Castel del Monte (Italian for "Castle of the Mountain"; Barese: Castídde d'u Monte) is a 13th-century citadel and castle situated on a hill in Andria in the Apulia region of southeast Italy. It was built during the 1240s by the Emperor Frederick II, who had inherited the lands from his mother Constance of Sicily. In the 18th century, the castle's interior marbles and remaining furnishings were removed. It has neither a moat nor a drawbridge and some considered it never to have been intended as a defensive fortress; however, archaeological work has suggested that it originally had a curtain wall. Described by the Enciclopedia Italiana as "the most fascinating castle built by Frederick II", the site is protected as a World Heritage Site. It also appears on the Italian version of the one cent Euro coin.
Ciolo is a must-see for anyone visiting the Capo di Leuca region, a natural fjord dominated by the bridge where the coastal Adriatic road that goes from Santa Maria di Leuca to Marina di Tricase runs on. It is a deep canyon created by the water erosion on its path to the sea, offering a breathtaking view and striking colors. The name comes from magpies, "Giole" or "Ciole" in the local dialect, that used to live in the gorge. The high and steep walls surround a narrow bay, accessible by a staircase descending from the bridge to the sea level. The rocky walls are covered by evergreen Mediterranean scrub and typical vegetation like the cornflower of Leuca and unique species of wild orchids. Several caves can be found across the slopes of the canyon. Some of them can be reached by boat or swimming, other are accessible from the land and are famous for fossils and ceramics findings from the Neolithic and Paleolithic, like in the case of the Grotta delle Prazziche. Sometimes at Ciolo you can see the most daring ones dive from the cliffs, or even from the bridge. It is an adrenalinic and reckless show performed by the local people, not to be emulated by the occasional tourist!
Swim in the sheltered waters of the bay, snorkel along the surrounding cliff edge and picnic in the pine grove on the promontory on the north side of the bay. If the heat gets too much for outdoor activities in the middle of the day, venture along to the nearby Grotta dei Cervi (Cave of the Deer) for cooler pursuits. The Grotta is home to cave paintings which date back 4000 years to the Neolithic era, among them the inscriptions for which the cave is named: numerous representations of deer in guano and red ochre.
Cape Palascìa, commonly known as Capo d'Otranto, is Italy's most easterly point. It is situated in the territory of the Apulian city of Otranto, in the Province of Lecce at 40° 7' northing and 18° 31' easting. The lighthouse was built in 1867 and abandoned in the 1970s, however, was reopened to tourists in 2008 and currently hosts the Centre on Environment and Health of the Mediterranean ecosystems and a multimedia museum of the sea. It is one of five Mediterranean lighthouses protected by the European Commission. It is often visited by tourists, particularly at New Year, since it stands at the point where the dawn of the new year may first be seen in Italy. According to nautical conventions, Capo d'Otranto marks the point where the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Sea meet.
Facing the majestic Ionian Sea, in Santa Caterina Bay, Lido Beija Flor is an impressive and versatile seaside facility, entirely made of wood, according to the typical Salento's natural surrounding. This environment-friendly structure perfectly blends with the jagged cliffs it lies on, emphasizing its shape and imperfections, as never seen before on these rocky cliffs. You'll feel like floating above the sea!
The cave, which branches out in several different directions, owes its name to the popular imagination - its many stalactites and stalagmites look like limp rags, which are called "zinzuli" in the local Salento dialect. The entrance gives onto a karstic tunnel which extends into the depths for about a hundred meters, becoming increasingly narrow until it reaches the Cathedral, the final chamber in the part of the cave above water and open to the public. From this point on, the tunnel runs down to the submerged section of the cave, the Cocito. Unique living fossils have been found here (including Higghinsia Ciccaresi hypogeum sponges), while the presence of large stalagmites suggests that the area was above sea level for a long period of time.
Samsara Beach offers you the best of every beach atmosphere on white sand and blue water. Depending on the time of day, you will enjoy a serene environment or a jumping party scene. Early visitors can kick back on the available sun loungers in relative quiet. In the evening, live DJs play music and people dance on the beach. You will even find professional dance groups in costume.
The road between Italy’s Santa Maria di Leuca and Otranto hugs the incredible white stone cliffs of the Southern Italian coastline, offering unparalleled views of the wide-open Adriatic Sea making it one of the most beautiful drives in Italy. The plethora of white sand beaches with friendly, picturesque beach towns with myriad hotels makes the drive perfect for beach hopping. Part of the Puglia region, the Salento peninsula contains some of the best kept secrets in Italy, and this drive hits several, including the seductive sea caves known as grotte.
Grotte della Poesia is said to have been a favorite swimming spot for an ancient princess, the sight of her swimming there inspired poets--thus the name Caves of Poetry. But visitors nowadays come mainly to take leaps from its 15' cliffs into the clear waters, to scuba dive, swim from the sinkhole through an underground sea cave and back out to the sea. You can even rent a boat from nearby San Foca to get up close and personal to all the cliffs and grottoes in the area.