The Porto Selvaggio Regional Natural Park

Ten kilometers away from the Municipality of Nardò and a little less than twenty from the Municipality of Gallipoli there is an obligatory stop for those visiting Salento: a natural oasis that includes the Cala di Porto Selvaggio, the Palude del Capitano and the Torre dall 'Alto, a natural area protected by regional law since 2006 and included in 2007 in the list of "100 places to save" of the Italian Environment Fund (FAI).

We said an obligatory appointment, for lovers of seaside resorts, sports and nature in general. You can get there by driving a few minutes from the Municipality of Nardò and after having parked in one of the stops used, you walk a few hundred meters and find yourself in front of a natural spectacle to rub your eyes, a long descent immersed in nature leads in fact to a small beach of gravel and pebbles with a crystalline sea, whose waters are particularly refreshing and invigorating, also due to a current of fresh and cold water that reaches directly into the bay. The beach is surrounded by a large pine forest, whose trees were planted in the 1950s to reclaim the largely marshy surrounding land.

Within this natural park, which is not limited to the beach area, but includes over four hundred hectares of land, of which over two hundred and sixty of pine forest, there are various itineraries and different possibilities to relax or play sports; there are in fact the surrounding cliffs, a little more inaccessible than the "pine forest area", but which still allow bathing, there are also the numerous paths inside the pine forest, usable for walks or picnics and which are also an unmissable appointment for lovers of trekking and mountain biking. Speaking of trekking, among the most remarkable views of the park, returning to Gallipoli, you can go up along the pine forest and admire the Tower of Santa Maria from the High, an ancient watchtower, located 50 meters above sea level, on a rocky spur overlooking the beach, from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the entire natural park. The tower was erected in the second half of the 16th century and was part of an elaborate system of defensive turrets spread over the entire Salento coast, communicating to the north with Torre Uluzzo and to the south with Torre Santa Caterina. This system of turrets represents a historical heritage of the Salento area, but in a certain sense it is also an emotional heritage for the local population, as each of these turrets marks the landscape of the Salento coast in a unique way, we will talk about it in more detail with another article on this blog.

Speaking of history, the Porto Selvaggio Natural Park, in addition to the landscape treasure and the possibilities for sports of various kinds, also offers unmissable opportunities for archeology enthusiasts: eight different archaeological sites in the cave have been identified within the park , a sign of presence first by Neanderthal groups and subsequently by Sapiens, and the territory of the Municipality of Nardò is the center of an extraordinary "district of prehistory", with a historical stratification ranging from Neanderthal and Sapiens frequentations to those left by Messapi and then later by the Romans, up to the baroque architecture of the historic center of the same municipality. The Museum of Prehistory of Nardò, located in the former convent of Sant’Antonio da Padova, preserves most of the finds from archaeological research conducted in the area.

This wonderful natural oasis is located on the side of the Salento coast that faces west and therefore those who are there at sunset will see the sun slowly sink into the sea, we therefore recommend that you end your day in Porto Selvaggio with an aperitif in one of the numerous bars or kiosks between the natural oasis and Gallipoli, you will end a simply perfect day at the beach.

The best routes in Salento: trekking, walking, cycling, motorbike or other Trekking itineraries

The recent success of Salento as a tourist destination is mainly due to the splendor of its coast and the beauty of the capital Lecce, but there is much more to discover: archaeological, naturalistic, landscape and food and wine treasures are widespread throughout the Salento peninsula. An excellent way to discover them all is to pack your backpack and set off on an adventure, along itineraries to be covered on foot, by bike, by motorbike or by car, which are a journey in stages between the pleasures of nature, of food. , local culture and history. Let's see some of them in this and in the next posts on our blog.

In a previous article on this blog we had already analyzed in detail the route Otranto - Santa Maria di Leuca, to be covered by car making numerous stops to enjoy the splendid landscapes, excellent food and all the cultural heritage that can be enjoyed in Salento . Today we will see what trekking enthusiasts can do in the area.
In fact, trekking in Salento is possible and the paths to be done are many and interesting both from the landscape and cultural point of view, obviously we are not talking about slopes or differences in height to which trekking enthusiasts who frequent the mountains are used, but we are talking about routes and walks capable of lasting whole days and that allow you to combine the passion for physical activity with the possibility of spending a few hours on the beach.

The first itinerary we recommend is that of Porto Selvaggio: we start from Santa Caterina with a suggestive climb up to Torre dell'Alto, with the first stop at the Capelvenere cave; arrived at the tower we proceed down along the stone stairs that cross the pine forest, until we reach the small bay of Porto Selvaggio, here another stop is inevitable to take a bath in the crystal clear waters of the bay, before continuing along the cliff, until you reach the Grotta del Cavallo and the Bay of Uluzzo with its tower. The route is around 7 kilometers long and it is not too difficult, so if you still have enough energy you can continue with a visit to the town of Nardò or with a suggestive aperitif at sunset in one of the numerous bars in the area.

The second proposal is a trekking route about 13 kilometers long, which starts from the Port of Otranto to reach Punta Palascia and from here return through the disused bauxite quarry.
From the Port of Otranto we immediately find coastal paths, easily passable, from which we will immediately be in sight of the Torre del Serpe, which we reach after a short climb. We go around the tower and follow the path towards the Orte Bay. We arrive in the heart of the bay, where the coast slopes down to its lowest point and nature is still wild and unspoiled. Enjoying the contrast between the bare rocks and the vegetative patches we continue towards Punta Palascia. From this point and up to the arrival at the lighthouse of Punta Palascia the landscape takes your breath away and on clear days with the wind from the North you can admire the mountains of Albania. Once at the lighthouse we are geographically in the most eastern point of Italy. The place is also known as Capo d’Otranto. The old lighthouse, erected in 1897, has recently been renovated and has become a popular destination for tourists. From here you can in fact enjoy a spectacular view, with the lighthouse that stands out among the rocks and overlooks the infinite crystalline expanse of the sea, at the point where the Ionian and Adriatic seas meet. Once you reach the lighthouse, to return to Otranto, you can reach the provincial road that connects Otranto to Santa Cesarea Terme. We walk along a path on the side of the road and returning to Otranto we stop at the beautiful former bauxite quarry.

Continuing further north we come to a crossroads with the SP358 road. We cross the intersection and take a downhill road that soon reaches the outskirts of Otranto, Santa Maria dei Martiri. We continue going down to a stone bridge from which on the right we reach the small chapel of Santa Maria del Passo, near the port, where our journey ends.

The third excursion we recommend will take you to discover the Alimini Lakes and the Baia dei Turchi. The itinerary takes place through the streets and paths of the Alimini Lakes, a natural site of high naturalistic interest for the Apulian territory. The two lakes act as a great oasis for many plant and animal species. The circular route continues towards the legendary Baia dei Turchi, where according to tradition the Ottomans landed to besiege the city of Otranto in the 15th century. This route is around 10 km long, but unlike the other two it has no slope, not even minimal, it is therefore much more relaxing and we advise you to integrate it with a visit to the numerous farmhouses in the area, or with a horse ride in the countryside. surrounding or, if the season permits, with a swim in one of the many splendid coves that meet along the beach adjacent to the two lakes.

Slightly shorter, less sporty and more relaxing excursions can be done in the hinterland, such as visiting the La Mandra di Calimera Natural Park. At the edge of the road that runs along the park you can admire a splendid and huge example of carob, the pine forest that extends for 90,000 square meters is entirely open to visitors and inside paths and picnic areas with tables and benches have been created. From the parts of Tricase, on the other hand, you can visit the local wood and admire the famous Quercia Vallonea, a magnificent specimen of oak that is certainly more than 800 years old.