Salento, Italy’s Heel

May 7, 2008 / Places
Salento, Puglia
If you already know and love Italy but have never ventured south to the tip of the heel of the boot called Salento, then you are missing out on one of the best parts of the country. It seems like God has blessed this little peninsula with special treasures: turquoise water, rock cliffs, long stretches of natural beaches, and bleached white buildings that make up tiny villages hanging over the sea, all topped off with a type of Southern hospitality that its natives lavish on visitors.

The little towns on the two coasts (Adriatic and Ionian) seem like old-fashioned seaside paradises, but they are each full of their own unique cultures and histories as well. Yes it’s Italy, but it also seems to be a bit of Greece, of Turkey, and what the Salentini call the Porta D’Oriente (The Eastern Gate, or Door to the Orient).

This “gate” worked both ways however. Salento’s geographical location was perfect for invaders to attack from the sea, and you’ll find remnants and ruins of lighthouses, bastions surrounding sea towns, castle walls, moats, and towers dotted along its coasts, all attempts to protect its inhabitants, often largely unsuccessful. Each invasion and occupation left a mark on Salento, creating a melting pot of cultures evidenced in the spicy take on Italian food, seafood including a remarkable variety of pesce crudo (raw fish) dishes, and villages where a version of Greek is still spoken. And because the region is so lightly traveled by outsiders, you really feel that you are the first to discover it all. Che bello.

by Layne Randolph

Layne is an American attorney who has extensive experience living and working in Italy. She has worked as in house counsel to Fendi, Srl in Rome, Italy and obtained an LLM through the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Worldwide Academy in coordination with the University of Turin Law School in Turin, Italy. Two of her favorite pasttimes are traveling and writing.

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