Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Cammino del Salento retrospective

Cisternino, Puglia, Italy. Thursday, 21-September-2023.

Recap: We chose to do the Cammino del Salento as a substitute for our planned Ligurian Via del Sale which we have postponed to next May due to it being very challenging and the summer heat in Puglia not being conducive to training. In retrospect this was not the ideal time to do the Cammino del Salento either: 30 degrees is fine for relaxing, not so much for walking long distances and climbing hills. 

The coastline scenery was stunning, the country lanes and villages were mostly delightful but there was a fair proportion of scrub land, brown and devoid of flowers. When we came across any flowers they were a colourful delight and we occasionally found figs to scrump. In retrospect, spring might have been a better time to do this walk. Also we are already familiar with olive groves, fig trees and local countryside so they did not have the same impact on us as they would have on a newbie to the area. 

For the first part of the walk there are two options: the Via del Mare which heads due east from Lecce and then goes south along the coast or the Via Del Borghi which takes the inland route and takes a day longer. The two routes join up at Otranto and continue together to Santa Maria di Leuca. Due to time constraints we chose the Via del Mare. 

Some photo highlights: 

Spotting the little orange circles and arrows was a key pastime. Even with GPX route in the Komoot app it was always good to have visual confirmation that we were on the right track.

Castles and towers were a significant feature. The whole of the Italian Adriatic coastline is dotted with dozens of defensive towers from more turbulent times.

The costal scenery was stunning with spectacular cliffs, bays and azure seas.

Passing through hill-top towns and ports means lots of ups and downs. All along the route the path did not stick strictly to the coast partly because of the terrain and partly, we think, to take us through cute villages.

This photo, captured by a local, shows us ready for the final section on the fifth and final day.

We thought we were very nearly at the end but then discovered that we had to walk up 286 steps to reach the official end point. We really did not appreciate the killer steps!

Another friendly Italian took great care to get the composition of this photo just right in front of Santa Maria de Finibus Terrae - the "end of the earth" where the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionian Sea.

I should point out the t-shirt which is my answer to "So, Mark, why are you walking 24km a day in the blazing sunshine for five days including your birthday?"

All that said, we are glad we did it and are looking forward to the Via del Sale next year, with lots of training over the winter and spring.

I should also credit the team at Cammino del Salento who organised the trail, booked all our accommodation and arranged for our bags to be transferred from hotel to hotel. That literally took a huge weight off our shoulders!

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