Lu sule, lu mare e lu ientu (Il sole, il mare e il vento in dialetto salentino)
As the weather gets warmer, and then colder, I’m quickly reminded of a place I’d love to escape to: Salento, in the region of Puglia.
Salento- the heel of Italy’s boot- is by far my favorite place, although to be fair I haven’t yet visited sunny Sicily or Sardegna.
I love Salento for its picturesque beaches (both rock and sand), wonderful seafood and breathtaking views. Most of all I love Salento because I’m fortunate enough to have amici Salentini (Salentino friends).There’s no better way to experience a place like Salento than with locals.
If you’ve never been to the south of Puglia, I suggest you visit soon and here are a few reasons why.
They make their own olive oil
Before I visited Salento, I didn’t even know that olives came from trees (I’m not much of a botanist). Salvatore, my old roommate, produced olive oil from trees in his family’s own backyard. Every time I tried to cook with vegetable oil, he would scold me, “solo, olio d’oliva [only (use) olive oil]” because it doesn’t produce pungent smells or burn when cooking.
Puglia is known for trulli (mud huts). Formerly used as housing for farmers and fisherman, trulli are historically protected so they can’t be destroyed. The trulli in Salento are unique-looking as compared to those in other parts of Puglia. Made entirely of stone, their natural beauty gives Puglia (and Salento) a distinctive flair.
The cathedral in Otranto
Someone told me that Santa Maria Annuziata, the cathedral in Otranto, Puglia, has the largest mosaic floor in the western hemisphere. Although I have yet to find this to be true, it’s certainly a beautiful work of art.
Have you ever eaten ricci (sea urchins)? Never in my life would I have imagined eating seafood so fresh that you can pick it right from the ocean floor. Sea urchins are a common delicacy in Salento and most locals cut them open and enjoy them while swimming in Puglia’s pristine waters.
The Florence of the South
Lecce has been nicknamed “the Florence of the South” for its amazing Baroque architecture. The most notable church in Lecce is the Basilica di Santa Croce (Church of the Holy), located next to the city’s parliament. It’s said that something new is always discovered in the intertwining sculptures of vegetables, beasts and figures of the church’s façade.
Next time you head to Italy, don’t forget to make a stop in Salento and Salutame lu ientu (Say hi to the wind) – advice from Sud Sound System, one of the region’s most famous bands.
Written by OSIA National Office Intern, Carol Cummings. Cummings is a senior at American University, majoring in print journalism, with a minor in Italian.