Ugento: what to do and see, sea and marinas, beach clubs, history and restaurants [Guide 2023]

Ugento is a small jewel of the southern Salento area, surrounded by a remarkable variety of beautiful landscapes. Located almost 60 km from Lecce and about 7 km from the coast, it is a wonderful destination to spend your holiday in Salento.

In addition to the beautiful Marine di Ugento, the town boasts an important archaeological heritage and an interesting history with Messapic origins. Not only that, Ugento is among the Authentic Villages of Italy thanks to its great artistic and architectural value.

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History of Ugento in Apulia

The town of Ugento stands where once there was one of the main Messapic centres of Salento, once called Ozon. Around 1500-1000 BC, in fact, the Messapians from the Balkans settled here. Even today it is still possible to see some parts of the Messapian walls, important evidence of these settlements.

Ugento’s strategic position gave it a certain strategic-economic importance, so that the Messapians decided to establish a mint capable of minting coins. Precisely because of this, Ugento was noticed by Rome, which decided to incorporate it within the Empire. With the outbreak of the Punic Wars, the Messapi tried to regain their independence, but with the defeat of Carthage, Ugento became a Roman municipality for good.

The period of splendour, however, came to an end when the Roman Empire fell and Ugento was violently invaded by the Barbarians. It was only thanks to the Normans, starting in the year 1000, that Ugento recovered and was subsequently ruled by various feudal lords such as the Pandone, Vaaz de Andrata and D’Amore families until 1806, when Giuseppe Bonaparte decided to abolish feudalism in the Kingdom of Naples.

What to see in Ugento

Ugento is a small but beautiful town, named City of Art and rich in architectural, archaeological and environmental beauty. Let’s discover together what to see in Ugento during your trip to Salento.

Ugento old town centre

The old town centre of Ugento is full of important buildings: walking through its streets will be an interesting discovery, with the Castle, Palazzo Colosso, the Civic Tower, the Bishop’s Palace, the Civic Museum of Archaeology and the Cathedral. In addition the architectural beauty, there’s the one of the relaxed atmosphere you will be able to savour walking in the heart of the village, where time seems to flow slower.

Ugento Cathedral

Ugento Cathedral, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, was built in the early 18th century on the site where the old Gothic church once stood, which was destroyed by the Saracen invasion. The facade is in neoclassical style, while the single-nave interior with a Latin cross plan houses several altars with paintings from different eras.

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Diocesan Museum of Ugento

The Diocesan Museum of Ugento offers visitors the opportunity to retrace the history of the faith of the lower Salento region, with numerous cultural testimonies. Inside you can see papier-mâché statues of saints, sacred furnishings and bishop’s vestments.

Civic Museum of Archaeology

The Civic Archaeology and Palaeontology Museum is located in the former Franciscan Convent of S. Maria della Pietà in the village of Ugento, built to preserve the countless archaeological finds. Among the most important exhibits in the museum is a copy of the bronze statue of Zeus found in 1961, the original of which is in the Archaeological Museum in Taranto. It is a votive statue, made by a Taranto artist between 530 and 500 BC, in which Zeus, depicted naked, is advancing with an eagle in his right hand and a thunderbolt in his left. This is considered one of the most important works of art of Magna Graecia, evidence of the great power and importance that Ugento once had.

Ugento Castle

The construction of the castle dates back to the Norman period, but it has undergone several changes over the centuries. It was, in fact, destroyed and rebuilt during the war, but also underwent several restorations. In 1643, it was bought by the Marquis d’Amore, and still belongs to the d’Amore family.
With the latest financing and thanks to massive restoration work, the castle can now be visited and has been converted into an exclusive 5-star luxury hotel.

Crypt of the Crucifix

Just outside the historic centre of Ugento is the Crypt of the Crucifix, a small underground chapel probably dating back to the Messapian period. The beauty of this chapel lies in the numerous frescoes dating back to the period between the 13th and 17th centuries, accompanied by inscriptions in Greek and Latin.

Chapel of the Madonna di Costantinopoli

The Chapel of the Madonna di Constantinople dates back to the early 17th century and is characterised by a vaulted ceiling entirely covered with frescoes. Today, it is part of an 18th-century farm building known as Masseria Crocefissi.

Other Religious Architecture in Ugento

The succession of invading peoples has left religious and political traces. Here are some churches to see in Ugento:

  • The Sanctuary of Cosmas and Damian, patron saints of the town, built in the Byzantine era.
  • The Sanctuary of the Madonna della Luce rebuilt in 1576, on the remains of an ancient church destroyed by raids.
  • The Church of Santa Maria Del Casale from the Byzantine era, which preserves some frescoes from the 13th century and a painting depicting the Madonna of Montserrat.

Torre San Giovanni Puglia: the Marina of Ugento

Torre San Giovanni is Ugento’s marina, but it is certainly not of secondary importance, both in terms of history and ancient doings. The remains of Messapian walls found near the tower date it to 500 BC. Today, the black and white chequered tower is a very important lighthouse, given the high number of shallows that undermine this stretch of sea, owned by the Navy. During the winter, Torre San Giovanni has about 500 inhabitants, rising to 50,000 in the summer, thanks to the beautiful crystal-clear sea and white beaches. The coastline stretches for several kilometres, alternating between sandy stretches, Mediterranean scrub and low cliffs.

Like in all Salento seaside resorts in the summer and beyond, one experiences the unspoilt nature of a unique southern Salento, where sunrises and sunsets become the perfect backdrop framing the beautiful landscapes. Moreover, the beaches are fully equipped to satisfy the most demanding clients. In Torre San Giovanni, there is no shortage of places where you can enjoy Salento cuisine with its old and new specialities. Recipes in which the products of the land are perfectly mixed with those of the sea, creating dishes with a unique flavour.

The highlight of the summer in this beautiful Salento marina is marked by the festival in honour of the Madonna dell’Aiuto, a ritual dear to the fishermen of the area. It has very ancient origins and was used to propitiate the Madonna’s help from continuous shipwrecks. During the festival, the Saint is carried in procession on the sea aboard a fishing boat, decorated for the occasion, and followed by all the boats in the area that decide to participate.

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Beaches and sea near Ugento

The sea in Ugento is part of a stretch of coastline on the Ionian side of Salento that deserves special attention. Ugento has four beautiful marinas: Torre San Giovanni, Torre Mozza, Lido Marini and Fontanelle. Let us see which are the most beautiful beaches in Ugento:

  • Torre San Giovanni: this is the most popular area of the coastline and is characterised by stretches of low cliffs and a beach, south of the tower, with several beach clubs;
  • Torre Mozza: wilder and more unspoilt, it is a pearl set among pine forests and Mediterranean scrub and is characterised by a 16th-century tower.
  • Fontanelle: between Torre Mozza and Torre San Giovanni there is Fontanelle beach, with shallow waters, clear water and dunes dotted with Mediterranean scrub. It is a very quiet beach, ideal for families with children.
  • Lido Marini: just a few steps from Marina di Pescoluse is Lido Marini, a wonderful and quieter area than the nearby Torre San Giovanni. This stretch of coastline is also characterised by fine golden sand, shallow waters, clear water and Mediterranean scrub.

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Beach clubs Marine di Ugento:

Do you want to know which are the best beach clubs in the Marine di Ugento?

Here are our recommendations on the beach resorts along this stretch of coastline:

  • Lido Pineta in Fontanelle;
  • Lido Mania in Torre Mozza;
  • Lido Fontanelle in Torre San Giovanni;
  • Rottacapozza beach in Lido Marini;
  • Lido il Molo in Torre San Giovanni
  • Playa Blanca in Lido Marini.

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Where to eat in Ugento:

During your stay in Salento you cannot fail to taste the typical Salento cuisine, so we recommend some of the best restaurants in Ugento.

  • The Phonogram Club
  • La Bottega dei Sapori
  • Trattoria La Vecchia Botte

In the surroundings

If you would like to stay near Ugento, follow our tips so you don’t miss out on places to see nearby. Salento is big, but you can easily move around and tour it far and wide to discover everything. Here is what to see around Ugento:

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

Team HDSalento

Team HDSalento

Articles by the HDSalento team

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