Friday, September 15, 2023

Cammino del Salento, Day 1 (of 5). Lecce to San Foca (25km)

Lecce to San Foca, Puglia, Italy. Saturday 16-September-2023

The reason we chose to do the Cammino del Salento when we did was simply as a substitute for our planned and very challenging Ligurian Via del Sale - postponed due to July and August heat not permitting training. In retrospect this was not the ideal time to do the Cammino del Salento either: 30 degrees is comfortable for relaxing, not so much for walking long distances and climbing hills. 

Our start date was constrained by the need revisit the Questura (police station) in Brindisi on the Friday to have our fingerprints taken for our biometric Carta di Soggiorno having failed to do so the week before. Our end date was constrained by the need to have one night at home before we flew to Stuttgart for a weekend city break. That meant we had to choose the shorter coastal route taking five days rather than six.

We spent Friday evening with our friend Nadia who lives close to Lecce and got a lift into Lecce on Saturday morning with the ever helpful Saverio (Run Director from Salento Parkrun), sadly having to miss the parkrun. 

Porta Napoli, Lecce - the start point.

Follow the orange arrows! The company who organised our accommodation and bag transfers also provided us with GPX files that we loaded into the Komoot app. They had marked much of the route with orange signs, orange stickers and orange arrows painted on rocks, roads and walls. 

They also give you a Pilgrim Passport to collect stamps at various cafes and shops along the way. 

The first part of the walk was through the streets of Lecce passing the Lecce castello and fountain as we started our day.

This was followed by the least interesting section of the walk about 8-10 km of tarmac road. There were still interesting things to see though, for example: signs of hope amongst the olive groves, plantings of young, disease-resistant trees, funded by the EU since 2014. 

The Xylella Fastidiosa bacteria has decimated many wonderful, ancient olive trees in the southern part of the Salento peninsula killing millions of trees but there are signs of recovery. Read more at Nature: How Xylella came to Apulia.

Castello at Acaya, just under half-way. A brief cafe stop. Our plan was to rest, recover and drink water for 5-10 minutes every 1 to 1½ hour. No point killing ourselves in this heat.

We missed the first stamp cafe but got the second one at Acaya.

We saw these white snails everywhere - on trees, dead plants, metal poles which led to a discussion of what they live on.

Cute little towers dotted around the fields, presumably for storage. Clearly a relative of the trulli. The construction method meant lovely patterns in the stones.

Eventually we left the tarmac behind and found lovely paths with some shade.

Finally, after 20km, the sea and time for lunch. We aimed to break the back of each day's route before lunch. We couldn't completely avoid the midday heat but aimed to keep the post-lunch section as short as possible.

A walk along the coast path with lovely sea breezes, sometimes walking on sand, sometimes on paths.

First day nearly done, outskirts of San Foca.

Distance: 25.05 km, Walking time: 5:24 hr, Nearly 33,000 steps!

That night we stayed in Hotel Morini with a lovely host who welcomed us with bottles of water. 

For supper we ate too much in the restaurant at Romano Hotel. After supper we went for a beer at a craft beer bar, Birreghe San Foca that Mary had spotted. They were playing great music: Jefferson Airplane,  Stealers Wheel, the Cure and Marvin Gaye, etc. Sixties and seventies classics, our era. 

After all the exercise, food and beer we slept very well.

Next morning, as well as a breakfast of pasticciotto, toast and jam, our host plied us with lots of fruit exhorting us to take anything we could not eat away with us.

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