The Paths of Leuca, the pilgrim’s ways in Salento

In the Middle Ages there were those who went on pilgrimage to Rome to pray on the tomb of the Apostle Peter, and those who continued to the port of Brindisi to embark on the journey to the Holy Land. They followed what we know today as the “Via Francigena”, one of the many paths of faith, which for centuries officially linked Northern Europe to our capital city until, in 2019, the General Assembly of The European Association of the Via Francigena Ways extended the certification of the itinerary to Santa Maria di Leuca. From Rome to De Finibus Terrae, passing through Brindisi, along the Southern Via Francigena.

A 3,200 km long bundle of routes that crosses a large part of the peninsula one stage after another – between mountain trails and country roads, Roman paved roads and ancient sheep tracks – and that allows pilgrims to find hospitality in the many villages, abbeys and resting places they meet along their way.

We have not had the luck to travel the entire bundle of the Via Francigena yet and we cannot give detailed information about it, but we can anticipate a little something about the Paths of Leuca. For those who are on holiday in Salento the two noteworthy paths are definitely the Via Leucadense and the Via Traiana-Calabra that connect Brindisi to Santa Maria di Leuca: the first runs entirely the hinterland of Salento, the second also stops along the Adriatic coast.

Paths of Leuca from Brindisi to De Finibus Terrae: the Via Leucadense

The Via Leucadense is an itinerary that winds through villages steeped in culture and fantastic rural landscapes, crossing the Serre Salentine. From Brindisi to Leuca, 128 km to discover the hinterland of Salento passing through stretches of cultivated fields, what remains of ancient centuries-old olive trees, vines, dry stone walls, pajare, crypts, votive chapels dedicated to Our Lady that preserves Latin, Greek and Byzantine testimonies; passing through the towns of Lecce, Galatina, Supersano, Alessano and Barbarano.

On this itinerary we would like to indicate in particular two places of great artistic and architectural value:

  • The Basilica of Santa Caterina d’Alessandria in Galatina, the most famous of the monuments of Apulia’s Romanesque and Gothic art, embellished with extraordinary frescoes of the 15th
  • The sanctuary of Santa Maria del Belvedere in Barbarano, better known as the complex of “Leuca Piccola”, a historic reference point for pilgrims who were looking for a shelter to rest before getting back on their religious journey to Santa Maria di Leuca.

Paths of Leuca from Brindisi to De Finibus Terrae: the Via Traiana-Calabra

Let us start from a little curiosity: the Via Traiana-Calabra retraces an ancient Roman road and today it is the extension of the road that connected Brindisi to Otranto. There is no historical certainty about the reason for the name, but it seems that in Roman times the eastern part of the Salento peninsula was called Calabria.

But back to the more technical details… 161 km from Brindisi to De Finibus Terrae, with a route – suitable for hikers and beginners – that can be covered on foot or by bike.

It reaches places of great historical and landscape value such as – just to name a few – the forest of Cerano, the archaeological site Valesium of Torchiarolo, the dolmens and menhirs of Giurdignano, the Romanesque abbey of Santa Maria di Cerrate, the beautiful historic centres of Lecce and Otranto. A journey through rock churches, crypts, underground oil mills, coastal towers and wonderful views of the Adriatic coast of Santa Cesarea Terme, Castro and Tricase that mark the road that leads to the Basilica Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Leuca.

The Paths of Leuca as the maximum expression of slow tourism

The peculiarity of these itineraries is not only in their religious imprint, in the beauty of a landscape that is the perfect combination of nature and architecture, in the spell of unforgettable sunrises and sunsets; the peculiarity of the Paths of Leuca is in the maximum expression of that slow rhythm typical of Salento that many envy us. The direct contact, authentic and “slowed down” with the history, traditions and flavours of the territory.

An unmissable experience for slow tourism lovers.

21 October 2021