The Salento is home to some of Italy’s loveliest towns and cities: the sea-front fortified gems of Gallipoli and Otranto, the creamy baroque sophistication of Lecce and the luxurious seaside Liberty pleasures of Leuca.
But the Salento is also full to brimming with small sleepy towns that are off the tourist trail but greatly worth visiting for their unspoilt historic centres and their unassuming genuineness. Examples include Specchia and the so-called Greek towns of Calimera, Carpignano Salentino, Castrignano dei Greci, Corigliano d’Otranto, Cutrofiano, Martano, Martignano, Melpignano, Soleto, Sternatia and Zollino.
These towns – around 20km south of Lecce – preserve the Salento’s strong historic ties with Greece, dating back thousands of years. The local dialect, ‘Grika’, and many of the area’s gastronomic, cultural and religious traditions have evident Hellenic roots which are celebrated with frequent festivals, including the hugely popular and energetic Notte della Taranta.