Santa Maria di Leuca [dead link] (Sicilian: Lèviche) is a village of the Apulia region in Italy. It belongs to the municipality of Castrignano del Capo and represents the southernmost inhabited centre of the region.
The village of Leuca is at the southernmost tip of Salento peninsula, between the two promontories of Punta Rìstola to the west and Punta Mèliso to the east, where stand the sanctuary and the 48-m-tall (159 ft) lighthouse.
- 1 Tourist Information Office (Pro Loco Leuca), Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo, 53 (in Villa Gioacchino Fuortes), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 09:00-00:00. Information about the locality, nearby tourist destinations and various events.
- 1 Brindisi Airport (BDS IATA). It is the closest one (120 km) and you can reach Leuca by renting a car or through the efficient bus services available.
- 2 Gagliano Leuca railway station, Piazza Stazione, Gagliano del Capo (LE) (7 km north of the centre). A small station served by trains of the regional company Ferrovie del Sud Est (FSE), with links to/from Lecce and Gallipoli. It is easily reachable through road by car in 10 minutes, or in 20 minutes by bus.
- From the airport of Brindisi: take the to bypass the city, merge onto towards Lecce, here take Tangenziale Ovest and to Gallipoli and finally that ends just 2 km north of the sanctuary. All of these roads are state highways with dual carrageways for most of the length.
- From Otranto: drive along freeway until Maglie, here take the that crosses the inner villages. Another option is driving southward along the Adriatic coast through the beautiful marinas and with a truly magnificent view.
The locality is quite small and can be visited by foot quickly, walking along the beautiful promenade of Via Cristoforo Colombo. You can reach the Sanctuary of Finibus Terrae from the harbor by walking up a 284-step monumental staircase. Don't forget a pair of comfortable shoes and a bottle of water!
Many streets are one-way and road signs can be difficult to understand (a trick of the municipality to earn money thanks to the fines), so if you choose to drive in the central area of the village watch out for eventual driving bans and road marking. The boardwalk is extremely busy at every hour of every day during summer and parking there is virtually impossible. Be prepared to park your car some blocks north and don't forget the parking meter!
Despite this a car can be useful to explore the coast in both directions or to reach the magnificent grottoes on the Ionian Sea, driving towards west.
- 1 Sanctuary of Santa Maria de Finibus Terrae, Piazza Giovanni XXIII, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Built on the site of an ancient pagan temple dedicated to Minerva, on the promontory where Saint Peter landed on his way to Rome. The first christian church dates back to 59 AD. and it was repeatedly destroyed by Saracens and Turks, to be rebuilt in the actual form in 1755. The Basilica was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1990 and by Benedict XVI in 2008. Free entry.
- 2 Lighthouse (Faro), Piazza Giovanni XXIII, ☏ , . It is tall 48,6 meters (159 ft) and reach a total height of 102 meters (335 ft) above the sea level. It is the southernmost lighthouse of Apulia an one of the most important of Italy, due to its position between the Ionian and the Adriatic Sea. The structure has 254 steps and it is open to the public by appointment, only on certain days.
- 3 Chiesa di Cristo Re (Church of Christ the King), Piazza Redentore, 8 (one block north of the boardwalk), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. The construction started in 1896 but it wasn't open to worshipers until 1935. The church features a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, with notable mosaic floor and rose window. Free entry.
- 4 Villa La Meridiana, Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo, 61, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Beautiful 19th-century palace with elements of Classical and Moorish architecture, now a 4-star hotel.
Many caves are present along the coastline near Leuca, some of them can be reached only by the sea (through a boat or swimming) while others can be explored also on foot. Don't forget to wear a comfortable pair of shoes!
- 5 Grotta del Diavolo (cave of the Devil) is located at the tip of Punta Ristola and is accessible by descending a short dirt path. Here you will arrive in a suggestive space, with an exit to the sea and another one to the surface.
- 6 Grotta del Fiume (Cave of the river) (accessible from the sea). A crystal-clear water acts as an entry to a system of communicating grottoes that you can explore by foot. It takes this name from an above small ravine that pours rainwater during the autumn.
- 7 Grotta delle Tre porte (Cave of the Three doors) (accessible from the sea). Maybe the most famous one in the area; takes its name from the fact that it has three arches as doorways.
- 8 Grotta degli Innamorati (Cave of the Lovers) (accessible from the sea). Swim in the 6-m-deep (19 ft) waters of the Ionian sea and pass under a doorway, reaching an enchanting grotto full of sand, where you can easily walk on. Inside of that you will find a sort of "playground" with different minor caves and two points to climb on the ceiling and diving into the water without any risk. The name if due to the same ceiling, that resembles the shape of a heart.
- Have a walk along the 1 wooden pedestrian paths in the tourist port, between the white Mediterranean houses and the sea, overlooking the lighthouse and Punta Meliso.
- Don't miss the opening of the monumental waterfall between the two flights of the staircase below the Sanctuary, when the water of the Apulian Aqueduct are left pouring out in a show of colorful lights. It is usually open by night, but there are no established dates for this event so it is better to ask the tourist office or shopkeepers.
- Admire the fireworks on Ferragosto night (15th August), a show of about 20 minutes visible from kilometers that attracts a lot of people from the nearby municipalities. It usually takes place at about 23:00.
A weekly market is held every Sunday along the whole promenade and it lasts from morning until after 01:00. It is possible to find almost any type of products, from clothes to toys, household products and souvenirs, etc. A group of 1 permanent tents can be found in a small open space beside the promenade; while a 2 row of tents is present just under the lighthouse. In the latter you will find a lot of typical souvenirs like tambourines and objects in pietra leccese (Lecce stone).
- 1 Cafè Dò Mar, Via Bolzano, 7, ☏ . 06:00-02:00. Excellent restaurant specialized in seafood, as well as a cafe facing the promenade. Mid range.
- 2 Mangiamare, Litoranea Leuca-Gallipoli (drive along the coast road towards Gallipoli for 2 km), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 19:30-22:00; Su 12:30-14:00, 19:30-22:00. Seafood restaurant with set menu and a good price performance, famous in the area for the quality and the abundance of the dishes served.
- 3 Martinucci, Via Cavaliere Tommaso Fuortes, 8, ☏ . 06:00-01:00. Excellent ice cream and pastries in one of the various Martinucci shops in the province.
- 1 Gibò, Litoranea Santa Maria di Leuca-Otranto km 5, Gagliano del Capo (drive along the coast road towards Otranto, until locality "Ciolo"), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 21:00-00:00. Luxury club well known also outside the regional borders, especially for its unique location overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It also hosts a restaurant, parties, events and weddings.
- 2 Lido Azzurro, Via Cristoforo Colombo, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 08:00-03:00. Lounge bar on the beautiful promenade, with restaurant and bathhouse.
- 3 Moirè Cafè & Bistrot, Via Virgilio, 57/D, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Great aperitifs in one of the most appreciated cafes in Leuca. It is in the centre of the village but quite far from the most busy streets. Mid range.
- 1 Hotel L'Approdo, Via Panoramica, 1, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00-20:00, check-out: 07:30-12:00. 4-star sea-view hotel with 52 rooms+1 suite and pool
- 2 Hotel Terminal, Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo, 59, ☏ . Check-in: 17:00, check-out: 10:00. 4-star hotel in an elegant and modern building on the seafront, with 60 rooms and pool
- 3 Marcheddhu Parking Village, Litoranea Leuca-Gallipoli, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. 30 parking spaces for campers and caravans in an area equipped with bathrooms, showers, bus shuttle service, WiFi. It is a few steps from the rocky coast to the west of Leuca, in an excellent location to explore the numerous sea caves. The structure is open from Easter to mid-October, with fares from €15 to €50, depending on the period and the chosen services.
- 4 Montirò, Contrada Montirò (five minutes' drive from the centre, along SP 74), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 4-star hotel with 38 rooms in six structures covered with local stone, in the middle of the quiet countryside and with a large open air pool surrounded by olive trees. Mid-high range.
- 5 [dead link] Holiday villa near the sea, Str. Vicinale - Trav. SP 274, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 15:30, check-out: 11:00. Villa with swimming pool, panoramic sea view and private garden. 6 sleeps, 3 bedrooms, about 1 km from the sea.
Crime is practically absent in all the territory and the only advice is leaving your bag out while you are taking a bath at the sea, so that you can take a look at it. The only real problem for your safety is exactly the sea! Leuca has little stretches of sandy coast along the promenade but the rest of the coastline is rocky and can be difficult to move along it for people not accustomed. Consider the idea of buying a pair of sea shoes that are sold in many shops, also in most of newsstands.
If you want to rent a boat to explore the sea caves don't forget to take the phone number of the attendant and be careful when you steer the boat behind the promontory of Punta Meliso (the one with the lighthouse), since the waters become deep and the sea is usually a bit rough.
- Summer emergency room (Pronto soccorso estivo), Via Doppia Croce, 8, ☏ . 15 Jun-15 Sep: 10:00-18:00.
- Port of Leuca company (Porto Turistico Marina di Leuca), Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo, 26, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Post Office (Poste Italiane), Via Dante Alighieri, 49, ☏ . 08:20-13:45.
The baroque architectures of Lecce are only an hour drive, the Adriatic town of Otranto even less, while the Ionian old town of Gallipoli can be reached by car in half an hour. You can also discover the lively village of Torre Vado, just ten minutes away.