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The pretty coastal village of Santa Maria di Leuca (or simple Leuca) has had many names of the years. The Greeks called it Leukos, meaning brilliant sun, and the Romans called it 'the place at the end of the earth'. This is somewhat true, as Santa Maria lies at the southernmost tip of the Salento peninsula where the Ionian and Adriatic Seas meet. Once a sleepy fishing village, Santa Maria di Leuca attracted the attention of the Pugliese elite in the 19th-century, who built grand villas along the picturesque seafront, and the result today is a laid-back yet stylish villa holiday destination.

Things to do in Santa Maria di Leuca

Santa Maria di Leuca comes alive in the summer months, as well-to-do Italians, sun-seekers and day-trippers flock to visit this stunningly beautiful bay. Visit the iconic lighthouse, 102 metres above sea level and the second most important lighthouse in Italy (after Genoa) and also stop at the town's cathedral, sitting on the spot of a former temple to the goddess Minerva and home to a relic from the era.

Santa Maria di Leuca has a wonderful wide palm-fringed promenade and marina, which is backed by a low hill and the famous lighthouse. In the village, there are plenty of excellent restaurants and cafes and it's also easy to access the long sandy beaches and rocky coves from our Santa Maria di Leuca villas. Your Santa Maria di Leuca villa is also a fantastic base for exploring nearby Gallipoli, Lecce and Otranto.

Families and couples will love a villa holiday in Santa Maria di Leuca, thanks to its stunning setting atop waterfront cliffs that plunge into the azure Adriatic and casual beachy vibe. Santa Maria di Leuca has fantastic sandy beaches, amazing restaurants, fascinating historical sights and plenty of spots for watersports and exploring. Most of our villas in Santa Maria di Leuca come with a private pool and are suitable for family and romantic villa holidays.

Santa Maria di Leuca coastline
Overlooking coastline, Puglia

History and culture in Santa Maria di Leuca

Santa Maria di Leuca is steeped in religious history, and there are several great historical sites around the village and the bay. Saint Peter started his missionary work in Italy, and in homage to the saint the townsfolk built the huge Basilica De Finibus Terrae. Just a short walk away is the Capo Santa Maria di Leuca lighthouse, built in 1866 and the second most important lighthouse in Italy.

Come in August to see the Catholic festival of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, where the statue of the Virgin Mary is taken from the Basilica and paraded through the streets and down the port (an event that ends with fireworks and street parties). From your villa in Santa Maria di Leuca, it's also easy to get to the historical towns of Lecce and Otranto with their plethora of museums and art galleries.

Family holidays in Santa Maria di Leuca

For a fantastic family villa holiday in Santa Maria di Leuca, we recommend getting a villa with a private pool, giving you privacy and freedom to splash around and soak up the inimitable Mediterranean sun. Santa Maria di Leuca is also located near some fabulous family-friendly beaches, and from your villa in Santa Maria di Leuca it’s easy to reach the sandy stretches of Felloniche, Posto Vecchio, Torre Vado and Pescoluse (the ‘Maldives of Puglia’ – all excellent for families with great facilities like lidos, showers, bars and restaurants. The famous Splash Parco Acquatico waterpark with its slides, pools, watery rides and attractions is also not too far from your Santa Maria di Leuca villa and definitely worth the 40-minute drive.

Puglia beach and sea
Sea at Santa Maria di Leuca

Adventurous activities in Santa Maria di Leuca

Life is Santa Maria di Leuca revolves around the sea – swimming in it, exploring it, lolling by it, you name it. The peninsula is home to some of the more dramatic stretches of coastline in Puglia, and a highlight of a Santa Maria di Leuca villa holiday is to hire the services of a local to take you out on a boat to explore the underwater caves and rock formations of the coast. Prehistoric remains have even been found in some of these caves like Grotta Porcinara and Grotta del Diavolo.

Feeling extra adventurous? Why not jump off board and snorkel in the gin-clear waters, or take part in a diving tour where you can explore the underwater caves and grottos, along with fantastic colourful marine life.

Romance in Santa Maria di Leuca

Situated on a wildly beautiful bay where the Ionian and Adriatic seas meet, it doesn't get more romantic than Santa Maria di Leuca. From sunbathing on sandy coves under limestone cliffs and sunset beach strolls to private boat tours and sipping aperitivo on the waterfront, it's easy to add some romance into your Santa Maria di Leuca couple's villa holiday. Enjoy a romantic sunset cruise around the bay to its magical caves and grottos, before returning to land for a sumptuous Italian feast (with lots of local wine) at one of the port's vibey waterfront restaurants. Santa Maria di Leuca is the perfect place to visit with a loved one.

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