Santa Maria di Leuca
, often spelled simply Leuca
, is a frazione
A frazione , in Italy, is the name given in administrative law to a type of territorial subdivision of a comune; for other administrative divisions, see municipio, circoscrizione, quartiere...
of the comune
In Italy, the comune is the basic administrative division, and may be properly approximated in casual speech by the English word township or municipality.-Importance and function:...
of Castrignano del Capo
Castrignano del Capo is a town and comune in the province of Lecce in the Apulia region of south-east Italy. It has three frazioni: Santa Maria di Leuca, Giuliano, Salignano....
, in the province of Lecce
The Province of Lecce is a province in the Apulia region of Italy. Its capital is the city of Lecce. Totally included in the Salento peninsula, it is the second most populous province in Apulia and the twenty-first most populous in Italy....
Apulia is a region in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its most southern portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises , and...
), southern Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...
A part of the town once belonged to the comune
of Gagliano del Capo
Gagliano del Capo is a town and comune in the Italian province of Lecce in the Apulia region of south-east Italy.-Main sights:*Palazzo Ciardo *Mother Church, built in 1574*Church of St. Francis of Paola- External Links :...
Santa Maria di Leuca is famous for its lighthouse
A lighthouse is a tower, building, or other type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire, and used as an aid to navigation for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways....
, which, with its height of 47 metre and its position at 102 metre above sea level
Mean sea level is a measure of the average height of the ocean's surface ; used as a standard in reckoning land elevation...
, is the second most important lighthouse in Italy, after the one in Genova. Next to the lighthouse is the large Sanctuary, or Basilica, De Finibus Terrae
("End of the Land", 1720-1755), built to commemorate the passage of St. Peter here during his travel to Italy. It is devoted to Saint Mary (from which the name of the town Santa Maria di Leuca). It lies on the former site of a Roman temple dedicated to Minerva. The edifice has a fortified structure, and during its existence it sustained several assault by Algerian pirates. In the same site, a Corinthian column was erected in 1939 to celebrate the construction of the Apulian Aqueduct (Acquedotto Pugliese
). The basilica is connected to the port through a 284-step staircase.
promontory (the ancient Promontorium lapygium
) is the southeastern extremity of Italy — traditionally considered the lowest point of the geographical "heel" of Italian peninsula, as well as the meeting point of the waters from the Adriatic Sea
The Adriatic Sea is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan peninsula, and the system of the Apennine Mountains from that of the Dinaric Alps and adjacent ranges...
and the Ionian Sea
The Ionian Sea , is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea, south of the Adriatic Sea. It is bounded by southern Italy including Calabria, Sicily and the Salento peninsula to the west, southern Albania to the north, and a large number of Greek islands, including Corfu, Zante, Kephalonia, Ithaka, and...
. But Leuca is a bay so there's another promontory called Punta Ristola challenging this geographical particularity. According to Google Earth, Punta Ristola, at 39º 47' 22.96" N, is approximately 440 meters south of Punta Meliso, at 39º 47' 37.73" N.
Since October 2006 its territory is part of the Regional Park "Costa Otranto - Santa Maria di Leuca e Bosco di Tricase". Santa Maria di Leuca's littoral is marked by numerous grottoes with Latin and Greek inscriptions. Also famous are the 19th century patrician villas (c. 43 in number).
Not far off Punta Ristola, at c. 85 m of depth, lies the shipwreck of the Italian submarine Pietro Micca
, sunk during World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
with its crew of 58 men.
Prehistoric remains have been found in the "Zinzolusa cave".
According to the legend, the town takes its name from "Leucasia", a white beautiful mermaid (in Greek "leukos" means "white") who conquered sailors and farmers by her charming voice. According to a later legend, Virgin Mary once saved some boats from a storm, and her name was added to that of Leuca.
Santa Maria di Leuca was founded in fact in the early 1st century AD by some monks, after Saint Peter's passage. A cross was built in his honor and after some restructurings, still be there.