Galatina, Puglia – Hidden Gem in Salento
Galatina, Puglia is a charming town in the Lecce province. The town is located almost at the geographical center of the Salento Peninsula. It’s a great town to visit if you want to see something off-the-beaten-path and want to experience some old-world atmosphere.
We are always impressed by how many amazing towns Puglia has. It’s full of smaller places and superb architecture. These hidden gems are great as you can usually visit them via a day trip or even a half-day trip.
Join us as we explore the wonderful town of Galatina, Puglia. We’ll take a look at the history of this settlement and discover the best things to do in town.
History of Galatina, Puglia
Galatina has a long history that goes back all the way before the birth of modern Italy. Let’s start with a fun fact: Galatina is not the original name of this town.
In fact, Sancti Petri in Galatina was the name of the settlement before the unification of Italy. As tradition has it the name comes from the legend that Saint Peter himself stopped in Galatina while traveling from Antioch to Rome. Only in 1861 did Galatina get its name, now void of the mention of Saint Peter.
Through the middle ages, Galatina was part of the county of Solento. Being in a central location the town quickly gained influence as a trading town. People from the fields and people from the fishing towns often met in Galatina to exchange goods.
The bustling market naturally attracted craftsmen as well who then sold their products to the locals. The town continued growing through the middle ages and eventually became a walled city, like many others in the Puglia region. Even today you can observe some of the remains of this city wall.
Unfortunately for Galatina, it has lost some of the influence coming to modern times. As tourism picked up in the region, travelers were naturally drawn to seaside villages. As Galatina is landlocked it remains a hidden gem to visit.
How to get to Galatina, Puglia
Galatina is located just south of Lecce. In order to get to Galatina, Puglia we’ll look at the routes from Lecce. Obviously, when you have a rental car you can approach from multiple angles, but Lecce is the town where most people will be coming from.
If you want to get to Galatina via public transport we highly recommend the local train system. There is a regional line in Lecce that stops in Galatina, Puglia. You can take this regional train to visit the town. The journey is around 50 minutes and tickets cost only a few Euros.
Visiting via rental car is also super easy. All you have to do is follow Strada Statale 101 from Lecce towards Gallipoli. You will see the town name Galatina written on the highway exit sign so you can’t miss your exit.
Things to see in Galatina
It’s time to dive into the fun part. Let’s see what is there to do in Galatina, Puglia when you visit. The town is charming and beautiful at the same time. You can have tons of fun when visiting and you can enjoy a truly authentic local experience here.
1. Old City Gates
The medieval city gates are probably the first things you will see whenever you visit Galatina, Puglia. You can find them around the historic center and they are a great reminder of the once walled city.
Although the old wall itself is almost entirely destroyed and buildings took their previous place, some of the city gates still stand.
If you are coming via train the first gate you will encounter is Porta San Pietro. It’s one of the most impressive gates of the few that remain. The gate is very much in the same form as it was throughout the medieval years.
Although the other gates are a bit smaller we recommend that you seek them out. They will build a nice picture of where the old Galatina ended. The other two gates you can visit are Porta Luce and Porta Cappuccini.
2. Basilica di Santa Caterina d’Alessandria
One of Italian Romanesque and Gothic art’s most renowned landmarks. The Basilica of Santa Caterina di Alessandria was named as a national monument in 1870.
Trichoptera facade, in Apulian Romanesque style, with an enormous rose window and ornately carved entranceways. There are five naves on the inside, which gives the space a grandiose feel. There are frescoes and pillars and archivolts and vaults all over the place.
You will be tempted to take many pictures of the beautiful facade but we highly recommend that you go inside. The interior is absolutely stunning. There is even a small mausoleum for the son of the church’s founder.
Although it’s a Basilica in the name we think that this church is a fine piece of art and history. A must-see whenever you visit Galatina, Puglia.
3. Torre dell’Orologio
The old Clock Tower stands in the middle of the historical center. It easily draws the eye as you enter the main square near the tower.
Torre dell’Orologio was built after the unification of Italy. When seen from a distance, this monument seems to be the entryway to a tiny church, but upon closer inspection, it is really a tower housing a broken clock. It’s the town’s most magnificent and recognizable tower and a must-see for anybody who visits.
4. Chiesa Madre dei Santi Pietro e Paolo
Chiesa Madre dei Santi Pietro e Paolo was erected in 1621 in the place of a small 14th-century church. With a two-tiered Baroque façade, it boasts an ornate tympanum that frames the whole structure. Bishop Adarzo de Santander hired the well-known sculptor from Lecce, Giuseppe Zimbalo, to create the three entry portals.
Here you must see the insides as well. You can observe the beautiful frescoes. One of the most famous pieces inside shows the life of Saint Peter.
5. The Streets of the Historic Center
As always, we are advocates for slow travel. You need to take it slow and explore the streets of Galatina, Puglia whenever you visit this charming town.
There are so many old buildings and ancient streets here. It’s very easy to get pulled into the atmosphere. You’ll be tempted to take many pictures especially if you are interested in architecture.
There are also more churches to discover all with their distinct style. Just to mention a few, you can visit Cappella di San Paolo, Chiesa San Pantaleo, and Chiesa di San Luigi.
You can also discover some beautiful palaces around town. As the merchants moved to Galatina in its trading period they build lavish buildings to live in.
One of the most famous is Palazzo Scrimieri with interesting ironwork going on in the balconies of the palace. If you want to stay in Galatina you may pick a palace for your hotel. Palazzo Baldi is a beautiful building that has been transformed into a modern luxury hotel.
6. Museo Civico Pietro Cavoti
Finally, the local civic museum is a place you can go if you want to get more acquainted with the area. We understand that this museum is not for everyone but it’s a nice place to visit to enhance your slow travel experience.
Pleaces to eat in Galatina
As usual, we should not let you visit Galatina without some of our favorite restaurant recommendations. Even if you spend only a few hours in the town you might want to grab a bite or have a full meal. These places will deliver a great experience.
As always, opening times in Puglia can be a bit of a problem. We’ve selected places that are open during the day for at least a few hours.
Pasticceria Andrea Ascalone
Let’s start with a place that’s not actually a restaurant. Rather, it’s a historical pastry shop in the center of town. It’s only open until 1:30 PM so this is the perfect place if you are looking for breakfast.
Superb traditional pastries are available. Everything is made by hand and made on site. We loved how fresh everything tasted. If you only want to try one thing, go with the Pasticciotto.
Corte del Fuoco
We love to seek out the hidden gems everywhere and Corte del Fuoco is definitely one. It’s tucked away in a small street inside the historic center.
They have a short menu that consists of local classics blended with modern techniques. Absolutely amazing food and a nice environment await here. We can’t recommend Corte del Fuoco enough. Open briefly for lunchtime and open during dinner as well.
Tana del Lupo
Tana del Lupo is a truly authentic restaurant in Puglia. It is run by a local couple who are very welcoming and super fun people.
They make excellent food tailored to the local taste. If you want to try what the people of Puglia like to eat go to this place. The owners will welcome you with open arms and will feed you until you are smiling like a little child.
Is Galatina, Puglia worth visiting?
Our verdict is yes, Galatina is definitely worth visiting. Just keep in mind your itinerary. As Galatina is not a high-profile tourism spot we don’t necessarily recommend a visit if you only spend a few days in Puglia.
This is one of those towns where you can practice local tourism and take it slow. Perfect for those who are on a longer Puglia discovery trip. You can easily cover the town in a half-day, especially if you have a rental car.