That day when Aeneas landed at Leuca

That day when Aeneas landed at Leuca

Myth and legend at edge of land

An ancient legend says that Aeneas, the famous hero of Virgil’s Aeneid, son of the goddess Venus, and future founder of Rome, visited Salento during his travels, just long enough to say a few prayers at the temple and leave. Legend has it that the hero stopped right in Leuca, on the beautiful promontory of Punta Meliso, where, according to myth, there was a temple. What did Aeneas see from up there? The meeting of the two seas, a divine apparition, the wind, the majesty of a temple? But what was actually there?

Recent excavations have shown that there was a settlement in Punta Meliso, but no temple. The location can be visited both by land and on organised boat trips. Before the Greeks and Romans, these places were inhabited by the Messapians. They prayed here to a god called Zis (likely an analogue of Zeus) for luck in navigation, as he was the god of lightning and storms. A god right at the end of the world? Leuca is in fact one of the most important places that testify to the existence of the Messapian civilisation, which all but disappeared with the Roman conquest. Coastal caves in the area have preserved cave paintings that you cannot miss during your holiday in Leuca!

Returning to Aeneas, according to scholars he landed in Castro (a beautiful place to visit, 45 minutes from Leuca), where the ruins of a Greek temple were found. But to keep our fantasy alive we can know that in Leuca there was a temple dedicated to Minerva, where the shrine of Santa Maria di Leuca now stands. For lovers of archaeology there are still many ruins from Roman and pre-Roman times in the area to visit on guided tours.

The cult of Minerva, which originated in the Roman age, resisted until the arrival of the charismatic San Pietro, according to legend. He supposedly converted the people and built the beautiful shrine, revered by pilgrims from around the Mediterranean.

Aeneas did not come just to Leuca on that mythical day, but maybe saw her and greeted her from his ship, so alive, so rich in history, embraced by two seas. So let yourself be carried by the allure and the splendour that Leuca, at the end of Italy, has produced in travellers and sailors for centuries, and visit us.
See you soon!