To Otranto - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

April 12, 2022

To Otranto

After three nights in Santa Maria di Leuca I was ready to move on. It had been a great stay at Bianca Leuca – my host Roberto offered all sorts of useful information on the area and even padded my morning breakfast tray with lunch fixings for my days on the road. I headed out about 10 am and within minutes ran into Thom and Gunn, the cheery couple from the Norway whom I'd met two days before. We exchanged a few pleasantries and cycled off, thinking we might meet yet again somewhere on the road north. I climbed up out of Saint Maria di Leuca and past the Faro di Santa Maria di Leuca, and I bid farewell to the distant Ionian Sea as I headed up the Adriatic coast bound for Otranto.

It was a magnificent day, a day of memorable places and smiling faces, winding up and down the headlands the stunning Adriatic coast line. The winds from the north were light, more often a cooling breeze than a cursed impediment. Traffic was light, but a bit more than I experienced on my way down the coast. It is Easter week, and there is a decided increase in the number of tourists – some on foot, some on bikes, some in camper vans – most with cameras trying to capture the brilliance of the day.

Thom and Gunn, the cheery Norwegians
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Looking ahead along the coast of the Adriatic Sea
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Expensive villas draped the hillsides along the Adriatic - there is clearly more money on this side of the heel
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Rocky cliff side with a stone steps down to water's edge
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I spotted a small fishing boat near Ciolo that became my traveling companions on the way to Tricase Porto. Although I never actually met these fishermen, I did encounter several friendly folks along the way. Giel and Maria, cyclotourists from the Netherlands, brought relief and joy when I unexpectedly found myself in Marittima following a steep uphill detour around Castro Marina. They assured me that I was headed the right way and that the road ahead was beautiful. Barbara and Erik from Austria were walking the coast of the Salento, one of many walking tours around Europe they’ve undertaken. We chatted for more than five minutes, but shamelessly I never asked how many miles/km they walk in a typical day. And then there were the scores of cyclists – overtaking me, zooming by in the opposite direction, or just stopping me on the street to give cheer and well wishes. The camaraderie on the road is truly one the great pleasures of cycle touring.

My fishermen friends, first spotted near Ciolo
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I spot them again somewhere near Marina Serra, I think
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Along the coast near Tricase Porto
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My friends rounding the breakwater in Tricase Porto
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In Tricase Porto
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On the way to Castro
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Castro detour! There was no way past the chain fence that blocked the entire road
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Giel and Maria, on their first tour on ebikes. There were a bit sheepish about abandoning their regular touring bikes, but were thoroughly enjoying the e-lift
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Looking down on Castro Marina
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Barbara and Erik, walking the Salento coast
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The miles north of Castro were some of my favorite. Although the coastline was not as dramatic as farther south, it had an austerity and combination of terrain that appealed to me. And to dozens of road cyclists as well, each waving and/or calling out as we passed. The winding climb out of Santa Cesarea was followed by the best kind of downhills, not too steep and with wide curves snaking down to the small bohemian town of Porto Radisco. It was the kind of downhill even I could enjoy with abandon. After a gentle climb around the point, I looked back in wonder at all that I had experienced today.

North of Castro, looking toward Santa Cesarea
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A menacing look
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The sun-basked buildings of Santa Cesarea
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One of the more friendly road cyclists - he had passed me earlier in the day and stopped to wish me well in Santa Cesarea
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North of Santa Cesarea, heading for the point
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Downhill toward Porto Radisco
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Looking at you looking back
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Nearing Otranto, I saw tour buses for the first time on this trip. It is a beautiful town, draped along an inlet with white buildings, ancient walls, beautiful cathedrals, and many restaurants and shops that cater to visitors. I walked around a bit before dinner, as the setting cast a nice evening glow against the stone walls and turrets. I ate at an out of the way place recommended by the hotel, and though I arrived early was not the only diner in the restaurant. It was the best meal of the tour to date, a fitting end to an extraordinary day.  

In Otranto
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In Otranto
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In Otranto
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In Otranto
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Cattedrale di Santa Maria Annunziata
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Cattedrale di Santa Maria Annunziata
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In Otranto
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In Otranto
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In Otranto
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Today's ride: 34 miles (55 km)
Total: 185 miles (298 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 5
Scott AndersonWonderful. And the best thing about this post? There was no mention of your ankle injury, which sounds like a very good sign.
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3 months ago
Rich FrasierAmazing photos. I'm itching to follow in your tire tracks some day.
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3 months ago
Rachael AndersonWow! Looks like great fun!
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rich FrasierThanks Rich. I can tell all the wonderful things about it when we meet up, hopefully in July
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rachael AndersonIt was Rachael - and loads more fun that you and Scott had with your mechanical issues. Hope you get things sorted out soon
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3 months ago