Deep in the Salento, the part of Puglia that shapes the heel of Italy's boot, you will find incredible natural beauty, a mostly rocky coastline with intermittent sandy beach coves, incredibly clear water and many sea caves. One of the most majestic and compelling is the Grotte della Poesia (Caves of Poetry) in the small town of Roca, a 100 foot wide sinkhole at the edge of the sea.
Roca is positioned in between San Foca and Torre dell'Orso about 35 miles south of Brindisi. Both San Foca and Toree Dell'Orso have several large beach resorts and are very crowded, especially in the month of August when Italians flock to the Salento for their summer holiday. But if you look past the rows of umbrellas, cabanas and beach chairs, you'll find both nature and ancient history here.
Grotte della Poesia is said to have been a favorite swimming spot for an ancient princess, the sight of her swimming there inspired poets--thus the name Caves of Poetry. But visitors nowadays come mainly to take leaps from its 15' cliffs into the clear waters, to scuba dive, swim from the sinkhole through an underground sea cave and back out to the sea. You can even rent a boat from nearby San Foca to get up close and personal to all the cliffs and grottoes in the area.
Voyagers also come for the archeological sites along the coastline. On the north side of the cove adjacent to the Grotte, you will find the archaeological site of Roca Vecchia, which is similar to Egnazia--an ancient town right at the edge of the sea. There is evidence of humans living here since the Bronze Age, along with the remains of massive walls from the 4th century BC, all the way up to structures and medieval walls dated to the fourteenth century AD. The site was used almost exclusively for the purpose of worship before the construction of the city itself. Rare inscriptions, animal sacrifices and other inscriptions have been found in a smaller sinkhole next to Grottta della Poesia with the name Little Poetry. You can wander through the old walls of the past and then head over to the Grotte for a swim and lots of sun.
If you enjoy beach resorts, there are plenty to choose from, otherwise you can rent a bare boat charter for visiting the area, or rent an apartment or hotel room in either nearby San Foca or Torre Dell'Orso, the former being a well-equipped port town with shops, restaurants and markets. Or stay in or near Lecce as your hub... often considered to be the "Florence of the South" with it's 17th century baroque architecture.
In any event, taking the time to discover the rugged, natural coastline of the Salento will give you the experience of a lifetime...
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