Santa Maria di Leuca, often spelled simply Leuca (meaning "white), is a frazione of the commune of Castrignano del Capo, in the province of Lecce (Apulia), southern Italy.
Legend has it that the town takes its name from "Leucasia", a beautiful, white mermaid who conquered sailors and farmers with her charming voice. Later legend has it that the Virgin Mary once saved some boats from a storm and her name, "Santa Maria" was added to that of Leuca.
Santa Maria di Leuca is famous for the iconic lighthouse. With its height of 47 metres, and position at 102 metres above sea level, is the second most important lighthouse in Italy, after Genova. Next to the lighthouse is the large Sanctuary, or Basilica, De Finibus Terrae ("End of the Land"), built to commemorate the passage of St. Peter here during his travel to Italy. It is devoted to Saint Mary (from whom the town gets the name Santa Maria di Leuca). It lies on the former site of a Roman temple dedicated to Minerva.
Santa Maria di Leuca is on Punta Ristola or Punta Meliso promontory, the south-eastern extremity of Italy â€” traditionally considered the lowest point of the geographical "heel" of Italian peninsula. It is also the meeting point of the waters from the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea. Leuca is also in a bay hence the signifigance of the lighthouse.
Since October 2006 its territory is part of the Regional Park "Costa Otranto - Santa Maria di Leuca e Bosco di Tricase".
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 with its crew of 58 men.
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, it is still there.
Santa Maria di Leuca is a typical picturesque town of the Meditteranean with local fishermen and plenty of water based activities and beaches to laze away the hours. The beachfront has plenty of "bar - ristorantes" and the dining experiences are so provincially, good Italian.
While cruises are available year round the main season is from March to October to take advantage of the longer days and warmer weather. Weather during the cruise season is warm to hot and the days are long and generally sunny. Most rain in the region falls in the winter months.
Time Zone: UTC/GMT +2 hours
Dial Code: +39