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One of the most enchanting villages in the Cape of Leuca, about 60 km away from Lecce, is Salve. Located on a small hill, the town is literally surrounded by a fertile landscape dotted with olive groves, vineyards and fruit trees.
Legend has it that Salve is nothing more than the mythical city of Cassandra, destroyed more than 2000 years by a seaquake. Instead, according to history, it was a territory inhabited by man since the beginning of time, as evidenced by the bone remainings found in the Grotta Montani, the Village Spigolizzi dating back to the Bronze Age and the Messapian Chiusa, uninterruptedly inhabited from 1440 B.C. to the century 470 A.D.
What to see in Salve
There is a theory according to which Salve was founded in 267 B.C. by a Roman Centurion named Salvius: this fact gave the name to the Salentinian village. There were many families that have occurred over time in the dominion of the territory, from the Del Balzo to the Francavilla, from the Scaglione to the Montefusco. All of them have left their mark, the most striking of which are the fort erected between the 14th and 15th century and the coastal towers. Both these structures were meant to defend citizens from the belligerent Saracens from the sea.
Salve old town, although it is not very large, is rich in attractions to see, from churches to palaces, from underground mills (such as the seventeenth-century Le Trappite) to the ancient towers, now largely incorporated in buildings, but still identifiable thanks to the loopholes visible on the walls.
On the central Piazza Concordia stands the Mother Church of San Nicola Magno, whose original nucleus dates back to the 6th century: inside, in a triumph of Baroque, one of the most important organs in Italy and in the whole Europe is still preserved. Legend has it that this ancient pipe organ was on a ship headed for Alexandria. A storm dragged the boat to the Ugento shoal, where fishermen struggled to save the pipes of the organ, that was recomposed right in the Mother Church.
Next to this place of worship stands the nineteenth-century Palazzo Ramirez, on whose facade you can admire a row of arches on the ground floor, whereas on the first floor there is an elegant loggia. The Palace preserves the precious Treasury of Salve, a collection of coins used in the period between the IV century B.C. and III century A.D.
The beaches of Salve
After a visit to the Sidereus Astronomical Park, complete with Planetarium, Science Gallery and Galileo Galilei Observatory, you can get away from the centre of Salve to reach its marinas: Pescoluse, Torre Pali, Posto Vecchio and Lido Marini.
Pescoluse is one of the most famous seaside resorts all over Salento, several times awarded with the Blue Flag for the extraordinary transparency of the sea, which is characterized by a Caribbean turquoise colour. The beach is about 5 km long and consists of fine and soft sand. The clear waters of the sea make Pescoluse a perfect place to dive. To frame the landscape, particularly enchanting at sunset, there are sand dunes covered with fragrant Mediterranean scrub. Don forget that Pescoluse also hides an archaeological treasure of great importance, consisting of the Dolmen Argentina and the monumental cockpit in “pietra leccese”, the golden local stone. The residential area of Pescoluse is full of restaurants and facilities. Much of the coastal stretch is free, but there are equipped beaches for all needs.
Equally picturesque is Torre Pali, whose name comes from the presence of a sixteenth-century crumbling watchtower. Unlike the other similar buildings that dot the coast of Salento, this tower is completely surrounded by the crystalline waters of the Ionian Sea, about 20 meters from the shore. Off the beach of Torre Pali there is the Scoglio della Fanciulla (Rock of the Maiden), which emerges from the sea with ancient stories handed down for centuries, which tell of a girl kidnapped by the Saracens and who, refusing to convert to Islam, was killed by them. Her poor body was thrown into the sea and then found near a rock, since then called "Scoglio della Fanciulla".
Lido Marini is, together with Posto Vecchio, the most equipped marine area of Salve, ideal destinations for families and tourists who love comfort, thanks to the presence of many bathing establishments. There are, however, free and wilder areas and among these there are the Shallows of Ugento, adjacent to Lido Marini. These shallows, so heavenly for bathers, in the past years have represented a constant danger for seafarers.