The History and Stories of Santa Maria di Leuca

Santa Maria di Leuca is a territory rich in significant scars that tell the story of a place completely different from any other.

Renting a hotel room or a residence in Salento and, from there, starting to discover the Heel of Italy, means living a narrative that goes beyond the typical holiday approach. Leuca presents dreamlike panoramas, landscape suggestions, but it is also a place of historical vicissitudes and bewitching epics that mix facts, mythological narrative and popular episodes. Leuca is all this and much more.

The Morphology of the Place

Leuca is absolutely borderland. Near its coast, the currents coming from the Gulf of Taranto meet those flowing from the Canale d’Otranto. In the sea, during the quietest days, it is possible to see clearly a transversal line that intersects the sea and the horizon. This has fuelled the belief, not exact, that there was a border between the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea.

But Leuca is also a land of borders and internal boundaries: its territory was divided until a few decades ago between the jurisdiction of Gagliano del Capo and that of Castrignano del Capo, to act as a bastion between the two realities there was (and still is) the promontory that houses the historic city lighthouse and the Basilica of Santa Maria with the sanctuary. Below the leveling of the land is the coastal area.

Leuca in Roman times: After Here, Only Provinces

Leuca has been defined since Roman times as the finibus terrae, the end of the earth. By land, here, we certainly do not mean a sort of Columns of Hercules but, much more pragmatically, Leuca represented the end of the Roman residences, what were then called cives. Beyond the Heel began the garrisons of the provinciales, formally and concretely subject to Roman domination.

Border coasts, from Aeneas to St. Peter’s

As mentioned, the story of Leuca is intertwined with fantastic narratives, superstition and religion. The Leucan coast contend in Porto Badisco for the authorship of the first landing of Aeneas, during the epic journey narrated by Virgil.

According to Catholic religious writings, on the other hand, the preaching of Saint Peter began from the coast of Leuca, who left Palestine and went to Rome to evangelize the entire West of the world.

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