Salento natural reserves
Once upon a time, there was a land forgotten by everyone, who even had itself forgotten about its past glories. It was full of swamps and malaria. The houses didn’t have taps or showers. There was so much water all around the land, but not a drop to drink. Then small everyday heroes, men from this forgotten South, rolled up their sleeves and fought the uneven battle of man against nature; and they won. They bent streams and canals, they narrowed rivers that slowly let themselves be buried, channeled, fragmented into thousands of ducts, canals, sewers and fountains. Other men dried the water where there was too much of it and stagnated. They moved mountains and hills. They eradicated malaria and made white and silky beaches, drawing a smile on the face of the sea, and land for cultivation.
We are talking about Salento. Up until the unification of Italy, Salento was a hostile land that with all the important works it went through, was transformed into the splendour that attracts tourists from all over the world.
In Leuca, water is everywhere. Not only because the sea washes its coast and digs caves in the calcareous rocks since the beginning of time, but also because tens of years ago one of the most important Italian works of engineering finished right here.
Leuca, finibus terrae is also the point where the Puglia Aqueduct ends. As many of you will know, Puglia is a region without particular rivers or lakes from which to draw drinking water. Our water is underground, very deep underground The Aqueduct gathers water along all its route. It begins from the rivers in Basilicata, passes though the Sele and Ofanto rivers around Foggia, and then goes down, all along the Heel of Italy, till it reaches the Monumental Waterfall of Leuca that were built in 1939 when the construction of the Aqueduct finished. The Monumental Waterfall symbolically unites the sea to the river and quenches the eyes before the thirst.
Some artistic lighting was recently added all along the waterfall designing a multicoloured artistic vision for the joy of tourists during their summer evenings.
And what remained of the swamps? Regimented lands, olive, almond and cherry groves, crystal clear beaches that can easily be compared to coral atolls. If you look carefully at the depressions in the ground, in the dried beds of seasonal rivers and puddles here and there, along the road that takes to Leuca, or even along parts of the coast, you will still be able to see thick patches of common reeds that crop up like a mirage in the middle of nowhere. They are the last vestige of times gone by, a warning from nature that is sovereign queen of these lands, and a typical element that distinguishes these touristic localities. The rare swamp areas that remain in Salento have become beautiful natural reserves because, as we now know, swamps are important humid areas that regulate micro-climate and protect the flora and fauna that would otherwise die.