Three Things I Like About: Matino.
2. Approaching Punta della Suina
Baia Verde stretches south of Gallipoli and takes its name – Green Bay – from the turquoise-green hue of the water. It’s around eight kilometres long, a mix of white sand, rocky outcrops, dunes and vegetation, with a series of pay-to-play lidos interspersed with stretches of free beach. Lidos in general are a contentious subject. Italians seem to love them, Brits and other Europeans not so much. If I do choose to spend the day at a lido, though, my favourite is the one closest to Matino: Punta della Suina, located toward the southern end of Baia Verde. Its super relaxed, the food and music is good, the swimming divine and it seems to be less expensive than many others. (For non-lido lovers, there is also a wonderful free beach just a few metres to the south.) But my absolute favourite thing is the approach from the carpark to the beach through a miniature pine forest, dark and shady with pine needles crunching underfoot, crystalline water visible like an oasis through thin and twisted trunks.
Foscolo occupies a pretty 19th-century building, nestled into the corner of an alley heavy with bougainvillea. Restaurant, cocktail bar and gallery rolled into one, its interior feels more Milan than Salento, a swank mashup of pop, midcentury and baroque leading up to a roof terrace, low-lit and romantic with views of the palazzo in one direction and the Ionian Sea in another. A sophisticated menu follows the course of the seasons, focussed on Puglian produce – tuna and gamberi viola fresh from the waters of nearby Gallipoli, wild fennel foraged by the sea – but looking to the north, all the way up to and beyond the alps. A favourite last summer was the spaghetti with mullet ragu; a couple of autumns earlier it was the porcini risotto washed down with a full-bodied local red. The ground-floor bar does a mean cocktail, from the signature, gin-based Foscolo to Bond-worthy martinis, served in three vaulted rooms or at small tables spilling out into the cobbled alley, where you’re sure to make new friends.