Salento: a land of magic and enchantment

Castles, towers and ancient legends between Otranto and Gallipoli

While in ancient China they were busy inventing paper and fireworks, on the other side of the globe, in a place set amid the waters of the Mediterranean, reality and magic were being mixed together, legend and history: we’re talking about Salento. In the days of the great kings and queens the sea battles were fierce and spread the fame of the great warlords and mythological figures. Pirates roamed the shorelines, robbing and pillaging, while on land invaders from the north threatened war. This was how Salento, a simple and humble land, came to build castles and look-out towers to protect itself. From its only local resource, stone, it created its best weapon. It equipped itself with stories and legends, too, to encourage and strengthen its soldiers.

There are towers and castles scattered all throughout the Salento, and each one has its own legend. In Gallipoli, for example, a love story centres around the beautiful Sabea Tower. In the times of the pirates, a young man was given the task of defending the tower. He was married to a beautiful Gallipoli girl who, missing her husband, on the day of Pentecost decided to visit him. But in the pitch black the night the young man, thinking she was the enemy, killed her by mistake and so from that day on it is said that two white seagulls live on the tower.

In Otranto, along its coastline, you lose count of how many towers and castles there are. But for now let’s focus on one in particular, the tower that also appears on city’s coat of arms: snake tower. It gets its name from the snake that according to legend climbed up the cliff every night to drink the oil that lit the lantern on the top of the tower. A few years before Otranto was captured, according to the storytellers, the Saracens had been heading for the city of Salento to plunder it. But that night the snake had drunk all the oil in the lamp, blacking out the lighthouse. The pirates having no point reference passed by Otranto and attacked nearby Brindisi instead.

So, a trip along Salento’s shores has great wonders to reveal and here we have given you just the merest taste. Discovering Salento’s coastal towers is a one-off, unique holiday idea, a way to see for yourself both the history and the magic of this wonderful place.

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