Why is eBiking around the stiletto heel of the Italian boot (aka the Salento peninsula) so often overlooked?
With hardcore cyclists heading for the Tuscan hills and many visitors not venturing south of Napoli and the Campania, perennially sunny Salento (the southern part of Puglia) is relatively untouristic. Still embracing the historical influences of times gone by and embodying the best elements of the slow Italian lifestyle, it’s a perfect match for an eBike tour:
Welcoming sea breeze (much needed on hot days in the saddle)
Stunning beaches and sleepy harbours (find the best beach in the country at Otranto)
Cultural cities (Lecce, Brindisi)
Authentic villages on route (Copertino, Nardo and Acaya)
Flat terrain (day three is undulating with 500m of climbing)
Great food (from seafood extravaganzas to orecchiette – little ear shaped pasta)
Fabulous wine (Primitivo rich reds, Locorotondo dry whites and Zinzula rosé’)
…it’s no wonder that 70% of olive oil and 80% of Europe’s pasta and fish come from this region.
Stunning beaches and sleepy harbours
The ‘Heel’ of Italy
The navigation was super easy and with paper maps, GPX files or the fantastic APP it was hard to go wrong.
For our recce of the region, Tanya *chose an eBike with luggage transfer – aka the luxury option whilst I opted to hire a trekking bike and packed a light rucsac, aka the shoestring option – a more physically challenging version that is commonly known as “bikepacking”. However by choosing the Charme over the Classic package we had 4* hotels all the way. With complimentary pools, towels, toiletries and breakfast buffets we were hardly roughing it. When the bikes were delivered, the panniers were so roomy that I ended up leaving my rucsac with flight clothes at the hotel, saving myself from a sweaty back!
(*Luckily for us, we are the same height we got away with swapping one afternoon.)
Together, we ventured on the same coastal path – the navigation was super easy and with paper maps, GPX files or the fantastic APP it was hard to go wrong. Even with two different trip styles, we still enjoyed each other’s company, our refreshment stops, sea dips and celebratory aperos at the end of each leg, in:
Lecce – the Florence of the south
Gallipoli – first taste of seafood & sunsets
Santa Maria di Leuca – laidback lighthouse views where Adriatic and Ionian seas meet
Otranto – lively harbour and beautiful beach
Lecce – triumphant return!
Our first stop was Lecce (as in ‘cafe con Leche’ not leccy!) The Grand Hotel, with huge rooms and outdoor pool provided the perfect location for arrival by train. Also an easy city stroll into the old town and morning departure by bike, plus final night with the PCR test centre only 2 minutes away!)
From there we rode across the mainland through fortified towns, using cicloturistico paths to reach the port of Gallipoli on the Ionian coast. Cycling through olive groves, faded and restored grandeur, the scent of wild flowers and fennel spurred us on between cafe stops. (Ok, so we also fuelled ourselves around “Eataly” with Cavatelli and Capunti in the evenings!)
Hugging the rugged coastline with unbelievable white sandy beaches, restored 15th and 16th century torres and occasional blue cycle lanes, we passed through some tired looking resorts before descending into Santa Maria di Leuca. The views from the lighthouse overlooking the Adriatic & Ionian seas were incredible at sunset. For a mid trip R&R we recommend any extra night here for its laid back charm, top restaurants and gorgeous hotel. It’s also a great base for a hike, boat trip or day by the sea, with the epic bay under Ponte Ciolo, Gagliano del Capo – a cliff diving spot a short ride away.
Cacti and castles became the theme as the landscape and architecture dramatically changed as we climbed out of the modern, arid Ionian coastline peninsula, on to the Adriatic coast with its traditional stone with lush vegetation.
The tranquility paused as we reached lively Otranto, famous for its beaches and Italian holiday makers. A place for a post-dinner passeggiata along the narrow streets with plenty of romantic bars, gift shops and cobbles.
The final leg was definitely the nature day as we rode watching the kite surfers then across the pave under the parachutes and through poppy fields interspersed with cornflowers before turning into the nature reserve where bird sounds accompanied us before spitting us back inland.
Tour de Salento – completo!
With 6 nights in the Salento region and 4 days riding, we had ample time to revisit lovely Lecce. After the tour we chose to spend our last day strolling the narrow streets and palatial shop front pavements in the harbour town of Brindisi, a convenient 10 mins from the airport.
We loved experiencing the real heel of Italy, nothing felt staged or affected by the Instagram generation – now is definitely the time to visit!
For 5 nights in 4* hotels with breakfast, luggage transfer, e-bike rental (inc. delivery and collection, maps and panniers), prices are from € pp.
An extra night in Santa Maria di Leuca starts from 95€ per person.
The Salento in the Saddle, eBike tour of Puglia is 1 of 5 self guided trips that are new for this year, giving relative autonomy to our clients with date and itinerary flexibility – find out more:
Hello/Goodbye Ciao / arrivederci
Good Morning/Evening Buongiorno/sera
Left/right/straight on Sinistra/destra/dritto
Where is the toilet please? Dov’è il bagno per favore?
Where can we leave our bikes? Dove possiamo lasciare le nostre bici?
Where can I get a PCR test? Dove posso ottenere un test PCR?
Two coffees please Due caffè per favore
The same Lo stesso
Thank you Grazie
How much is it? Quanto costa?
Do you speak English? Lei parla inglese?
Can you say that in Italian? Puoi dirlo in italiano?
How do you say that in Italian? Come si dice in italiano
Slow travel tips
Take advantage of the beautiful mornings by setting off early (8/9am) to avoid the heat of the day, take it all in with pit stops for photos or sea dips and cooling swims at your leisure.
Arrive at your destination with time to prep/org your kit for the next day and enjoy a relaxing stroll for an apero before dinner. (our fave was a classic spritz with taralinis and olives)
The APP even works in flight mode; save your battery for pics of the surroundings and rich culture of your journey.
It’s easy to be deceived by the sun when whizzing along in the breeze; even on an eBike it’s important to keep hydrated (water not wine!) and your head covered to protect from heat stroke – this is where the lbh bandeau comes in handy!
Pack light – easy to find things and adheres to smaller carry on restrictions
PUGLIA Video Tour
A short video to introduce you to the wonders of eBiking in Puglia!