Casalabate is a seaside holiday village situated about 2 kms south of Villa Sun Beach, and approx three kms south from our other holiday homes of Villa Nicola and Villa Suzannah in the village of Lendinuso, and about 4kms from Villa Azzurra.
The village has a long history and today is part of the huge Comune of Lecce, that administers the region from Casalabate all the way down past Otranto and Santa Maria di Leuca.
Neglected by Lecce recently in the allocation of funds, Casalabate has fallen behind the other zones of San Cataldo and San Focca, which have been extensively re-developed in the last couple of years towards encouraging further tourism.
Casalabate has however kept its unique local charm. A holiday venue popular with Italians, it is rare to hear a foreign voice in the babble of noise at its Sunday morning market.
This weekly market stretches from the junction with the Surbo road all the way down the street and into the Marina, even spilling over into the side roads to the south and the north.
It is a popular market, with a huge range of produce. Besides the usual staggering array of fresh, locally produced seasonal fruit and vegetables, sold by the growers at very low prices, there are stalls selling a huge range of dried pulses and fruits, trucks with a multitude of different colours and shapes of cheeses, the vendors pressing you with samples and suggestions of what you should buy and breaking into grins of delight when you succumb to their charm.
Other vehicles acting as mobile shops are festooned with hams of all types and a myriad of salamis and sausage and stalls with honey and pastes of all kinds.
Breads and cakes, nougats and sweets, herbs, spices and olives all add their tang to the areas aromas and the calls of the vendors invoke images of exotic bazaars. Everything is for sale here, with trucks even full of strange palms, ferns and other flora for any buyers gardens.
The First Aid station, medical centre and citizens information are always open in season, and escaping the crowds at the street stalls, slip away for a coffee in one of the roadside cafes or in Valentina’s beside the supermarket by the harbour.
Standing in the harbour under the shadow of the square stone tower, still standing sentinel by the waters edge, is a wonderful Pescheria fish shop with a selection of fresh, locally caught fish from the boats that are moored nearby – so fresh is his stock that in the rock pool behind the tower, the owner keeps net sacks of live mussels, washed and aerated by each incoming wave.
The beach on the south side is sandy and favoured by swimmers, but passing north by the harbour past the Marina, the shore is eroded sheets of rock running into the waves.
In front of the small Perla Hotel a swimming platform gives views to the newly restored Tower Fort that guarded the north end of the settlement from Turkish invaders and marauding Saracen pirate fleets in days long ago.
Along this sea-side road, there are small eateries, cafes and kiosks, selling the usual beach necessities and snacks to holiday makers and visitors from Milan and the North.
The BahiaNegra restaurant on the right is a great place to visit, the cafe and bar has roadside tables and chairs just scant yards from the waters edge.
Inside the BahiaNegra a spacious dining room looking over the waves, serves an extensive menu with very good food, at both lunchtimes and evening.
When holidaying in Villa Sun Beach, a short walk southwards along the beach, and across the bluff beside the dunes, takes one into the north end of Casalabate just beside the Perla Hotel.
In a break in low season we always enjoy this beach side ramble from Villa Sun Beach to the village, a hot frothy Cappuccino each in the bar, and then the return home along the waves edge.
In winter time what better way to later spend the evening than with a roaring log fire in the Leccese stone fireplace and a bottle of local red wine to share.