. I did not explore the cave actually as I was not exactly in hiking boots and there was no one inside. Well its low season! But the color of the lagoon just outside of the cave is spectacular in a bright blue hue… azzurro Italians would say like the color of the national football team!
I continued heading south, passing by many towers which are no longer in used and in ruins!
It didn’t take me long to reach Santa Maria di Leuca
, the tip of Puglia.
It is said that the name of the town comes from “Leucasia”, a white beautiful mermaid with a beautiful voice. A subsequent legend says that Virgin Mary once saved some boats from a storm and hence her name was added to that of Leuca.
Besides being the of Puglia, Leuca is famous for its lighthouse, said to be the 2nd most important in Italy after Genova’s! It is 47 meters tall and located on a cliff 102 meters above sea level.
At the piazza before the lighthouse, we find a stone cross put up in 1901 commemorating the Holy Year.
Also on the same piazza is the Basilica de Finibus Terrae
(End of Land) built to commemorate St Peter’s passing through here during his travel to Italy. At the same location used to be a Roman temple dedicated to Minerva.
The basilica is also called a sanctuary and it truly is one from the hot sun!
I headed downhill into the town centre looking for lunch. I found a bar open after circling around and it seems most of the tourists visiting the area are in this bar! In the town centre by the harbor I find the Chiesa di Cristo Re
which looks significantly different from the other churches I have seen in Puglia so far. 1) it has an loggia supported by rounded arches and columns in front of the portal and 2) it looks quite “new”. In fact it was built in 1896 in the romantic and gothic style.
Like many other towns on the sea, Leuca got a lovely harbor, a nice seaside promenade lined with palm trees and many many large villas.
Many of these large beautiful villas built in various styles are the works of the architects Ruggeri & Rossi in the 19th century.
Two particular villas caught my eye. One is the Villa Episcopo
built in the Chinese style with blue tile pagoda roofs.
The other one is Villa Mellacqua
, a large red villa built in the Moorish style .
Here is Villa Meridiana
in white and pink stripes. Villa Maruccia
in red and yellow.
Many of these villas were stripped of metals during the 2nd World War to be melted down and turned into weapons. As a result after the war, many of the villas were heavily damaged. Some of the villas are reconstructed; some are able to conserve its original appearance inside and outside; some are converted into hotels and some are just abandoned.
The southernmost point of Puglia is marked by a huge Italian flag.
Leaving Leuca also means leaving the Adriatic Sea and entering the Gulf of Taranto. Instead of cliffs and deep harbors, I find miles and miles of white sand beaches!
I can’t wait to get to Gallipoli :)