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  • Writer's pictureFilippo Milano

Best Beaches in Salento, Puglia

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

The most beautiful beaches in Salento, perfect for everyone.

Welcome to my blog and welcome to Puglia. Below the list of my favourite beaches in Salento.

Visitors to Puglia will be amazed by the unspoilt nature of Italy’s heel. Centuries-old olive trees give way to whitewashed villages that wouldn’t look out of place on a Greek Island. Down the rural roads, you’ll find the unique Puglian architecture is a curious mix between tipi-topped Trulli and the rectangular robustness of the traditional Masseria. And the fresh flavours of the local food will leave sweet memories on your tongue long after you’ve departed.

Again in 2018, for the second time round, Puglia has received the prestigious award of “Best value travel destination in the world”. According to National Geographic, Puglia is in fact the most beautiful region of the world, matter of pride for all people leaving in Puglia and, in general, for all the Italians.

In order to see the best of Puglia, I’d highly recommend hiring a car. Public transport will allow you to visit Puglia’s towns and cities, but to find the best secret beaches in Puglia you’re going to need your own car.

1. Otranto

Otranto is a historic seaside town and port on the Adriatic coast of southern Italy, in the region of Puglia. It's a small place with a lovely holiday atmosphere, and makes a good destination for a day trip or a longer stay. The picture-perfect blue waters, white buildings and diving rocks make Otranto the frequent cover star of maps, books and articles about Puglia.

The town is in the province of Lecce, and is close to the easternmost point of Italy. It is within the area known as the Salento, the tip of the peninsula which is the heel of Italy's boot. On a clear day it is possible to see over the Strait of Otranto to Albania.

The name of Otranto is probably best known abroad for The Castle of Otranto, Horace Walpole's pioneering Gothic novel. However, the creepy castle of Walpole's imagination bears little resemblance to the more recent stolid fortress in the real Otranto.

Like much of Puglia, Otranto has a colourful and mixed past. It was important as a Greek and then Roman port, called Hydruntum. Later it was ruled by the Byzantines, the Normans and the Aragonese. In 1480 the town was invaded by Turks, and 800 locals were executed for refusing to convert to Islam. The bones and skulls of the martyrs of Otranto are now stacked behind glass in the cathedral in a manner that would have satisfied Walpole's Gothic imagination.

Near Otranto you will find many and fantastic beaches, I suggest to spend 3/4 days nearby, it's full of masserie which you will fall in love.

2. Baia dei Turchi (the Bay of the Turks) - Otranto

In the bay where the Saracens landed in 1480, to conquer Otranto, nowadays there is white sand, lapped by a dreamy sea and embellished with the scented pine forest and the Mediterranean scrub.

A heavenly white beach, nestled in the cliff, embellished with the scented Mediterranean scrub and in the shade of the pine forest. In the area of Otranto, the Baia dei Turchi (the Bay of the Turks) is part of the protected Oasis of Alimini Lakes and boasts the Blue Flag and 5 Sails (a flag awarded to the most beautiful beaches) of Legambiente (Italian environment protection association).

According to the legend, this was the bay where, at the end of the 15th century, landed the Turks who were sailing to Otranto for the terrible massacre of the inhabitants.

There are beach umbrellas in the most part of the private beach, overlooking a dreamy sea, but next to it there is a series of other small bays which continue northwards, as far as they meet the Alimini beach.

3. Grotta della Poesia (Poetry cave) - Otranto

Legend has it that a beautiful princess used to bathe in the healthful waters of the sea cavern, and when word spread of her incomparable beauty, poets from all over southern Italy came to write prose inspired by her. Some wrote of nymphs, others of an oriental princess, and others of a gorgeous queen from the north, adding to the place's fame so that eventually it became known as the Grotta of Poetry.

The Grotta della Poesia is north of Otranto in the sunny Salento and is a natural pool in the rock. It was an area rich in archeology, where ruins of a Messapian fortification have been found near Roca Vecchia.

Artifacts from the Bronze Age were also discovered.

The open-air pool is a scenic spot, a nice change from the usual beach, and one steeped in myth and mystery, as well.

4. Grotta Sfondata - Otranto

A swim inside the Grotta Sfondata allows you to enjoy, in the water, both areas in the sun deriving from the hole in the rock and some of shade.

The overhanging cliff prohibits access from the land, which is why the location can only be visited by accessing from the sea.

To visit it, just park in the nearby Baia del Mulino d’Acqua (Bay of the Water Mill) and then reach the pretty beach of Santo Stefano. At this point you can reach Grotta Sfondata by swimming or by boat.

The bay, among other things, is still unspoiled and far from the frenzy of crowded beaches during the summer. This hidden corner (or better to say circle) absolutely needs a visit.

5. Torre Sant'Andrea - Melendugno

The Adriatic Sea boasts many highly touted beaches featuring clear water, white sand, and gorgeously rugged landscapes. However, the looming rocky towers of Torre Sant’Andrea make the waterfront of this small Italian fishing community stand out even within that generally picturesque context.

The sea stacks that define Torre Sant’Andrea are created by the erosive power of wind and waves beating against malleable coastal cliffs. Fissures are expanded, tunnels are formed, and tenuous natural bridges collapse to leave lonely sentinels rising above the pounding surf below.

Located on the “heel” of Italy’s “boot,” Torre Sant’Andrea takes its name not from these natural towers, but from one constructed by humans in the 16th century as a watch towers, the ruins of which can still be seen. Visitors can lounge on the beach, swim through weathered arches, and even cliff dive (if they know what they’re doing). The local nightlife also apparently features a fairly active reggae scene.

6. Castro Marina

Perched atop a precipitous cliff, 100m above the sea, Castro looks out across the Adriatic towards Corfu and southern Albania, from where, it is said, Aeneas once arrived. Recent archaeological digs point to the probability of there having been a Temple of Athena on the site and this handily explains why the Romans called the town Castrum Minervae (Minerva being the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Athena).

Narrow roads weave around the old town centre and it’s a pleasure to stroll around, stopping off for refreshments in one of the bars or restaurants. All roads, it seems, lead to the main square and the panoramic terrazza, from where the views out to sea are superb.

Down below, Castro Marina comes alive in the summer months, with bars, restaurants and cafés opening up along the seafront. The little harbour, usually home only to the town’s small fishing fleet, welcomes impressive yachts and pleasure boats. The rocky shoreline and crystalline waters attract swimmers and sunbathers, and the lidos fill up with holidaymakers from mid-June to mid-September.

This is one of the best places I’ve never been, just relax and have a nice gelato or nice granita, my favour is the mint one but even lemon granita is very good.

If you decide to spend few days in Castro I suggest to visit even Grotta Zinzulusa and the fairytale Cala dell'Acquaviva.

Consider that on your way you will find many other places and beaches, just get lost with your car.

For the best beaches in Terra di Bari click here, for the best beaches in Gargano click here.

When to visit Puglia Italy

Obviously, the warmer months are ideal for enjoying Puglia’s best beaches, but you’ll enjoy the experience more if you plan to visit Puglia outside of the peak summer season.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t plan a vacation in Puglia in July or August, but be prepared for busier beaches, higher prices, and fewer chances of finding a secluded swimming nook just to yourself.

The ideal time to enjoy the beaches of Puglia is in the season of May/June or September/October. It’s in these quieter months that you’ll experience Puglia at it’s finest.

I usually go back home at the beginning of June when the weather is perfect for both sightseeing and swimming, I still prefer the first or the second week of June, the weather is still not that hot, as average you have something like 25/30 degrees, after the second week the weather starts to become even hotter and easily in July and August the temperature will reach 40/45 degrees.

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