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Santa Maria di Leuca- reaching the end of the earth

Leuca Travel Blog

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The Sanctuary and lighthouse in Leuca.
We arrived just in time to catch the sunset at Santa Maria di Leuca. Also called Santa Maria di Finnibus Terrae, Leuca, at the very tip of the heel of the Italian "boot", was seen as the end of the earth. And the place where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet.
 
We were met by, Fabio, another good friend and our host/guide in Leuca. He rode the final 6 kilometers with us on his motorcycle- we had a good conversation yelled over the roar of his motor and he rode back and forth shouting encouraging words as the last of us struggled up the hill.

We arrived at Leuca's lighthouse and sanctuary where we watched the sunset. It's the perfect place to really "get" where you are. The wind blows your face, the waves crash on the cliffs below, the sun sets golden over the navy blue sea, and the sanctuary and it's statues glow creamy yellow in the fading light. The name Leuca has a double etymology in Arabic and Greek, meaning “light” and “white” respectively. The city does indeed gleam with the light it reflects off the sea. It was divine.

Fabio explained the town’s history- that Leuca was built up by rich 19th century nobles who built funky colorful villas on the water. Then he showed us where the Pugliese aqueduct ends.
Fabio and Adriana watching the sunset.
Puglia is an arid region and traditionally suffers difficult droughts. The acueduct was a project built under Mussolini and considered the only good thing he did for the people. And every metal sewer plaque in the region carries the fascist symbol of a bundle of sticks and an axe!
Leuca- aqueduct or not- is a hot vacation spot these days. It's a fun place to get dressed up, promenade along the water, and check out the Italian discotecas!

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The next few days were filled with activities and friends. Our cooking class took on new proportions as this year we began, not in the kitchen, but in the fields themselves. Daniele took us to his plot of land in the country and we picked early tomatoes, onions and green beans. Back at his house he showed us how to transform them into the delicious dishes we’d all grown to love. After all these wildly abundant meals someone asked the question: “Eating like this, how are you all not obese?” The question brought out an interesting discussion about the eating habits in our respective countries. Their first response was that they don’t really eat such big meals everyday, just when company comes! But they also eat a lot of vegetables in the south, most of which are homegrown or local and therefore very fresh.
Our cooking class "from the field to the table" was a smashing success!
And, Daniele’s wife continued, they also cook almost exclusively with olive oil and not, we began to laugh, with peanut butter like the Americans do! So we clarified a few things. That in California we make our own olive oil, grow a lot of veggies and many of us are pretty darn health conscious. She wondered if all we really ate in America were hamburgers, french fries and peanut butter. I’ve encountered this a lot traveling in rural Italy. The pictures they have of America really are of burgers, hot dogs and fries; of obesity; and of blond beach Hollywood. But then they meet us- a group of fit, healthy people from California, only two of six were actually born in the United States, and hopefully we bring them a better picture of the diversity and lifestyles found there. I explained to them about California cuisine, about the love/obsession with vegetables, and the art of salads which I believe California has perfected. And that we don’t haphazardly cover everything in peanut butter!

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That evening Fabio kept calling my phone. He told me a time and a place, but would tell me nothing more. Our B&B hosts drove us to the location, handed us a plate of homemade pepperonata and potato pizza, and said goodbye. In the distance we heard the fast rhythms and melodies of traditional pizzica music. There was a path that led through the old stone walls of an ancient farmhouse.
The happy end of our surprise party!
Following the trail, the music grew louder, huge candles appeared to light the path. We rounded the final corner and saw- a party! An old wooden farm cart, a big table laid with food, and under a cabana two groups were playing the pizzica! Fabio greeted everyone and I translated. Then we watched the band and tried to get everyone to dance!
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The Sanctuary and lighthouse in Le…
The Sanctuary and lighthouse in L…
Fabio and Adriana watching the sun…
Fabio and Adriana watching the su…
Annie picked a huge onion for our …
Annie picked a huge onion for our…
Our cooking class from the field …
Our cooking class "from the field…
The happy end of our surprise part…
The happy end of our surprise par…
The local and traveling girls all …
The local and traveling girls all…
A statue at Leucas sanctuary.
A statue at Leuca's sanctuary.
Another statue at Leucas sanctuar…
Another statue at Leuca's sanctua…
The bikes are taking a rest while …
The bikes are taking a rest while…
Victory! Yes, we made it!
Victory! Yes, we made it!
Fabios explaining the history of …
Fabio's explaining the history of…
Leuca
photo by: esvobod