The peninsula is also known as Terra d'Otranto, and in ancient times was called variously Messapia, Calabria, and Sallentina.
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Messapia (from Greek Μεσσαπία) was the ancient name of a region of Italy largely corresponding to modern Salento. It was inhabited chiefly by the Messapii in classical times. Pokorny derives the toponym from PIE *medhyo-, "middle" and PIE *ap-, "water" (Mess-apia, "amid waters"; Note: the asterisk before a word indicates that it is a hypothetical construction, not an attested form). Pokorny compares the toponym Messapia to another ancient Italic toponym, Salapia, "salt water", a city in Apulia.
Salento peninsula is composed of limestone, dividing the Adriatic Sea from the Ionian Sea. Known also as "peninsula salentina", from a geo-morphologic point of view it encompasses the land borders between Ionian and the Adriatic Seas, to the “Messapic threshold”, a depression that runs along the Taranto-Ostuni line and separates it from the Murge.
Its borders are:
- Taranto, in the Province of Taranto
- Pilone, in the territory of Ostuni, in the Province of Brindisi
- Santa Maria di Leuca, in the Province of Lecce.
Cities and towns in Salento
Acquarica del Capo, Alessano, Alezio, Alliste, Andrano, Aradeo, Arnesano, Bagnolo del Salento, Botrugno, Calimera, Campi Salentina, Cannole, Caprarica di Lecce, Carmiano, Carpignano Salentino, Casarano, Castri di Lecce, Castrignano de' Greci, Castrignano del Capo, Castro, Cavallino, Collepasso, Copertino, Corigliano d'Otranto, Corsano, Cursi, Cutrofiano, Diso, Gagliano del Capo, Galatina, Galatone, Gallipoli, Giuggianello, Giurdignano, Guagnano, Lecce, Lequile, Leverano, Lizzanello, Maglie, Martano, Martignano, Matino, Melendugno, Melissano, Melpignano, Miggiano, Minervino di Lecce, Monteroni di Lecce, Montesano Salentino, Morciano di Leuca, Muro Leccese, Nardò, Neviano, Nociglia, Novoli, Ortelle, Otranto, Palmariggi, Parabita, Patù, Poggiardo, Porto Cesareo, Presicce, Racale, Ruffano, Salice Salentino, Salve, San Cassiano, San Cesario di Lecce, San Donato di Lecce, San Pietro in Lama, Sanarica, Sannicola, Santa Cesarea Terme, Scorrano, Seclì, Sogliano Cavour, Soleto, Specchia, Spongano, Squinzano, Sternatia, Supersano, Surano, Surbo, Taurisano, Taviano, Tiggiano, Trepuzzi, Tricase, Tuglie, Ugento, Uggiano la Chiesa, Veglie, Vernole, Zollino.
Brindisi, Carovigno, Cellino San Marco, Ceglie Messapica, Erchie, Francavilla Fontana, Latiano, Mesagne, Oria, Ostuni, San Donaci, San Michele Salentino, San Pancrazio Salentino, San Pietro Vernotico, San Vito dei Normanni, Torchiarolo, Torre Santa Susanna, Villa Castelli.
Avetrana, Carosino, Faggiano, Fragagnano, Grottaglie, Leporano, Lizzano, Manduria, Maruggio, Monteiasi, Montemesola, Monteparano, Pulsano, Roccaforzata, San Giorgio Ionico, San Marzano di San Giuseppe, Sava, Taranto, Torricella.
Salento, from a cultural and linguistic point of view, does not include the city of Taranto, where the Tarantino dialect is spoken, nor the part of the province of Taranto to the west of the city (where Pugliese is the dialect generally spoken), nor the rest of the province of Brindisi to north of Ostuni (where the accent is influenced by the dialect of Bari). To the south and east of these areas, the Griko and Salentino dialects are spoken.
A 2-lane freeway connects Salento to Bari. The main railway line ends at Lecce. Other locations are served by regional railroads.
The coastal towers in Salento are coastal watchtowers, as the peninsula's coast was long subject to maritime attacks. The first towers may have been Norman. The remaining historic towers are mostly from the 15th and 16th centuries. Many are now in ruins.
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