The drive along the coastal route from Santa Cesarea Terme to Santa Maria di Leuca is one of our favorite #WeAreInPuglia journeys. The route is one of the most dramatic in Puglia, sandwiched between prickly pear lined cliffs and shimmering sea.
There are many highlights to take in along the way.
Our last stop is Ponte Ciolo, the bridge spanning Baia del Ciolo. The small channel that runs through the canyon marks a secret swimming spot. Here the water sparkles turquoise and blue against a background of rock.
Ponte Ciolo is some 8km before Leuca, but you will know when you arrive, puzzled by the sudden choke of cars parked either side of the bridge.
Park where you can. From the middle of the bridge you can admire the view over the bay and the courage of the divers below. Steps carved into the stone (on the north west corner) lead down to the small bathing area and the sea.
From here you can climb up to the improvised diving platforms formed by the concrete legs supporting the bridge and, for the bravest, the rocks along the canyon.
Jumping off the cliffs is not for the fainthearted. We watched as people jumped off the platform at least 10 meters above the water. Others scrambled further up the cliffs further along the channel and jumped from even higher.
How to get there
Follow the SP358 coastal road all the way down from Santa Cesarea Terme. Il Ciolo is around 8km before Santa Maria Leuca. There are two giveaways. The volume of cars suddenly parked either side of the bridge. And, if you are listening to the radio, it will likely stray onto an Albanian radio station as you approach the climb before the bridge!
Try il Ciolo on the coastal route – one of Puglia’s best drives – from Santa Cesarea Terme to Santa Maria di Leuca. A secret swimming spot, best known to locals, the clear waters sparkle and shimmer in shades of azure and blue. Local youth and visitors come here to dive from a height. Not for the faint hearted!