You know that Italy is shaped like a boot, right? Deep down, at the end of its heel, lies Salento, spread out over the provinces of Lecce and Taranto (and a bit of Brindisi too) – and it is a real gem. The fields of red earth, green olive trees, blue sea and villages of white stone houses will charm you, as this is a special place.
Arriving at the airport of Brindisi, you’ll go down South and pass lovely traditional villages and cities. Lecce, the capital of the Apulian Baroque, is all white and sofisticated, then the coast. This particular part of the Adriatic coast receives every year special awards (the “Blue Flags”) for the quality of the water and the level of services on the beaches, waste management and other factors that are sure to make your holiday great.
It is in a small seaside resort on the coast of Salento, San Foca, that a great project was launched, thanks to a group of volunteers led by Gaetano Fuso. Gaetano has ALS and has been a sea lover all his life, and from his hospital bed he put together the idea to create a fully accessible beach, where people with severe disabilities could enjoy the sand and the sea in total security.
Beach for all at the Terrazza al mare!
This is really a special place: the “Terrazza al mare” (“The terrace at the sea”) is an equipped beach bath that is free for everyone. You just need to reserve your spot in advance through the website of the “Io Posso” (“I can”) project.
The beach is equipped for people with all kinds of disabilities, but especially for those using ventilators, electric and manual wheelchairs, and severe disabilities. A team of very nice, trained and bronzed volunteers will get you in the water. Really everyone gets to experience the cristalline sea of Salento, and every two weeks they organize an evening event, because these guys love music: you can get a deejay session or a guitar solo or maybe an Italian Karaoke night. Sounds good, right?
Culture and heritage: Lecce & Otranto
Just in case you get tired of splashing and enjoying the beautiful beach and would like to get some culture in your holiday, a visit to Lecce will be a special treat. The historical centre has a mainly smooth pavement and will allow for a lovely stroll, some shopping, and plenty of food treats. Just ask the volunteers at the Terrazza for some tips and discover a world of colours, gourmet food and drinks, and wonderful people.
You can also visit Otranto, lovely ancient fortified town on the sea. There is a beautiful and accessible castle with an exhibition about the nearby “Grotta dei Cervi” (the Deer Cave), a neolithic coastal cave whose that is too fragile to be open to the public and contains fascinating. An itinerary is suggested here: The Land of Otranto – No Barrier. It dates from 2013 but can still be useful to get ispiration and some general information on accessibility.
The level of accessibility in the province of Lecce and Brindisi is variable. On the one hand, as for other parts of Italy, there are curb cuts that allow you to circulate on sidewalks easily. On the other hand, people often park their cars in front of the ramps.
This is a very irritating habit, and it sums up to the presence of very narrow sidewalks, especially in more ancient villages, where it may be necessary to circulate on the street.
Accessibility of buildings, restaurants and bars is normally pretty good and an accessible bathroom is mandatory by law for all public establishments. Of course, sometimes there may be a storage unit there, but usually it is ok and well equipped. Italian public toilets are often accessible, but not always kept very clean, so pack something strategic to use in these cases.
Archeological areas in Salento are particularly beautiful but are sometimes located in rough areas (gravel, paths are not always optimal) but national heritage sites have to be made accessible also by law. Check their websites beforehand, and do not be surprised if you find information only in Italian, just thank Google Translate.
Nearest airport: Brindisi
The Brindisi Airport is not very large and the information on accessibility is very complete. At the link below you can find a map of the airport with indication of all facilities and photos of the Ambulift which is available there.
Tha airport is part of a specific project for travellers with autism and offers tours of the airport and a manual (in Italian only) for parents, to help prepare for the airport passage before the trip.