Do not miss Torre Vado, a popular seaside resort on the Ionian coast of Salento, characterized by low cliffs and the Sanctuary of Leuca Piccola.
Located at the southern end of Salento, Morciano di Leuca is a charming village with a historic centre full of artistic beauty. It originated when the ancient town of Vereto was destroyed by the Saracens in the ninth century A.D. At about 7 km from S. Maria di Leuca and 3 km from the Ionian Coast, Morciano also includes the community of Barbarano del Capo, known for its underground vore (chasms, in Apulian) and the Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Leuca del Belvedere, and the beach of Torre Vado, a renowned Ionian seaside resort with low cliffs and freshwater springs in the sea.
The most important monument of Morciano is the Castle Castromediano - Valentini, built by Gualtieri VI of Brienne in the first half of the fourteenth century to protect the area from constant enemy attacks. It is a beautiful and imposing example of civil architecture, with high walls and a four-cornered plant, sporting four towers at the corners. Distinguishing features of the castle are the battlements of the crowning curtain whose shape is similar to that of the lily of France.
Among the other churches we must mention the Mother Church, dedicated to the patron St. John the Almoner (XVI century) and the Church of the Carmine, also known as Church of the Rosary, because it hosts the Brotherhood bearing the same name.
A special mention goes to the Chapel of Our Lady of Constantinople, dating from the second half of the sixteenth century. Very few know about its existence... but this small church, usually closed, between Via Roma and Via Castromediano, is home to a small treasure. It’s dedicated to the Virgin of Constantinople and has ancient origins. What makes it so precious is a huge monolith, an authentic menhir made of local stone, and on its flat front there is a painting with a beautiful Madonna and Child, probably dating from the second half of the sixteenth century and painted over a previous coat of colour from the Middle Byzantine Period. The menhir was found when the church was refurbished in the final years of the twentieth century.
Several oil presses (the so-called frantoi ipogei) are scattered all around Morciano di Leuca, both close to the historic centre and in the surroundings. They are a witness to its important economy based on oil production which supported the village financially in the past.
If you venture a few kilometers inland, you will reach the community of Barbarano del Capo where you will come across the magnificent Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Leuca del Belvedere, commonly known as Leuca Piccola. As an ancient resting place for pilgrims, beautifully preserved, it grants a glimpse into the life, religion and wisdom of the past. Its name comes from the pilgrims stopping there in times past on their way to the Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Leuca "De Finibus Terrae".
Father Annibale Capece, whose baronial coat of arms with a rampant lion appears above the entrance of the church of S. Maria del Belvedere, built the complex between 1685 and 1709 on the road from Lecce for the pilgrims who went to Leuca and needed shelter and refreshment. Not only did this structure have a space for worshipping, but also to offer rest and refreshment to people and animals.
The gem of the site is the Church of S. Maria di Leuca del Belvedere, renovated in 1988, which exactly reproduces the Basilica di Leuca as it was in 1685. Precious frescoes embellish the walls and the ceiling, featuring the simultaneous presence of saints belonging both to the Latin and the Greek traditions.
From the courtyard you can enter the cellars, in the walls of which bunks were created and separated from one another by rock partitions. In the same spaces fresh water from three wells quenched for centuries the thirst of pilgrims coming from Italy and Europe. The refreshment purpose of these areas is witnessed by the stone at the entrance, which reads:
Now Don Annibale Capece fecundates me
Although he once had my womb disemboweled;
Come in here, then, and be kept at least
by the shadow, the fresh air, the wine and the wave.
Finally we’d like to mention a curiosity, handed down by the village elders, confirming the wisdom from times past and the meaning of the slab in Lecce stone affixed on the facade of the inn, engraved with 10 P's:
parole poco pensate portano pena perciò prima pensare poi parlare