Home » Discovering the Natural Pool and Grotto of Marina Serra in Salento

One could easily spend an entire summer on a quest for all of the hidden grottos that dot the spectacular coast of Italy’s Salento region in southern Puglia. Alas, most of us don’t have the luxury of dedicating an entire summer to travel, but hopefully, if you’re reading this, you’ll have at least a week at your disposal. We’re going to the famed natural pool in Marina Serra.

Getting There

Marina Serra does come up on Google Maps but to be more specific, be sure to set the GPS for the “Spiaggia e piscina naturale di Marina Serra“. We set out a little bit too late for this adventure as by the time we got there, the very tiny parking lot was already completely full. We managed to “create” our own spot alongside the other cars (“When in Rome…” as the saying goes), and we quickly swapped out our “driving shoes” (yes, you can definitely get a ticket in Italy for wearing flip-flops while driving) for our beach shoes and trekked the very short distance with nothing but a small bag containing a towel, a waterproof cam, and sunscreen.

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The Sea Grotto

The sun was already beating down by 10:30 am and I was wishing I had my ballcap. The first stop that we made was an unmarked sea grotto that an unsuspecting eye would most certainly walk right past without even noticing it unless you knew what you were looking for. Although there is no sign, the grotto is indicated on Google Maps as “Grotta Marina Naturale“. Although, like many places in Italy, it also goes by other names such as Grotta Matrona, Grotta dei Monaci, or even the Grotta di Tricase.

Experienced and fit adventurers would probably have no trouble ambling and maneuvering their way down into this natural, submerged cave. Many locals were barefoot! My tip for those of us that were not born with superpowers: you’ll want to be completely hands-free equipped with sturdy water shoes and a waterproof cam that can preferably be put on a lanyard or clip-on.

Worth the Effort

When I reached the point where I could actually see what all the fuss was about, I immediately realized that the effort was well worth it. The water was cool but not icy and it was as if the whole sea bottom was illuminated with an azure blue LED light. It was literally glowing!

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photo credit: Elisabetta Moriero

Sunlight poured in through a circular-shaped opening much like the oculus in Rome’s Pantheon that the sea and wind have probably been shaping for millions of years. There was no one else swimming in this magical place except for our party and I was glad. It is the kind of place that you want to enjoy in almost total privacy. For the brave and proficient swimmers, the grotto does have a small opening that leads to the open sea but requires swimming underwater through jagged rocks. The other option is climbing out and resurfacing the way that you came in.

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Photo credit: Elisabetta Moriero

The “Natural Pools”

Continuing along the road from the grotto, you’ll come to one of two “natural pools” or piscine naturali as they’re called in Italian. It just means that a sort of swimming pool has been formed over the years due to the natural erosion process. It is still seawater. Well, to be honest, the first “pool” you come to is actually partially man-made. This spot is popular because there is a large, concrete area that is perfect for laying out your towels and gear and it is also fairly easy to enter the water. We spent a considerable amount of time in the water here (very shallow and great for kids) without even realizing that we hadn’t even actually made it to the real attraction! I was completely impressed with this one!

We didn’t make the discovery until it was almost time to leave. Just a few steps away was the real allure of Marina Serra, the actual piscina naturale in all its grandeur. A bar kiosk was blaring Italian summer hits and serving up Campari and soda while hundreds of people soaked up the Salento sun in one of the most spectacular locations in the region. The shallow water was a turquoise blue and there was a convenient ramp with a railing which makes the pool very simple to access for just about everyone.

When I go back (notice I said when and not if), I would probably begin at the piscina naturale in the early morning and check out the grotto around 9:30 am. Then I would head back to the piscina for an aperitivo and finish off with a light lunch such as a frise con pomodoro in true Salento style.

Tips Before You Go

Travel lightly! If you must go in peak season (July and August) it will be very hard to find a spot to set up your umbrella, towels, lunch thermos, and toys if traveling with kids. It is best to set out in the early morning (8ish) before the crowds arrive around 10 am and enjoy the gentler sun rays as well as more space. If you don’t mind the scorching sun, then locals tend to leave around 1pm and typically stay out of the water until around 3pm freeing up more space for you!

It is worth investing in a waterproof camera or cell phone or buying a trustworthy waterproof case for it because you will want to be snapping pictures at every chance you get. Do bring good quality beach shoes suitable for scaling slippery, jagged rocks because flip-flops are not going to cut it unless you happen to grow up visiting beaches like this and are as skilled as the locals.

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