Acaya: what to see, history, sea, restaurants and surroundings [2023]

If you are a lover of villages and are planning a trip to Salento, you absolutely must include Acaya in your itinerary.
This small village, dating back to the 16th century, is among the oldest villages in Italy, a hamlet of the municipality of Vernole and has only 450 inhabitants. It is an example of a fortified town, with an orthogonal street layout, and is a small jewel located a few kilometres from the sea. In this article we will show you what to see in Acaya, starting with its history.

History of Acaya

The village of Acaya, once called Segine, dates back to the Middle Ages and became part of the County of Lecce in the 12th century. Donated by the Angevins to the Convent of San Giovanni Evangelista in Lecce, it was granted as a feud in 1294 by Charles II of Anjou to Gervasio dell’Acaya. In fact, the name Acaya was assumed in 1535, when Gian Giacomo dell’Acaya, ‘royal military engineer’ of Charles V, built walls to fortify the centre, added bastions, ramparts and a moat to the castle, which had been built by his father Alfonso dell’Acaya in 1506. Following the death of Gian Giacomo dell’Acaya in 1570, the feud passed to the Royal Treasury in 1575 and in 1608 it was purchased by Alessandro De Monti.
The village of Acaya went through a period of decadence, which degenerated following the Ottoman devastation of 1714. At the end of the 17th century, the feud returned to the Royal Court, which in 1688 sold it to the De Monti-Sanfelice family, who in turn sold it to the Vernazza family, who were the last feudal lords until the abolition of feudalism in 1806.

castello di acaya

What to see in Acaya

The village is very small, but it certainly has its charm, which is why we recommend you visit it. So, what to see in Acaya?

Porta Terra (or Porta Sant’Oronzo)

Start your tour of Acaya from Porta Terra, also known as Porta Sant’Oronzo. It is a civil and religious monument, the only original access to the town that has remained intact. It was built in 1535 with the coat of arms and dedication to Charles V and the statue of Saint Oronzo, protector of Acaya, at the top. Later, the façade was decorated with the coats of arms of the various noble families that succeeded one another, the Acaya, Vernazza and De Monti families.

porta terra acaya
Village of Acaya

As we said, the village is really small and its old town is characterised by a few small houses, quiet and tidy streets, a few bars, restaurants and small markets. Walking through its narrow streets, one can grasp all the authenticity of the place: time seems to pass slowly, the scent of the kitchens fills the streets, a few children play in the small square next to the castle, the elderly sit and chat. But peace and quiet are the masters.

Acaya Lecce what to visit

Church of Santa Maria della Neve

In the historical centre of Acaya you can admire the church of Santa Maria della Neve, which was almost entirely rebuilt around 1865. Actually, the original building dates back to the 13th century, but it was completed during the rule of feudal lord Pietro dell’Acaya in 1420 with the bell tower and external decorations. Further work was carried out in the 16th century under Gian Giacomo dell’Acaya and in the 18th century during the Vernazza marquisate. The façade interprets the Neoclassical style while the interior, with three naves separated by pillars, features six altars.

Castle

The Castle of Acaya comes from an idea of Gian Giacomo dell’Acaya, who decided to fortify the village of Segine (that he later renamed Acaya) for defensive purposes, given its proximity to the sea. The castle, which dates back to 1535/36, has a trapezoidal structure surrounded by rectangular walls and a moat. It is located at one of the corners of the city walls, with bastions at the other corners.
Access to the castle is through a Renaissance gate located next to the north-east tower. The inner courtyard provides access to the barrel-vaulted and cross-vaulted halls, the dungeons and the stables on the west side.

During the renovation of the castle, traces of a mediaeval building were found, which later turned out to be a small Byzantine church with a number of burials beneath it.

It is possible to visit the castle on Sundays and Wednesdays to Saturdays from 09:30 to 12:30 and 16:00 to 20:00, while it is closed on Mondays. The entrance fee is € 5.00.

acaya lecceSt Paul’s Chapel

St Paul’s Chapel is located just outside the walls of Acaya and was built in the mid-18th century. It is a very small structure, the façade has a triangular pediment interrupted in the central area by a cross, while the interior has a single rectangular hall with a modest altar.

State Natural Reserve of Le Cesine

Acaya is also home to the State Natural Reserve of Le Cesine, located just 5 kilometres from the village and right next to the Adriatic coast. It’s one of the things to see around Acaya, especially if you love nature. We are talking about an oasis of about 348 hectares, one of the most preserved and important wetlands in southern Italy. The Oasis, managed by the WWF, is home to plenty of animal and plant species: many water birds, 32 species of wild orchids, some of which are on the national Red List, like the Anacamptis palustris. Other botanical species on the Red List are also

present, such as the Periploca graeca, the Ipomea sagittata and the Cytinus ruber.

Other animal species present include the colourful butterflies, such as the thistle butterfly (vanessa) and the swallowtail; as for the amphibians, there are several species of frogs, toads and newts; some reptiles, such as the marsh tortoise and the leopard coluber; 180 species of common birds and some mammals, such as the badger and stone marten, wild boar and wolf.

It is possible to visit the reserve every day, but access is only possible accompanied by the reserve’s guides, so reservation is compulsory. Guided tours of Le Cesine are also possible on Sundays and holidays at 10:30 and 16:30.

You can find all of the information on the website of Le Cesine.

le cesine

Acaya sea

Acaya is only a few kilometres away from the sea, so it can be a great base for your holiday in Salento.

From here, you will mainly reach the Adriatic beaches, some of the most authentic and wild such as:

  • the last beach of Le Cesine
  • La Strada Bianca
  • Torre Specchia
  • Punta Cassano
  • Neptune Village
  • San Basilio

Here, sandy free beaches and beach resorts, coves and low cliffs alternate. Continuing on after San Basilio are other wonderful seaside resorts such as San Foca, Roca and Torre dell’Orso.

Acaya SPA

The village is also known for being the location of the famous Acaya Golf Resort, which in addition to being a 4-star hotel is also a large wellness centre and a 5-star Superior BVGA Golf Club. If during your holiday in Salento you want to treat yourself to some pure relaxation and wellness, this is the place for you! A large indoor swimming pool, relaxation area with herbal teas, emotional showers, Finnish shower, calidarium – frigidarium – tepidarium, sauna, panoramic hot tub with chromotherapy. Moreover, you can access exclusive treatments, massages or book a Thermal Suite, for moments of pure well-being and romance.

Restaurants in Acaya

As always, we also want to leave you some tips on where to eat in Acaya.

Certainly, the restaurants to try in this area are mainly of typical Salento cuisine:

  • Trattoria Acaya;
  • I Minuti Piaceri;
  • Trattoria Nonno Pici.

In the surroundings:

The surroundings of Acaya are full of small villages and countryside where time seems to pass slowly. Some villages are so small that they basically only have a handful of streets; however, it may be interesting to discover them and observe the locals. In addition to this, however, we would like to recommend:

  • Lecce 12.6 km away;
  • Cavallino 10.7 km away;
  • San Foca 14.2 km away;
  • Roca 15.8 km away;
  • Torre dell’Orso 18.2 km away;
  • Sant’Andrea 20.7 km away;
  • Borgagne 16.2 km away;
  • Calimera 12.9 km away;
  • Martano 17.5 km away;
  • Otranto 36,5 km away;
  • Alimini 26.7 km away;
  • Bauxite quarries 37.4 km away;
  • Carpignano Salentino 21.7 km away;
  • Maglie 39.2 km away;
  • Corigliano d’Otranto 34 km away.

Are you looking for a structure in Salento? Browse our categories!

Team HDSalento

Team HDSalento

Articles by the HDSalento team

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