Carol Forster column

Santa Maria di Leuca.
Santa Maria di Leuca.
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One beautiful sunny morning, my wonderful, crazy friend, Anna Rosa Montinaro, and I set off on a road trip to Gallipoli, a town on the Ionian coast of Italy’s heel.

On arrival, we meandered in the glorious sunshine to the old part of the city, which is separated from its modern counterpart by an old bridge.

Old town Gallipoli is gorgeous, with pale-toned buildings glistening against a turquoise sea backdrop, all reflecting the sun, creating a shimmery summer ambience.

Large cacti and small restaurants adorn the pretty seafront, so we sat at one, eating seafood pasta, which overlooked a small golden beach sprinkled with early sunbathers enjoying the limpid, lapping sea.

This was only the start of our journey.

After a brief disastrous ice-cream moment, where said delicacy glooped unashamedly onto a café floor, we carried on with our travels down the Ionian coast.

We passed emerald seas, endless beaches and lush foliage, all leading down to our next destination – a place I held in great anticipation – Santa Maria di Leuca.

This is the most southerly point of Italy’s heel, where the Ionian and Adriatic seas meet.

Once arrived, I stared in awe at the landmark rocks that form this tip – in the shape of a resting dragon’s head – by a timeless blue sea.

The sleeping beast lay peacefully beside luxury villas and swaying palm trees.

It was a really scorching day, so we refueled with water supplies and continued our road trip up the Adriatic coast, towards the pretty seaside town of Castro.

Along this coastline, the landscape changes dramatically: cliffs and rocks plunge down into a blue sea; lush vegetation and pretty flowers bedeck the undulating landscape where roadside verges are peppered with red poppies.

It was all absolutely stunning.

Ancient watch towers dot the coastline, there placed to keep a look out for potential invaders.

Finally, we set off on our journey back to Lecce.

What an amazing experience it had been.

From green seas and long, sandy beaches to cliffs and poppies all in one day – unforgettable.