Santa Maria di Leuca, with Salignano and Giuliano di Lecce, is a district of the town of Castrignano dal Capo. Located on the most Southern point of the Salentino peninsula, it is one of the most famous seaside resorts of the area and was built on the ruins of a Messapi city (Messapi: an antique Italic population). The district takes its name from the Greek word "leukos" which means "white", as in the morning the whole landscape, beamed by sun rays , is a long stretch of this colour; whilst, the traditions give the name origins to the visit of Saint Peter, who started here his evangelic pilgrimage towards Rome and changed the name of the town, entitling it to the Madonna.
The alleys and the narrow roads are the main feature of the Old City and they lead you to the Mother Church, entitled to San Michele Arcangelo, rebuilt in 1751 after the earthquake of 1743. It preserves inside a beautiful wooden statue of the Saint, which is a masterpiece of the famous Neapolitan sculptor Nicola Fumo.
Not to miss: the Church of San Giovanni Crisostomo ('500), in the district of Giuliano, which proposes in its interior a valuable fresco painting of the Pietà of a unknown author and a superbly maintained organ of 1721.
Until mid '800, Santa Maria di Leuca was just a small fisherman village. In the early years of '900 the district was enriched with splendid mansions and villas, artworks of the structural engineers Achille Rossi and Giuseppe Ruggeri and of the architect Carlo L. Arditi, and are the expression of various architectonic styles:
Gothic, Ionian, Pompeiano, Saracen, Tuscan, Chinese and French. Here, where in the past raised a Pagan Temple entitled to Minerva, today it is possible to admire a Sanctuary entitled to the Madonna "de finibus terrae", a church with one major nave, which features, above the main altar, a superb painting of the Madonna and Child, masterpiece of Jacopo Palma il Giovane, apprentice of Tiziano. The church also proposes a series of important paintings and an organ, all of '800.
At Salignano arises a majestic cylindrical fortress, built in 1550 and was the defending outpost against the Turk and Saracen raids and which submitted frequent attacks. Today, it is still possible to reach the higher points of the fortress, thanks to the fact that the antique staircase is still intact.