26th to 30th July
The road to Otranto from Lecce followed two very straight roads via Martano. We stopped in Martano for coffee and to have a little look around. Initially it seemed an ordinary town, then we turned into the historic area. A small, but perfect network of narrow streets. Again balconies, doors and carvings abound.
Onwards to Otranto and we arrived at a campsite during the siesta, so nothing was going to happen in a hurry! This gave us time to look at the price list and we decided that €28.50 per night for the two of us in a small tent, plus tokens required for a hot shower, was expensive. So we peddled on and found another site, some 5k outside Otranto on an ‘Agriturismo’ farm. Having pitched and then explored the area a bit, we decided to stay just one night here and move to an alternative campsite, also in an Agriturismo farm nearer Otranto the following day.
Move made, we pitched our tent in the shade of an extensive olive grove and then went in to explore Otranto for the afternoon.
Another town with an attractive historic area of narrow streets.
We had lunch dangling our feet in the sea, in the shadow of the castle battlements – very pleasant.
Among the gems the town had to offer was a delightful cathedral with a beautiful ceiling, a floor completely covered by a series of 11th century mosaics telling bible stories and a lovely crypt.
But it also had some glass cases in a side chapel containing the skeletons of some 800 men, women and children massacred by the Turks alledgedly for refusing to convert to Islam.
Makes a change this time for it not to be the Crusaders responsible for the slaughter; why does humanity never learn!
The following day we took the tandem inland for a 30 mile spin down quiet roads through olive growing country to visit a couple of towns that had been recommended to us to visit – Castrigano de Greci and Corigliano D’Otranto, both in an area populated by the Greeks in 600 to 400 BC and still with some people speaking in a Greek dialect.
Corigliano D’Otranto had an unusual “Aragonaise” Castle in the centre of the town, dating from the times when the area was ruled by Aragon in Spain.
Built as protection from the Turks, expanded, then adorned and used as a residence in the 16th century when it was considered the Turks were no longer a threat.
Returning to Otranto we decided to find the ‘Lagho Alimini’ , an old flooded quarry that used to be a source of Bauxite. Some 4km outside of the town we came across an interesting lunar landscape with multicoloured layers from the different minerals present.
Because Diana decided to try scuba diving, we stayed at the campsite an extra night. Another new experience for Diana, who enjoyed the underwater adventure very much. Seeing lots of fish of attractive bright colours. Touching some of the underwater plant life, big black cushions and seeing the fronds of anemones wafting in the water. Her guide found this shell on the seabed, a little token to keep.