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Immersed in the Salento 

In this section there are  some of the  most interesting and spectacular places where diving along the coast of the Salento. They are numerous places where thanks to the facilities of the different Diving Services of the zone, or through the help of some experienced guides, you can practice this sport. You can start from the Adriatic coast, near S. Cataldo, and circumnavigating Capo di Leuca, to finish the journey on the ionic coast near Porto Cesareo.    



San Cataldo  

In this place (a few kms from Lecce, on the Adriatic coast), the coast is low and sandy, as the previous  sea. When the sea is calm and the wind comes from north or north - east, the water is very clear especially from June to October. In the open sea, where the sea is  20 / 40 meters deep, you can see the typical coral reef: this Coral reef habitat is made up above all of animals as the Ircinia variabilis or the black Cacospongia. There you can also see  the colored Petrosia ficiformis, well known as the favourite habitat by the   Discodoris atromaculata, whose name is closely connected to its typical white coloration and dark spots. Near the coast there is a thick grassland of Posidonia (oceanic Posidonia), on an inclusive sea among the - 10 and the - 25 meters, where you can find often several kinds of fishes as the different types of white breams (Diplodus sargus, D. annularis,  D. puntazzo, D. vulgaris). These seas, in fact, apparently monotonous and desert, above all where it is sandy, can give a lot of pleasant surprises to the scuba divers, since they can see numerous animals trying to live camouflaged with the sea, as the sole (Solea) or the most dangerous Trachinus araneus. Other animals as the golden anemone (Condylactis aurantiaca) have a cylindrical and column-shaped body, fixed in a ditch in the sediment; the only visible part are the retractable tentacles ( 7 - 8 centimeters long at the most and around 100). The green coloration - brownish or greyish of the tentacles is very different from  that of their points, curiously purplish. A typical inhabitant of the sandy and muddy seas is the beautiful gastropod, Phalium granulatum, that can reach Discodoris atromaculatathe length of about ten centimeters. Leaving this zone near S. Cataldo, and going to south, towards the natural reserve of the Cesine, there is a bathymetric ( 7 / 18 meters), a thick grassland of Posidonia, where you can find a lot of dens occupied by white breams, or another elegant fish, the corvine one (Sciaena umbra) making small flocks that often are near their dens, and it nourishes small fishes, molluscs, shellfishes, worms and even of the thorny sea-urchins, that usually hunt in the late afternoon and at night. An interesting characteristic of this type of fish is that the male samples can produce some sounds. Some lucky scuba divers can see also some big sample of brown grouper (Epinephelus guaza) that is still in these environments, hidden in the ravines at the borders of the expanses of sand.    



The coast and the seas of the most oriental town of the Italian coasts shows a  natural Epinephelus guaza environmentsof great charm, but above all several interesting sea creatures to see . Besides the numerous caves and inlets, natural sceneries that embellish the immersion, there are also different testimonies of ancient shipwrecks, that prove the importance in the past of this harbor, considered one of the doors to the distant East. North of the ancient suburb, one of the most beautiful of the whole Salento, known above all for the ancient Aragonese Castle and the  Cathedral, (famous for its beautiful mosaic, that might have inspired Dante’s “Divina Commedia”) there is an ample shoal called "Missipezza", a vast submerged mountain, whose top is 4 meters deep, while the base starts from a sea of around 35 meters. Among the walls of the rock, full of fissures, there are  samples of lobster (Palinurus elephas) and dens of big white breams (Diplodus sargus), and timid Sciaena umbra. An important  detail of all these zones is the presence of strong tides, that often make the immersion dangerous.  Going  to south, towards the Capo di Leuca, you can see  one of the most interesting and beautiful zones of all the seas of Otranto, that of Punta Facì. The descent begins in proximity of the external border of the promontory, that immediately introduces a wall that goes down  in depth up to 35 ms, where it leans on a detrital sea. Also here there are some  tides and this is Seriola dumeriliiconfirmed by the rich presence of animals and vegetables, as the Chromis chromis, that when the  sea is calm looks immovable. This zone is very well known for a cave called "lu lampiune", (in dialect  means: the lamp-post), for an opening of the vault that illuminates the entry, where there are lots of stalactites. Going more and more  southwards, there is the true watershed of the extreme heel of Italy, the Capo di Otranto, where the waters of the Adriatic and the Ionian blend. Here only the most experienced scuba divers can practise this sport because of the tides and the notable depth of  these seas (60 meters). A characteristic of the promontory is the  Lighthouse (abandoned) of Punta Palascia, that constitutes a good point of reference for orientation. The sea in this zone is often clear and of a crystalline transparency; here you can find thick benches of Oblada melanura, Boops boops  and crackers Chromis chromis. In these seas the coral reef, and in depth, in the fissures far from the light, it is possible to see some sprigs of red coral Coral reef  (Corallium rubrum). Along the walls there are lots  of dens inhabitated by permanent fish as the scorpion fish Scorpena often indistinguishable from the surrounding environment thanks to their strong mimicry,  white breams, and sometimes some groupers (Epinephelus guaza) near the mouth of its own “residence”. In some periods of the year, above all in the late spring and at the beginning of the autumn also near the coast you can see big tunas (Thunnus thynnus), Seriola dumerili, great raiders, perpetually in search of small fishes, as for instance the crackers or the small mullets (Mugil cephalus), obliged to escape towards the waterline.    


Porto  Badisco 

This  place (some kms south from Otranto), is primarily known for the famous CerviLeptosammia pruvoti Cave where there are some paintings of enormous historical and artistic value, testimony of the ancient populations that lived in these places. Surely this inlet was a landing for the ships during the Roman Empire, since its seas are rich in fragments of amphoras of that time. These seas are also very interesting from the naturalistic point of view: here you can find numerous types of sessile animals as the brown anemone (Aiptasia mutabilis), with its brownish tentacles, and many other examples as the Sabella spallanzanii.  Other kinds of animals can be easily photographed because their movement is rather slow, as the strong Marthasterias glacialis, the greatest existing in Mediterranean: it is very present along the peninsula, it has five arms punctuated by big protuberances, big thorns, characteristics of this kind. Here you can also see the Serranus cabrillafunny Parablennius rouxi, that has got  a wide longitudinal dark string, while the rest of its body is white. The sea in front of the inlet of Porto Badisco degrades with a beautiful slipped of rocks toward the breadth, 30 meters deep. There you can see big sea eels (Conger conger), and Phycis phycis that generally occupy these dens rather dark, in which the rock is almost entirely covered by sponges.  In the darkest and sheltered fissures there are some crabs (Dromia personata) and the red Galathea strigosa. North of  Otranto, you can see the tower of St. Emiliano , where there  is a small and homonym island,  around 200 meters, marked by the presence of a beautiful sea. Here it is also easy to find numerous animals living in  big fissures of the rock as the white breams (Diplodus sargus) and the Sciaena umbra. Going up again toward the surface, on a sea of 10 meters, there are the rests of a ship sunk Parablennius rouxiduring the Second World war and some crocks of Roman amphoras rests of a well more ancient shipwreck. South of Porto Badisco, you can see a tall cliff that vertically sinks in the sea reaching a depth, of almost 20-25 meters. Here the environment appears immediately very rich in life and colour : here there are different types of animals living far from the light, while Chromis chromis and Anthias anthias  swim in the blue sea. In depth, even if partially covered with sand, you can see some parts of a Roman ship, and various crocks of amphoras that it probably transported. None of these crocks can be touched or stolen. Returning towards the surface, at about ten meters, there is  the entry of a cave whose vault is  completely covered by sea roses (Peyssonnella squamaria), an alga fan-shaped .  



It is situated  half way between Otranto and Santa Maria di Leuca, and it is very known above all for its stately Cave Zinzulusa, one of the favourite destination of thousand of tourists. Before the  entry of the cave, some years ago the first "blue path" of the Pagurus prideauxSalento was built in order to contain in just one immersion all the natural environments along the coasts of the peninsula of the Salento as the grassland of Posidonia and the coral reef. The path  is delimited by numerous signals set on the bottom, and then you can see  a bathymetric varying between 25-26 meters and the surface. The animals you can see in this  sea, situated at the maximum depth of 25 meters, are the Mullus barbatus, with the their characteristic barbels, they use for rousing their preys hidden in the sand as small shellfishes and worms. Among the typical invertebrates of this zone one of the most characteristic is the Pagurus prideaux, that is  always with the Adamsia carciniopados that keeps its tentacles on the ventral part of the busy shell it uses as a shelter. On the sandy bottom you can see the posidonia (also oceanic Posidonia), an endemic plant of the Mediterranean, endowed with real roots, a stem (in the form of rhizome or rather a creeping Cerianthus mambranaceusunderground stem) and green long leaves seasonally changes. Next to the posidonia it is not rare to see numerous samples of Cerianthus membranaceus, an invertebrate belonging to the same phylum (one of the principal systematic categories in which the animal kingdom is divided) of the jellyfishes and of the corals. This animal lives inside a very long tube and its anterior part is constituted by a double line of tentacles that it uses for capturing the plankton and other small animals. Going towards the surface you meet a vertical wall made up of special organisms that constitute the so-called coral reef. Here a real explosion of animal and vegetable life with thousand of colors and shapes. There are several sponges (as. the Crambe crambe) that filter the water through numerous and invisible pores  (from which the name of the phylum, Porifera), a lot of animals looking like flowers, as the Cladocora caespitosa. Many nudibranchis (real snails of sea) are special predatories feeding only on sessile  animals as the Discodoris atromaculatasponges. The Discodoris atromaculata is for example a tireless devourer of the sponge Petrosia ficiformis that scrapes off with its minuscule teeth. At around 12 meters of depth, there are some rocks, where there are several types of sea urchin, some of them are supposed to have a different sex . In reality they are two different types: the “male” one belongs to the species  Arbacia lixula, while the " female one"  belongs to the d Paracentrotus lividus.  The sea stars  (Echinaster sepositus) belong to the same phylum, even if apparently very different, and unfortunately  they are often picked up as a souvenir. 



Santa Maria di Leuca

The Capo di Leuca, for its particular geographical position, is one of the favourite Octopus vulgarisitineraries of the scuba divers. The coast is constituted by caves and very suggestive inlets: it one of the most suggestive of the whole peninsula for its strong scenographic and naturalistic impact.  Starting form the harbour of Leuca, two different itineraries can be done. The first is westwards : after Punta  Ristola, you arrive at S. Gregorio, characterized t by a rocky coast not very tall and here you can see some of the most spectacular caves in the zone. The other one is eastwards: after Punta   Meliso that delimits the oriental extremity of the inlet of Leuca, you arrive at the small harbor of Novaglie, along a cliff characterized by tall rocky walls (also more than 100 meters). At first we will describe the sub immersions near the Epinephelus guazacoast, on both  slopes, and then those near the shoal that is just before  Leuca. The slope of West is characterized by a r low rocky coast, except  for the line from Punta Ristola to Tower "Marcheddhu", very rich in caves. Among these the most important are the Tre Porte Cave, the Giganti cave and the Devil Cave where numerous archaeological finds have been found, some dating back to the time of  the man of Neanderthal. In this sea it is easy to scuba dive and you can see a lot of different plants  as the alga called tail of peacock (Padina pavonica) for its characteristic shape that reminds the scuba diver of that of the volatile or the green ball (Codium bursa) that is sphere-shaped in the young samples but after some time Leptosammia pruvotiiit changes becoming flattened. There are lots of octopuses (Octopus vulgaris) and murenes (Muraena helena), their tireless predators; both live in narrow ravines they occupy during the day. In some periods of the year, when the sea is so calm to look immovable (here the fishermen use the word "biancata") it is possible to see big flocks of mullets (Mugil cephalus) eating  in surface. The same for the Sarpa sarpa that feeds on algas a few centimeters from the surface. In front of the Tre Porte Cave  you can see  a typical grotto sea, characterized by innumerable clefts in the rock, in which many  white breams can be found (often Diplodus sargus) and of elegant Sciaena umbra since they prefer living in dark and sheltered dens. You can also see the Epinephelus guaza and the  Anthias anthiasalexandrinus one, that lean out confident (always for a little) from their dens, ready to be immortalized by the flashes of the photographic instruments. Going towards S. Gregorio, you see the Drago Cave that offers an easy and sure immersion. You goes down  5 meters deep, in proximity of the mouth that opens on the rocky wall and through some  burrows you arrive to an ample room, characterized by a great calcareous column; when you leave the cave some flashes of light shine the entry. Returning towards Leuca, but far from the coast you can see some  oceanic Posidonia, above all in sandy sea. Some of these organisms hide some real fractures in the rock that constitute the ideal environment for many permanent fish, as the stately groupers (Epinephelus guaza), unfortunately decimated by scuba divers without any scruple. Going to Punta Ristola you can find especially in winter big basses (Dicentrarchus labrax) perpetually in search of small mullets (Mugil cephalus) and other small fish. In proximity of the point, not many years ago, some archaeological finds have been found in bronze and numerous crocks of amphora. Just in front of the Capo di Leuca there is the wreckage of the submersible "Pietro Egg of fish-gattuccio  Micca" of the Italian Navy, tragically sunk during the Second World War with all the crew on board and  it has been lying there for half a century. Crossing the whole inlet of Leuca and overcoming Punta Meliso, you can appreciate one of the most beautiful landscape of the whole Channel of Otranto. Due to the depth and the rather dangerous seas, it is better to scuba dive together with qualified and experienced guides or to the numerous centers of scuba diving. The wall of Punta Meliso, immediately under the lighthouse that camps on the promontory, is marked  by big rocks, where you can see big samples of white breams (Diplodus sargus), and the giltheads (Sparus aurata); besides this is the kingdom of the marauders of the sea as the big dentex (Dentex dentex) and the Seriola dumerilii that get close to Delphinus delphisthe coasts especially from the spring until the late autumn.  Among the animals fixed to the substratum, but equally spectacular above all for the beauty of the colors, it is easy to recognize the yellow polyps of the Leptosamnia pruvotii, whose species, (as the Parazoanthus axinellae), often grow together, as if it was an only colony.  Another point of sub immersion is Punta Terradico, where to a depth of -35 ms you go down along a rocky wall until the mouth of a small cave. Here a vast flock of small prawns, characteristic for their long white spar ,can be seen (Parapandalus narval = Pleisonika narval),. This shellfish lives inside the cave during the day, while at night it goes out to look for small preys. Going northwards there is the Cattedrale Cave,   immediately after some caves named "the Mannute", so called because the cave has got a stately opening. You go along the wall that sinks following the tall cliff Flabellina affinisand that reaches a first step at the depth of -18 ms. Here the  sea is sandy and you can start a wonderful  exploration of the environment, that is very rich in ravines full of  very sponges. Here you can also see a lot of  Anthias anthias that usually follow the scuba divers during the whole journey. At 12 ms of the wall,  particularly corroded, among  the colored walls it is easy to meet the Sciaena umbra. Another place where it is possible to scuba dive without any difficulty is near Punta delle Due Pietre, marked by two long submerged, parallel channels, that depart a few centimeters from the surface and they get further perpendicularly to the rocky wall. Along these Cerianthus mambranaceusgullies numerous types of sponges can be admired as the spectacular Axinella cannabina, recognizable  for their particular lengthened shape and for the intense colours (yellow or orange). This constitutes not only the ideal substratum  for some  Antozoi (this word  literally means animals similar to a flower) defined sea daisy (Parazoanthus axinellae) for its typical floral aspect. Another representative of the Antozois is the orange Astroides calycularis whose polyps give the idea of a garden that colors  intensely this sort of submerged canyon. Here there are numerous nudibranchis (so called for their snail-shaped body), as the brown Aplysia depilans or the smallest and colored Flabellina affinis, that feeds on Idrozoi on which it also deposes its eggs. At the base of the first gully, the sea is full of big rocks where there are small groupers that during Paramuriacea clavatatheir life (after 10-12 years)  reverse their sex from female to male. This is one of the reasons for which this species risks the extinction: the scuba divers hunt also the very small samples that therefore can never complete the sexual cycle, so there is  a decrease of the population. Going towards  Novaglie  it is possible to do an amusing immersion on a sea of -25 ms, where there are the rests of a Renaissance galleon: seven guns, a bombard and three big anchors are still there  abandoned on the sand. Going offshore, on a sea rich in sponges as the colored Petrosia ficiformis and the Paramuricea clavata, it is possible to meet, especially in certain "magic" periods of the year, a lot of fish as the big tunas (Thunnus thynnus) and the Seriola dumerilii. Among the other species there are the rare and funny fish moon (Mola mola), that transits often near the surface, rather offshore. Sometimes you can also see Charonia rubicondawonderful dolphins (Delphinus delphis)  accompanying the navigation of boats and rafts. Going more and more northwards to  Novaglie, you can see the long Gully of the Ciolo, surmounted by the homonym Bridge, and at its base there is  the Grotta Grande del Ciolo the longest sea cave of the Salento. At the end of this long cave, in the most complete obscurity, you see a small beach where the last sample of Monachus monachus was seen and photographed in 1979 (while resting ) by some scientists of the Speleological Group from Bologna,. Inside the cave there are numerous Cerianthus membranaceus of big dimensions. It is advisable to visit this place with an  experienced and qualified guide since this sea is  a bit dangerous. The most spectacular sub immersion is that on the shoal called "Banco della Scala", in which sceneries can hardly be appreciated in other parts of the Oriental Mediterranean. The shoal is around 1 km from the coast, almost in front of the inhabited area of Leuca; the top is -20 ms of depth, but its base is much deeper, around  -100 ms. For this reason (but also for the strong tides) the immersion is very dangerous, so it is better to scuba dive always together with an experienced guide. The most Paramuricea clavatainteresting part starts around -30 ms of depth, where you can see  a real garden full of many colored sea-fans,  red (Paramuricea clavata) and yellow (Eunicella cavolinii) growing luxuriant and very thick: for example there are different types of animal as the idroidis (Aglaophenia octodonta), the Anthias anthias, the morays (Murena helena), as well as many shellfishes as the lobsters (Palinurus elephas), Homarus gammarus and the crickets of sea (Scyllarides latus); there are also stately samples of brown groupers (Epinephelus guaza) standing near  the mouth of their dens.  The branches of the sea fans often become  the ideal substratum for a species of small sharks as the.:  they produce a horny hull that can assume very different shapes. In some periods you can also see the “ricciole” and the tunas (Thunnus thynnus) plunging themselves among the immense benches of blue fish, and contributing to make the  sub immersions  more fascinating.    



Shoals of Ugento 

This submarine relief can be seen before the small village of Torre Mozza, on the Cerianthus mambranaceusionic shore, a few kms  from the harbor of Ugento, and it is called Torre San Giovanni.  The area including  all the shoals is externally delimited by an floating shining boa; the most distant one is 6 kms far from the coast. The fishermen and the sailors know they represent a danger for the navigation: in fact according to the tradition it was the cause of the shipwreck of  the fleet of Pirrus, king of Epirus, that in the III century B.C. came to Italy to help the people of Taranto  against the Romans.  Nevertheless any proof about this shipwreck  has never been found. Here you can still see the rests  of the "Liesen", a long merchant  ship 100 ms long that during a sea storm first hindered and then sunk on a sea of 6-8 meters. It has been Echinaster seposituslying for more than 30 years a mile from the coast, in an zone interdicted to the navigation, because of the shoals. The motor of the ship is still visible and there you can see lots of Oblada melanura. Its gigantic helix constitutes still today a true show measuring over 3 meters as diameter. Inside  several sessile animals can be found  as the Fin nobilis and some Cerianths membranaceus with their open tentacles ready to capture the plankton and small animals; here you can also see the Echinaster sepositus searching for sponges and worms, their favourite food. Another wreckage is that of a ship transporting fuels, exploded during the Second World War, after an aerial attack and now near Torre San Giovanni: some rests can still be seen but they are almost entirely crusted by living organisms. As it often happens for the wreckages and the submerged artificial structures, after some time these become a real submarine oasis (in which the organisms take a shelter) and a substratum on Conger congerwhich they can grow and proliferate. One of the most interesting shoals is the one called  "Spigulizzi": This raises from a flat sea of around -50 ms, and it reaches  the depth of -23 ms, making a jagged and rich structure of dens and ravines where you can see lots of big sea eels (Conger conger), that can be more than two meters long and ten kilos weighty. Then you can also see some lobsters (Palinurus elephas), peeping out of their dens with their long spar. In this zone the coral reef is abundant, full of different types of animals. One of these is the Halocinthya papillosa, also called potato of sea, an ascidia small barrel-shaped, with two siphons (of the tubular expansions of the body), one oral for inhaling the water. These animals belong to the subphylum (a category of the classification of the animal kingdom) of the Urocordatis or Tunicati, that especially in the larval phase, have Halocinthia papillosamuch in common with the Vertebrates, another subphylum that includes all that animals endowed with skeletal vertebral column as fishes, amphibians, t, birds and mammals among which the man. Among the vegetable species there is the Halimeda tuna, 10/15 centimeters  tall and constituted by some circular parts, linked among them thus making ribbons similar to chains of green small coins; the aspect so flattened reminds that of a small prickly pear. Also here as in a lot of shoals of the seas of the Salento, it is easy to see different types of fish pelagic as the Seriola dumerilii and the Lichia amia. The latter can be one meter long  fifteen kilos weighty: it is a fierce raider that attacks small fish (both pelagic and coastal).  




This small town on the ionic slope is with Otranto one of the favourite destinations of a lot of tourists. The town can be divided into two parts : the new one and the Sabella spallanzaniiancient one that keeps the whole charm of the past intact. The most modern part lies on a promontory, while the oldest one is situated on an islet connected to the dry land by a long bridge, and it is marked by the presence of castles dating back to different times. Among the artistic monuments there is the Hellenic Fountain, the most ancient in Italy. Opposite the town there is the island of S. Andrea, where you can see the white lighthouse illuminating  the promontory. The most characteristic sea is the vast area occupied by the grassland of Posidonia (oceanic Posidonia), one of the most  luxuriant of the whole Salento. The plants constituting the grassland are well developed , with stems one meter long: this means that the destructive impact of some types of industrial fishing (the main cause of destruction of these environments) is very limited. At first sight this grassland of Posidonia doesn't appear very attractive and interesting: it looks monotonous and without any charm, but if you observe it more carefully you can discover one of the richest microcosms  of the whole Haliotis lamellosaMediterranean. The multiplicity of animals and vegetables that here can find an ideal substratum where to grow and  proliferate, creates an exceptional biodiversity that needs to be safeguarded and protected. The most part of the organisms living in this environment is not very big (even if there are some exceptions). One of he ideal subjects is the beautiful Sabella spallanzanii, the biggest tube-shaped worm of the Mediterranean, that lives inside a long  flexible tube that can be 30 centimeters long and it is constituted by a substance secreted by the animal itself. Its anterior part, visible often outside the tube, is made up of a crown of thin tentacles, looking like long feathery filaments, sometimes also very colored, and used for capturing plankton and small animals. A typical inhabitant of all the grasslands is the Fin nobilis, the greatest bivalve mollusc of the Mediterranean (it can Gnatophillum elegansbe 900 centimeters tall), it  has got a great shell of triangular shape, with equal valves. Its destiny is tightly linked to that of the  environment in which it lives, so it risks the extinction. For this reason it is absolutely forbidden to pick up  or to damage this mollusc. Among the inhabitants of the grassland, those less fluorescent are certainly those living on the leaves of the plant, as the Idroidis of the species Aglaophenia harpago (that looks like  a small feather ) or the Briozoo of the species Electra posidonia (that draws small cells on the surface of the leaves Posidonia). At the base of the plants sometime there is a beautiful sponge, the Oscarella lobularis of fleshy consistence and almost velvety to the touch. Near there is another mollusc Gastropod, very funny called Haliotis lamellosa, with an unmistakable shell, similar to the auricle of the ear. Other molluscs living in contact with the leaves are some small snails belonging to the Rissoa and Bittium species: they browse the small algas  growing on the leaves of the plant of Posidonia. What is Parazoanthus axinellaemore you can see  the molluscs Cefalopodi as the octopus (Octopus vulgaris) that  hides itself  among the leaves. There are also several cuttlefishes (Sepia officinalis) and different kinds of Shellfishes for example some small shrimps as the Gnatophillum elegans: it lives in the  dens near the Posidonies during the day, while at night it goes out to hunt  small worms, molluscs and organic residues. Among the vertebrates that populate these habitats there is the Syngnathus typhle with its lengthened body ( 35 centimeters ), progressively more narrow near the tail, so it is difficult to distinguish it from the leaves. The most known animal of the grassland is without any doubt the small sea  horse (Hippocampus guttulatus) that thanks to its  prehensile tail ties itself to the leaves and algas. The incubation of the Scillaride latuseggs takes place only in the male samples. Here you can also see some beautiful samples of scorpion fish (Scorpaena porcus), trying to camouflage with the surrounding habitat and the Diplodus annularis, that can be seen just  in this environment. The scuba diver is fascinated by the colour of thrushes (with their stupendous colors varying from the intense green to the electric blue) belonging to the Labridis (Symphodus tinca, S. roissali, Labrus viridis and others). At Gallipoli there are zones rich in coralligeno, where the marvelous colonies of Parazoanthus axinellae can be observed:  they expose their yellow polyps to the strong submarine tides that transport the food they need. Here you can also see  the sea cricket (Scillarides latus) that risks the extinction.  



The neretina coast (commune of Nardò) 

The coast that includes the famous place Porto Selvaggio extends from the village of CaveInserraglio Tower to S. Caterina. This line of coast is also denominated “neretina", since it is administrated by the Commune of Nardò. This is one of the richest and interesting itineraries of the whole ionic slope, both from the naturalistic point of view and speleological one, as well as archaeological, for the presence of numerous submerged wreckages, as that of an ancient Roman ship, dating back to the II century B.C. situated in the waters of S. Caterina. Here you can visit some submerged caves: some of them  are very well known and it is possible to see them only with the help of an experienced guide. The first active Speleological Neretino Group was founded here: so far it has cataloged and monitored a lot of caves, submerged and not, of the whole Salento. The small museum ( Nardò ) of this group keeps many archaeological finds. You can scuba dive in front of a place called Torre in Seraglio: this is a rocky environment and here you can see lots of white breams of different Filograna implexakinds as the Diplodus sargus, the Diplodus vulgaris and Diplodus puntazzo, the Oblada melanura that together with the omnipresent Chromis chromis crow  this zone. In the darkest ravines you can meet some samples of Halocinthya papillosa that, being far from the light,  assume a clearer tonality, different from the classical intense red color. The wall near the coast  is rich in ravines, some also big enough to allow the access of human people and admire the stupendous flashes of light . Often on the wall you can see several types  of Antozoi Hacelia attenuataand sponges that  illuminated by a powerful lamp,  light the cave of different colors. Some years ago, in 1994, the Italian Championships of Photo-sub took place here, since this place offers  a great variety of colours and the opportunity to photograph a lot of animals and plants. Between 9/12 meters of depth  there is a grat colony of the  Mediterranean Cladocora caespitosa, a classical representative of the Antozoi that embellishes a rich sea of sponges. In the most sheltered ravines and poorly illuminated there are some particular gregarious that form some twisted heaps made up of by cylindrical calcareous tubules, very thin and fragile, white and called Filograna implexa; this colony can also reach 30 centimeters of diameter. At 18 meters of depth you meet a sandy sea covered with sponges and other animals as the beautiful Hacelia that has got long, cone-shaped and pointed arms. On the sandy sea it is also possible to meet the funny Peltaster placenta, easily recognizable for its  pentagonal shape. Here you can also see the Paramuricea clavata, that creates  a small  "forest" and it is loved by the underwater photographers. Going more and more  southwards, near Uluzzo Tower there is the Paramuricea clavatabeautiful cave of the Corvine that is called after the elegant fish that often can seen in this submarine cave . The sub immersion is  rather exacting, because inside there is the  so-called "bead of air" causing a notable exchange of water that can provoke some dangerous undertows. For this reason it is better to visit the cave when the sea is calm and with the help of an experienced guide. Inside the cave there are thousands of small yellow stars  belonging to the Leptosamnia pruvoti species. In the ravine there are some small prawns, as the Stenopus spinosus: it is red-orange or yellow coloured and it  feeds on worms, small shellfishes, molluscs and parasites of the fishes. In fact it is a skilled cleaner and the fishes allow it to draw near without any fear.   



Porto Cesareo 

The whole coast from Lapillo Tower to Squillace Tower (also including the towers Hermodice carunculataChianca and Cesarea) belong to the commune of Porto Cesareo. The local seas are surely among the most diversified of the Mediterranean on the ecological point of view, so much that 12 different biocenosi have been established . One of these is (called of the Strea)  considered a subtropical type, and for this reason the area could become a national sea park. You can also visit a  museum at the Station of Sea Biology managed by a consortium ( Department of Biology of the University  of Lecce, Province of Lecce and Commune of Porto Cesareo). At 10-15 meters you can see a lot of white breams (Diplodus sargus), Oblada Muraena helena melanura, some Cerianthus membranaceus fixed to the substratum and  stretching their long tentacles looking for food. A dangerous animal is the  Hermodice carunculata,  a sea worm with a segmented and flattened body, rich in bristles well developed. Its defensive reaction is particular and allows to identify it without any problem; in fact, if it is molested it immediately lifts up the dorsal bristles that make it assume a flocky aspect. These bristles are similar to needles of glass and can provoke ghastly burning and swelling.  Another very dangerous sea worm and particularly appreciated by the underwater photographers  is the Sabella spallanzanii, with the characteristic crown of tentacles Myriapora truncataspiral-shaped. Going towards  the coast the sea r suddenly changes, at first rochy and then sandy, full of of Posidonia (oceanic Posidonia); naturally the fauna is rather varying: here you can see the Echinaster sepositus, the Arbacia lixula and the Paracentrotus lividus, always present in the underwater landscape of the Salento. In front of the inhabited area of Lapillo Tower, ( 1 km from the tower) you can see a shoal whose top is at 4 meters of depth, while its base is at 20 meters. The sea is very peculiar, full of coralligeno  and rich in small caves, ravines and beds of Maasella edwardsi, a colonial Antozoo. Near this area there is the dangerous Muraena helena, with its typical shape, easily to recognize for its  brown-blackish coloration and yellow. The aspect always appears rather threatening, with its Condylactis aurantiacahalf-open mouth that shows its long thin and sharp teeth. In reality it is not an aggressive attitude, it serves only to breathe. Nevertheless, keeping in mind that is particularly myopic, it is not advisable to draw near too much to it. Among the numerous dens of the zone, there are also those inhabited  by the Phycis phycis recognizable for its long dorsal fins. In the ravines and in the small caves you can  often see the Myriapora truncata, that creates some very characteristic arborescent colonies, with some short and stumpy branches, and it is so called because for its shape and  color it is taken for  the Corallium rubrum. In the inlet of the Strea, 2,5 ms deep, one of the most typical  inhabitant is the sponge Geodia  ( being brain-shaped), that can reach also notable dimensions and contain Coral reefinside a lot of smaller  animals as some kinds of worms. Here it is not rare to meet the mullets (Mullus barbatus), searching for small invertebrates to eat. Besides you can also see the beautiful golden anemone (Condylactis aurantiaca), with its retractable tentacles and its characteristic purplish points and the curious shellfish commonly called Bernard the hermit (Dardanus arrossor), that because of its long and soft abdomen must continually hide itself inside a shell. This animal is particuliar because it puts in its  shell  some anemones of the species Calliactis parasitica. In the inlet there are many crocks and fragments of every type that make  think that in the past, especially during the Roman Empire, this area was widely inhabited.  Near  Chianca Tower there are some  marmoreal rests of some columns dating back to the II century B.C. and they are on a sea 6-7 meters.