Pearl of Salento
Grotte delle Tre Porte
The origin of the name Santa Maria di Leuca is threefold. "Leuca" comes from leukos (white) and was used by the greek sailormen that used to see this place always lit by the sunrays. The devotion to the Virgin comes from St.Peter, who, according to numerous testimonies, began from here the process of evangelization. From the Romans come the name Leuca is often associated with: "De finibus terrae".
Santa Maria di Leuca is a seaside and fishing center that rises in the bay between Punta Meliso and Punta Ristola, southern Puglia and true heel of Italy. The legend tells that the Adriatic Sea meet with the Ionian Sea in front of Punta Meliso where, always according to the legend, the seas have two different colors. In fact, international agreements and nautical charts put the border between the two seas in Punta Palascia, near Otranto.
Pearl of Salento, it is situated in a stretch of coast alternating high cliffs and small sand coves. The numerous caves are of great historic and natural interest and the seabed is a real paradise for divers. The ridges of the coast are almost all reachable by boat and the artifacts found prove the human presence since the Paleolithic Age.
The sumptuous and colorful nineteenth-century villas are particularly picturesque. Theese eclectic eco-friendly Moorish, Liberty and Pompeian villas are overlooking the sea, and were designed according to a royal tourist vocation dating back to the beginning of the nineteenth century.
A stairway of 184 steps connects the Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Leuca to the underlying fishermen's port. On the side of the stairs a waterfall celebrates the end of the Apulian aqueduct, whose work began in 1906 and ended in 1939. The "Monumental Waterfall of the Acqueduct" is 120 meters long and, when open, brings a thousand liters of water per second to the sea. The column with a Corinthian capital was erected in 1694 to mark the place where Saint Peter begun the evangelization of Europe, while a stone cross recalls the jubilee pilgrimage of 1900.
The Sanctuary has been destroyed several times by the Turks and, although the current version is dated from the eighteenth century, the traditions
The Sanctuary, although the current version is the one of the eighteenth century, was destroyed several times by the Turks; according to tradition the original version was so ancient that it was first consecrated by St. Peter in person.