Leuca Loop Ride - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

April 11, 2022

Leuca Loop Ride

On tour, winds can be either your friend or foe. We often work as hard cycling into a headwind as climbing a hill, yet there is no equivalent downhill reward as we must keep moving ahead toward the day’s destination. Unless of course you take a break in your forward progress and spend the day on a loop or an out and back ride. “Out into the wind, back with the wind” was my mantra when I lived in central Iowa, where we had plenty of wind but few hills of note. So with high winds predicted for today, I chose not to ride north to Otranto but to stay in Santa Maria di Leuca for an "Iowa ride." 

Winds were predicted to be NNE, so I plotted a loop route that would take me north through  Patù to Presicce and then loop around to the east and south back home. At breakfast, Roberto suggested I continue on to Sprecchia, which he claimed was one of the nicer towns. Obligingly, I added another 5 miles – not much distance but a bit more climbing into the wind.

It was a fairly calm morning and I headed out at 9:30, wanting to get going before the winds picked up. The first few miles were a gentle climb away from the coast on small roads lined with stone walls. The flanking hillsides were terraced with olive trees and remnants of former stone structures appeared frequently along the roadside or in the adjacent groves. It was to be the theme of the day: stone walls, olive trees, old stone structures.

Vivien George at the gate, ready to roll
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Stone wall terracing on the way to Patù
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I was fascinated by the groves of gnarly old olive trees
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Susan CarpenterThanks Suzanne!
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3 months ago

The route took me through several small towns of the Salento – Patù, Presicce, Specchia - each of somewhat similar character that varied with the size of the town: narrow stone streets leading to a square with a church and perhaps other buildings or monuments of historical significance. Truth be told, I was a bit overwhelmed by the prevalence of Greek and Roman history and quickly decided that I would just enjoy it all – the ride, the day, the glimpse into different cultures, ancient and modern.

And the ride was quite enjoyable. The winds were only a minor annoyance as I made my way north thru Patù and toward Presicce, passing through grove after grove of olive trees, ranging in age from the very young to the very, very old. Outside Barbarana, there was the lovely Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Leuca del Belvedere, also known as “Little Leuca." It was a way stop for pilgrims bound for the Santa Maria di Leuca and the Sanctuary of Finibus Terrae, the Sanctuary at the End of the Earth.

In Patù
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In Patù
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In Patù
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On the way to Presicce
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Grove of middle aged olive trees on the way to Presicce
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One of the many stone structures I passed today
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The Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Leuca del Belvedere, also known as “Little Leuca", was a way stop for pilgrims on their way to the Sanctuary of Finibus Terrae in Santa Maria di Leuca
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Little Leuca
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Little Leuca
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Well outside Little Leuca
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Arched structure just across from Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Leuca del Belvedere
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Another grove of gnarly old olive trees on the way to Presicce
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Rich FrasierThis is just beautiful!
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rich FrasierThanks Rich!
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3 months ago
And some young olive saplings
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In Presicce
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The Mother Church of Sant’Andrea Apostolo together with the Column of Sant'Andrea are located in Piazza Villani in Presicce
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The Column of Sant'Andrea in Presicce
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The Column of Sant'Andrea in Presicce
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Obituary notices posted on the streets of Presicci. It was similar in the town where my parents retired, a town without mail delivery where deaths and other information of public interest were taped to the Post Office door.
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Rich FrasierThey still do this in our small town in the French countryside. But the death notices are a little less florid. No big type, no pictures, and no religious iconography. After all, it's France, and laïcité must be respected.
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3 months ago

Leaving Presicce, I encountered the strongest winds of the day, accompanied with a gentle three mile climb along small “percorso cicloturistico” that took me to SP76, then it was downhill through several hairpins and shifting winds into Specchia. I rode through a labyrinth of narrow, one way streets looking for the historical district. I’m not sure I ever found the proper center, but when I spotted a small square with an obelisk and a bench in the sun I decided I’d found the perfect spot a rest and my sandwich.

The way back was a delight – first along a somewhat larger cyclotourist road that sped me down and up through Alessano – then back onto the small roads winding through olive groves. I was so enjoying these downhill runs with that I missed a turn and had to backtrack a half-mile uphill into the wind. Ugh! 

On reaching the route junction, a farm cart approached driven by a man in a jaunty hat with a small dog at his side. I let them pass and pulled in behind, much to the consternation of the little red dog who would periodically glance back and direct short nervous barks my.  The final seven miles to Santa Maria di Leuca were along small curving roads, downhill with a nice tailwind - pure joy.

Lunch spot in Specchia
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Looks to be an olive grove in the prime of life
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A man and his dog
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This two-story stone structure has a nice curved staircase to the roof
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The Faro di Santa Maria di Leuca and the Adriatic Sea signals I'm nearing the end of a marvelous day
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Today's ride: 30 miles (48 km)
Total: 151 miles (243 km)

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Rachael AndersonCongratulations! You got out in spite of the wind and hopefully your ankle is doing okay! Beautiful photos!
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rachael AndersonThanks Rachael - and it was great to "conquer" the wind and get out for a ride on such a gorgeous day. Both the ankle and I are getting stronger. So sorry about the Garmin and luggage - please let me know if I can help.
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3 months ago
Lucy MartinI remember at least one central Iowa loop ride where the wind changed so there was a constant headwind.

Beautiful pics!
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3 months ago