Castro rests on the rocky shore of the Adriatic, on the stunning Salento coast. Located south of Lecce, it's referred to as the "pearl of the Salento". In an area studded by lovely coastal towns, Castro really is a gem. It retains its Old World atmosphere, but in the upper medieval town on the hill, and the marina below that still holds its tradition as a fishing village. Castro occupies a promontory that plunges to the sea and is backed by hills. The setting with turquoise skies, green hills, white washed buildings and sapphire water is captivating.
The town is said to have been founded by the Greeks but its name comes from the Romans who built it up in 120 BC, Castrum Minervae. A temple dedicated to the goddess was discovered during restoration works on the castle and the walls. The fortress castle was constructed in 1282 and was one of the most important castles in the Angevin kingdom as protection and advance warning system against coastal attacks. Unfortunately, the entire Puglia coast saw its share of various invaders, and Castro was contested by the Byzantines and the Normans before being passed to the Republic of Venice.
The medieval center on the hill is a warren of narrow lanes and lined with sugary-looking pretty houses. There are nice piazzas for gathering and outdoor cafes. The stone cathedral was built in 1171 in Romanesque style and sports a dual-purpose clock and bell tower. The solid structure has survived the centuries well and is dedicated to the towns protector, the Madonna Assunziata. She is honored every April 22-23 with religious and civic celebrations that include a seaborne procession and fireworks over the water, along with concerts and food.
The marina is a main attraction, though, with good reason. The coast is riddled with caves and coves, where wooden fishing boats are harbored and where tourists sun lazily. The caverns are interesting to explore and boats can be hired to visit them or to spend a day in a secluded cove. The biggest of the caves is the Grotta Zinzulusa, which is decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, and even an internal lake. The largest cavern room is called the cathedral it's so large. Other caves are frequented by scuba divers, and for divers and snorkelers this area is a fascinating one.
Castro Marina offers some great seafood restaurants and plenty of seaside rocks for sunbathing and relaxing alongside the pristine water. Castro (both upper and marina) offers all the services you'd expect. It's near Lecce, Santa Maria Leuca, Santa Cesarea Terme, and Gallipoli. In this part of Puglia you can swim in the Adriatic in the morning and dip into the Ionian Sea in the afternoon, while crossing olive groves, vineyards and other farms in between
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