Travel Notes blog
Our Local Specialist recommends: Francesca’s local guide to Salento
by Laura Bardell-Smith
10 min read

Our Local Specialist recommends: Francesca’s local guide to Salento

Our Local Specialist recommends: Francesca’s local guide to Salento
Francesca knows Salento like the back of her hand. Read this blog post to discover her favourite Salento beach, Salento restaurant, Salento food and much more!
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Francesca, Local Specialist in Salento, Puglia, is sharing her top suggestions for experiencing this unique peninsula through her expert eyes as a local. Prepare to traverse this stunning region and its white sand beaches washed by the Ionian and Adriatic Seas by gleaning some inspiration from her personal Salento, Italy travel guide.


Meet Francesca

Ciao! My name is Francesca and I reside in my birthplace of Salento, Italy. I am deeply attached to my homeland, but I set off to expand my horizons abroad five years ago despite this close connection. Like you, I love to see the world, and in the five years I was away from the villages and small towns of my beloved Salento, I found myself in so many exciting places – primarily Italy and France, where I lived in the cities of Piacenza, Torino, Paris and Reims.

Eventually, I obtained a degree in International Management with a speciality in Marketing at an International Business School in Paris. My time spent at university has become an invaluable experience. It improved my fluency in English and French, which now helps me connect with lovely travellers, like yourself, from all across the globe. Since graduating, I have both lived and worked multinationally, helping me to develop my cross-cultural communication skills further.

I had two life-changing working experiences in Paris: my roles with Shiseido and Swarovski. At Swarovski, I was part of the Visual Merchandising team, developing my love for details. I’m extremely passionate about the Mediterranean and Salento and, to this day, I express this love visually through photography and videography.


After five long years away from home, I'm thrilled to report I am now back in gorgeous Salento and working with The Thinking Traveller as a Local Specialist in my cherished hometown. This role has gotten me out of the office and into the world where I can enjoy continuous contact with such beautiful people in breathtaking locations that fascinate and amaze them. I can finally do what I did before out of love: promote Salento and our beautiful villas in Puglia, and help my clients appreciate it as deeply and passionately as I do!

Learn more about our Local Specialists

Francesca's picks for Salento, Italy


Favourite Salento beach

With so many fantastic beaches to choose from in Salento, it isn't easy to pick my favourite – but if I had to select just one to visit on your holiday, it would have to be Pescoluse Beach. It is located in Pescoluse, pleasantly situated between Torre Pali and Torre Vado on the Ionian coast.

If you love to relax on a soft, white beach with crystal clear water, this beach is a can't-miss. It is perfect for families due to its small dunes and karst caves to explore, clean, shallow water to play in, lifeguards, nearby ice cream shops and pizzerias, local bars and ample parking.


Favourite Salento restaurant

I always recommend that visitors to Salento visit my favourite restaurant - Lo Scalo. Surrounded by the iconic dry stone walls and the craggy cliffs of Marina di Novaglie, Lo Scalo offers diners a spectacular view from its two large, breezy terraces. There you can tuck into some of the freshest local fish dishes, which are prepared with the utmost care and attention to detail. Lo Scalo is an ideal space for those who want to savour excellent fish in a remarkable setting that overlooks the sea. It is truly one of the best restaurants in Salento, Italy!


Favourite cultural spot

Otranto is Italy's easternmost city. Its combination of architecture, history, views, white sandy beaches and welcoming waterfront restaurants makes this seafront town one of Puglia's most intriguing and picturesque attractions. Castle-lovers will marvel at the impenetrable perimeter walls and robust towers, giving way to a small port that features a series of pleasant seafront promenades dotted with fantastic eateries.


Favourite local Salento food and beverages

For a traditional taste of my grandparent's kitchen, I recommend trying a selection of my favourite local recipes that always remind me of my childhood in Salento, including:

  • Pittule

    - A simple and addictive food loved by locals. Pittule is a typical street food found in Salento, a perfect balance of water, yeast and salt. These fried dough balls are best eaten piping hot and frequently enjoyed during Christmas and the


    of San Martino.

  • Pucce with olives

    - Pucce are soft bread rolls made with semolina flour and traditionally baked in a wood-fired oven. Originally a farmer's meal, today pucce are a widely enjoyed street food sold in charming little shops called puccerie. Filling options include tomatoes,

    olive oil

    and salt with ricotta and beets – but my favourite is black olives. You can't beat the intoxicating aroma of warm, freshly baked semolina rolls steaming with salty and earthy black olives. Perfetto!

  • Pitta di patate

    - This comforting potato bake is a classic in Salento. Fluffy whipped potatoes encase a savoury filling of tomatoes, onion, capers, black olives and anchovies. The crispy, cheesy crust will have you coming back for more – I promise.

  • Caffè leccese

    - The perfect finish to any meal is this richly flavoured iced coffee with almond milk.

The culinary gems of Salento are just waiting for you to uncover them – so I recommend arriving with a healthy appetite. Buon appetito!


Favourite Salento wine

Puglia has an impressive selection of vintages if a wine-centred holiday abroad piques your interest. In fact, Puglia produces more wine than any other Italian region. My favourite has to be Negroamaro, a dark-skinned grape variety that vintners have used in this region for at least 1,500 years. Negroamaro grapes are cherished for their deep colour, dark berry fruit flavour and medium-full tannins.


Favourite experience

On my days off, I love to embark on a voyage of exploration by taking a boat trip from Santa Maria di Leuca to witness where the Ionian and Adriatic Seas meet. Only by boat will you discover the hidden karstic grottoes, which the elements and sea have sculpted for aeons. For clients, we can easily arrange an in-villa cook to organise a refreshing picnic lunch and provide a bottle of regional wine as you prepare to cast off into the sunset.

Explore more of the best things to do in Puglia.


The locals' best kept secret

Nature lovers will appreciate my best-kept secret: a hiking excursion on the Sentiero delle Cipolliane, a hidden path on the coast that connects the Ciolo bridge to Novaglie. On this enchanting path you will discover secret caves and a plethora of local fauna such as sea lavender, sea fennel, caper bushes and myrtle, all set against a rewarding panorama of views.

This walking path was recently renovated to include small rest areas with tables perfect for a picnic that integrate perfectly into the natural setting. Be advised that this trail is roughly 2.2km long, requiring a full hour's walk. It isn't an easy path, so it's best to avoid setting off in the heat of the day - and don't forget a water bottle and a good pair of sturdy walking shoes.

Where to stay in Salento, Italy

Now that I've divulged my favourite beach, restaurant and activities in Salento, you may be eager to plan your trip to this exciting region of Puglia. In that case, I would like to share two of my favourite luxury villas located close to all the sun, sand and delicious food you could dream of.


Masseria Palaci

If you’re eager to explore my favourite cultural attraction, the east-facing Adriatic jewel of Otranto and its gorgeous castle, Masseria Palaci in Salve is my top villa recommendation. This lavishly restored seventeenth-century fortified masseria presents countless opportunities for relaxation and effortlessly elegant living while on holiday.

A short drive away awaits my favourite beach, Pescoluse. Positioned just a few kilometres inland from the countless other sumptuous sandy strips on Puglia's southwest coast, Masseria Palaci delivers a perfect balance of authentic character and the contemporary comforts you've come to expect from a luxury villa holiday. Sheltering up to 12 guests across six bedrooms, this villa features a roomy interior that effortlessly flows out into several secluded walled courtyard gardens, perfect for al fresco activities. Cap off your day by taking in the unforgettable panoramic views of the surrounding countryside from the rooftop terraces or plunge into the fantastic 25-metre pool for a refreshing dip. A private yoga room, gym and cinema will be sure to keep your group thoroughly entertained and grounded for the length of your stay.

This fully staffed villa, complete with local cook, allows you the unique opportunity to focus on relaxing and connecting with your loved ones rather than preparing meals and tidying. Allow the talented and welcoming staff of Masseria Palaci to pamper you on your next Salento holiday – you won't regret it!

Book Masseria Palaci


Tenuta MarVi

The eco-friendly Tenuta MarVi is located amongst the tranquil olive groves of southern Salento in Salve, where endless stretches of breathtaking beaches lie right on your doorstep, including Pescoluse Beach. Once you've settled into this pampering oasis and enjoyed its spa-like facilities (including a hot tub, a steam room and massage beds), you may be keen to branch out and explore the authentic flavours of Salento. In that case, I recommend enjoying a sultry glass Negroamaro during a local wine tasting with our regional partner wineries, Azienda Cantele and Azienda Agraria Guarini.

If you prefer to stay closer to home, you can enjoy the fruits of the villa’s wine cellar and unwind by the lovely in-ground pool or at one of two well-appointed al fresco dining areas. I also recommend hiring an in-villa cook to prepare some of my favourite childhood delicacies, making full use of the organic vegetable garden in the outdoor kitchen, for a taste of traditional Salento cuisine.

The villa comfortably houses up to 10 guests across five bedrooms and three buildings, and is within striking distance of fascinating cultural attractions such as Otranto, the fortified island town of Gallipoli and the Baroque gem of Lecce.

Book Tenuta MarVi

Witness Salento through the eyes of a local

It is our hope that Francesca's suggestions have sparked new excitement about your potential Salento villa stay. Once you are prepared to start planning your bespoke villa holiday, please don't hesitate to reach out to our talented and experienced international team. We are standing by to answer any questions you may have about what to add to your Salento itinerary and how to make your dream holiday to the Med a reality.

Download our full inspiring itinerary here to discover everything Salento has to offer.