Monday, September 15, 2014

Italy’s Deep south: Salento.

Galatina's Cathedral Mosaic
The Italian region called Puglia, in the heel of the Italian "boot," ends in Italy's extreme south, and its southern-most province is called Salento. In the local dialect the Salentini (local people) use this expression:

“Salentu: Lu sule, Lu mare, Lu ientu” 

which literally means “Salento: the Sun, the Sea, the Wind.” For kiters this can be enough to have a good reason to pay a visit to this Mediterranean enclave, but before we talk about kitespots and winds, let us mention the cultural richness of this beautiful region.

Gallipoli old town
This land has always been a frontier, or rather a confrontation ground, between Europe and the Middle East: it has been conquered by Greeks in ancient times and became part of "Magna Grecia," and in more recent times it was taken over by Spanish (the Aragons) and the  Ottoman Turks: during the famous Otranto’s Christians massacre in 1480, 800 Otrantini were beheaded, because of the refusal to convert to Islam. This  cultural crucible can be considered unique in the Mediterranean and it is now expressed through the richness in food, arts and music. 

Hot Chilly Peppers: Salento's viagra!Fortification against the Turks on Otranto's coastline
The region’s capital is Lecce, located right in the center of Salento. It's a majestic baroque city, which is alive late into the night,  and has an amazing historical center, where you can find countless local restaurants and lounge bars. Other beautiful towns which absolutely deserve a visit are Otranto, Gallipoli, Nardò, Galatina and Maglie, but don’t miss all the small villages that host local ‘Sagre’ (typical feasts and theme events that are all about food, art and music) on different days of July, August and September.

Salento's typical cuisine is a must-try: vegetable dishes (based on eggplants, tomatoes, olives, ‘fave’…) play a big role in the local recipes and are absolutely delicious, but so are local fish and meat dishes. Talking about wine, we are in the region of Negroamaro and of Primitivo di Manduria, world-famous red wines. 

Coast between Otranto and Leuca
As for the local entertainment, don't miss Taranta if you really want to immerse yourself in the local culture: this ancient dance with its syncopated rhythm has a powerful hypnotic power that makes people dance in an incredible way: actually even the Italian language has an expression ‘tarantolati’ that refers to the tarantula spider bitten people that can’t stay still and dance like crazy. The most famous festival of Taranta music is called ‘La Notte della Taranta’ (Taranta’s night), and takes place in Melpignano. Its symbol is a spider, and thousands of people participate, practically taking over the entire village.

Kiter on Alimini Beach
So if all this sounds good to you, the best is yet to come: Salento is a perfect location for kitesurfing. It is basically a small peninsula facing two seas: the Adriatic and the Ionian. This leads to countless combinations of spots and wind conditions: the most appreciated winds by local kiters are the ‘Tramontana’ (North) and the ‘Scirocco’ (south-east).
Kiter on Frassanito Beach
You can choose your perfect spot for the day depending on the type of the wind. For the Tramontana wind, the best area is the north Adriatic coast from San Foca to Otranto: the best spots are San Foca, Frassanito and Alimini (these last two are also great with the south-east wind).

For the Scirocco wind, the best kitesurfing spots are on the Ionian Sea: close to Gallipoli we have the sandy beaches of Baia Verde in the south of the town, and Padula Bianca in the north. A little further north you can find the best spot: Porto Cesareo, with its crystal clear and shallow waters.

Dark slide on Frassanito Beach
The best periods to take advantage of this incredible kite/cultural paradise are spring and autumn (that’s why we are writing about it now, with the autumn approaching): during the summer all the beaches are overcrowded by people on holiday, especially in August, and often the kitesurfing activity on all the Gallipoli and Porto Cesareo beaches has to be supervised by coast guards. You might still kite on Frassanito and Alimini beaches, but sometimes the authorities come and heavily fine kiters performing tricks and maneuvers close to the beach.

Kiter on Alimini Beach

For these reasons it’s better to stay away from Salento in the summer, and to kite in the autumn, when the weather is still pleasant and warm and the beaches start to become empty: in this period kiters become the owners of the spots and enjoy great wind days!

If you are a beginner, there are a lot of kite schools around, but in our opinion, considering the quality of teaching (the only IKO center in the area) and safety, the best one is AK school, operating in the Alimini spot in the summer and in Porto Cesareo in autumn/spring.

Alimini Kite Spot

The most remote region of Italy in the deep south: a paradise for kitesurfers!
Date published: 09/15/2014
Date Update: 15/09/2014