Cesarea, you connect to an ancient grassy gravel track lined with dry-stone walls. Narrow paths keep inland, traversing fields to reach the ancient Messapian settlement of Castro with its imposing high walls. Spend time inspecting the old town and perhaps pause for lunch, then stroll down to the port for a paddle. Trundling along the coast on an uneven, rocky trail, you come upon stunning Acquaviva Cove, a hidden inlet and fantastic swimming spot, where a fresh water spring bursts out of the rock at sea level. Refreshed and renewed by rejuvenating seawater, you charge off in ascent through a densely forested valley up to Marittima.
Challenge: 4.5 hours, 11.5 km, 310 m ascent, 245 m descent
Purchase a scrumptious sandwich before you take off on a surfaced road winding among immense olive orchards. Pick up the first of many traditional ‘tratturi’, part of an ancient network of paths used by locals to hike down to the sea or connect to nearby villages and orchards. Every stone seems to have a story and the landscape tells centuries-old tales of tough peasant life. With huge sea views as a backdrop, you walk down to Tricase Porto and stop for a perfect ‘caffè in ghiaccio’ (iced coffee) … and perhaps a swim? The last bit on tarmac ends at Marina Serra, a tiny coastal hamlet with its own ideal swimming spots.
Challenge: 4.5 hours, 13.5 km, 310 m ascent, 370 m descent
On your last day of walking, you start off on a short uphill trail with a slightly scary name, the ‘enemy's path’: Sentiero del Nemico, where centuries ago unexpected visitors could lie in ambush. A brief stretch on the paved coast road takes you inland again, back to the ancient ‘tratturi’ to reach the rocky cove at Novaglie, another splendid beach stop. Heart-stopping views on ‘Cipolliane path’ lead to framed fantasy vistas from the cave, cliffs and bridge. Last chance for a swim at tiny Ciolo Cove! Then you hike up Ciolo Valley you get the train in Gagliano del Capo and travel back to Lecce for one last night in this beautiful Baroque town.
Challenge: 5 hours, 12.5 km, 530 m ascent, 380 m descent
Your self-guided walking holiday comes to an end this morning after breakfast. Departure from Lecce is by public transport or a pre-arranged private transfer.
Selected 2 and 3* hotels are used in the larger towns, while in the villages and countryside we use cosy, friendly ‘agriturismo’ (farmhouses) and B&B.
In all the accommodations, the rooms have private bathrooms and a good Italian breakfast is included each morning.
The trip is on Bed and breakfast basis because throughout the trip there are plenty of opportunities to taste both the outstanding local cuisine and a wide array of prestigious regional wines. Dinner is only included in Porto Badisco and Marina Serra, because there are no alternative options available in the immediate surroundings.
During high season it is possible that you might sleep in different accommodation to the ones that are indicated in the description. In some cases it is possible that your list of accommodation differs slightly. This means that start or end of the routes are slightly altered. Therefore you should check to see if your accommodation is the same as that mentioned in the programme. If not, you must be alert at the start and end of the routes.
In choosing alternative accommodation we have tried to maintain the same standards and quality. We have also tried to stay in the same towns and villages, in order to change routes as little as possible but this might not always be possible.
Hotel San Giuseppe is set in a 16th-century farmhouse typical of the Puglia region and it's a well-finished and relaxed location in Otranto's historic center just a few steps from the sea. Rooms are well-furnished and beautifully decorated with air conditioning/heating, TV, free Wifi. Quality breakfast is rich. Staff is helpful and courteous.
Masseria Panareo is surrounding by olive trees overlooking the sea. Rooms are furnished in rustic style and at the same time are elegant, well-finished and spacious with free Wifi, telephone, TV. The structure has an external swimming pool and a restaurant with a view on the sea that proposes regional and Italian dishes, made with fresh, local ingredients. Breakfast is very good with fresh products.
Grand Hotel Mediterraneo offers beautiful views of the coast of Salento, from its terrace and some of the rooms. Rooms are basic and funtional with TV, air conditioning, free Wifi, telephone with direct line. Breakfast buffet is good and it is served on the terrace with sea view.
B&B Palazzo Vecchio is an historic castle renovated situated in the historic center of the city and just 10 minutes from the beach and 2 km from Adriatic Sea. The environment is relaxed with external swimming pool and it offers rustic style rooms with air conditioning, TV, free Wifi. Breakfast is served in the courtyard.
This B&B is just 3 minutes by walk from beach of Marina Serra. Rooms are spacious and furnished in a simple way overlooking the garden and have free Wifi and TV. Breakfast is served together at the other guests.
Four star hotel located in the centre of Lecce. Set in a building renowned as one of the most interesting examples of Twentieth century Leccese architecture, the Grand Hotel di Lecce is a hotel in which old world charm perfectly complements the most modern solution.
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