To Santa Maria di Leuca - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

April 9, 2022

To Santa Maria di Leuca

I was very excited for this day – cycling down to the tip of the heel, where the Ionian and Adriatic Seas meet. It was to be day of sunshine and sparkling seas with prediction for temperatures in the mid-60s and moderate winds from the southeast. Anticipating a fairly quick ride down the coast I had called ahead to the B&B requesting an early check-in.

 There was a lot of activity along the waterfront this morning, mending of nets, selling of fish and sea urchins, casting about for the next big one. The route started on a nice bike path as it wrapped along the coastline south of Gallipoli and then alternated between inland and coast until reaching Torre San Giovanni, about 15 miles south of Gallipoli.

Mending nets near the Angevine-Aragonese Castle
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Fish, fresh fish
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The sparkling waters of the Ionian Sea
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Looking back toward Gallilopi
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A daylight view of Faro dell'Isola di Sant'Andrea
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I made a few stops along the way – the first at Torre Suda and a second near Parcheggio at what appeared to be a WWII pillbox, or at least defensive bunker. My father flew B-24s during WWII and while he did not share many war stories, I knew that some of his missions were over Italy. He passed away more than 20 years ago, but he rides with me every day. Vivien George is named in his honor (George was his middle name) and she is engraved with SCARP, my university email moniker based on my dad’s college nickname, Carp. Finally, there is Ace, a military pilot like my Dad. I bought Ace at the War Museum in Paris last fall as a companion for Vincent and the miniature elves, Carla and Alex, that are pinned inside my handlebar bag. My guardian angels, always looking out for me.

The road heading south
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In Torre Sud
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Vincent is enjoying the sea and crashing waves in Torre Sud
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A Little Free Library is an excellent way to repurpose old phone booths
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A WWII pillbox? That's what I told Ace. If you look closely, you can see him standing under the opening, on the right
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Ace
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After Torre San Giovanni, the route stayed inland most of the way to Santa Maria di Leucca. The wind had picked up quite a bit and was now more southerly. The ride was becoming a bit of a slog – no lovely coastline or scenery to distract from the stiff headwind. I was in need of sustenance and a little rest, and so detoured into the small coastal town of Torre Mozza. I cycled down a small road before reaching a barrier at what appeared to be a construction site. Indeed, the whole town looked as if it had just been built – row after row of new condominiums and town houses. There were a few buildings along the shore that appeared to be longer standing, but they were all closed up. It seems to be a town awaiting a tourist boon, or perhaps a vacation/retirement spot for landlocked Italians. I found a bench by the sea, ate my ham and cheese “breakfast” sandwich, and hypothesized possible futures for this small little ghost town. A bit refreshed, I made my way back to the original route.

Torre San Giovanni
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Lunch spot in Torre Mozza
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Mike AylingWhat happened to your Zefal frame pump?
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Mike AylingYou scared me Mike - thinking I may have lost it! It's there, just in the shadows. The lettering is a bit scruffed but it's safely in place.
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3 months ago
Mike AylingTo Susan CarpenterSo it is, I must really get my cataracts done!
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3 months ago
The beach at Torre Mozza
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Newly constructed condos in Torre Mozza
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The wind was proving to be a worth adversary and I was petty beat when I arrived at the B&B, only 20 minutes past my 2 pm early check-in time. It is  a lovely place, located about a 10 minute walk from town in area of newly constructed townhouses/condos. The weather forecast has a wind advisory for tomorrow, 25 mph and gusting from the north. I decided to book another night and relaxed a few hours before heading out for a quick look around and dinner.

Small farm on the way to Santa Maria di Leuca
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View down the Ionian coast on the ride up to Santa Maria di Leuca
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One of my most memorable and impactful travel experiences was a trip to South Africa and Namibia in the fall of 2000. It was not a cycling trip, this was before I started bike touring. A former student doing a Rotary Fellowship in Cape Town had asked me to join him on his upcoming trip to Namibia. We spent a few days in and around Cape Town, including a trip to the Cape of Good Hope, located at the tip of the Cape Peninsula. Although the Cape of Good Hope is neither the southern tip of Africa nor the point that divides the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, it does retain significance for sailors. and for geographically challenged folks like me who consider the Cape of Good Hope the tip of Africa. So was my mindset on that day when I leaned against a turret and looked southward over the ocean, imagining myself the masthead on the ocean liner Africa, bound for Antarctica. Looking northward, I could see each coastline of the Cape Peninsula arching away in opposite directions. I have never been so clear as to my exact spot on earth.

And today was a similar experience, biking down the Salento toward Santa Maria di Leuce. I headed out a little before sunset for Punta Ristola Leuca, a rocky outcrop which is the southern tip of Salento. On one side, the sun was setting over the Ionian Sea; on the other side was the Adriatic Sea and the Faro di Santa Maria di Leuca, basking in the reflective rays of the setting sun. 

I knew exactly where on earth I was.

On Punta Ristola Leuca, with the Ionian Sea over my left shoulder and the Adriatic Sea over my right shoulder
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Looking back towards where I've been
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Looking ahead towards where I'm going
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Punta Ristola Leuca
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Faro di Santa Maria di Leuca
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Today's ride: 33 miles (53 km)
Total: 121 miles (195 km)

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Rachael AndersonLooks like you had a wonderful day! I love hearing the story about your father and Vincent and Ace.
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rachael AndersonThanks Rachael - my Dad gave me the freedom to explore but was always looking out for me. It's nice to have him along for the ride.
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3 months ago
Suzanne GibsonSo glad you rode down to the tip. We didn't do that.
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3 months ago
Rich FrasierTo know exactly where you are is a rare gift. Great writing about a great day on the bike.
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3 months ago