Celebrations for New Year’s Eve take place everywhere in Salento with parties and concerts but we recommend this event for its particular location. It takes place in Otranto, about 45 km southeast of Lecce, which was built in the furthest east spot of Italy. Here you can witness the first sunrise of the New Year before anyone in Italy.
The location of Otranto has played a central role in its history. Being the furthest east town of Italy, from ancient times it has been a crossroads of cultures: people from the Mediterranean area reached Otranto by ships bringing with them a bit of their culture. For its role of cultural catalyst, the town has been declared by UNESCO “Heritage witness to a culture of peace”.
The New Year’s Eve event takes its name from this historical background: the name l’Alba dei popoli, “The Dawn of People”, refers to all the people who arrived and interacted to each other in Otranto. While waiting for the New Year, from the beginning of December many events are organized in Otranto: they are about art, culture, natural environment, music and much more.
On December 29 a big stage is set next to the town’s majestic walls and concerts take place on evenings, culminating in a main concert on December 31. From 1999, when the first concert was organized on December 31, many famous artists have participated to the show: Goran Bregovic, Franco Battiato, Eugenio Bennato, Edoardo Bennato, Vinicio Capossela, Nicola Piovani, Lou Reed, Pino Daniele, Mario Biondi, Roy Paci. Famous movie directors such as Ferzan Ozpetek, Emir Kusturica, Manuel Pradal also took part to the event.
At midnight fireworks will welcome the New Year and when the sun is about to rise everybody moves to Punta Palascia, the furthest east spot of Otranto. In Punta Palascia there is a lighthouse that has been recently renovated. For its historical importance the lighthouse is one of five Mediterranean lighthouses protected by the European Commission. The view that will lie in front of your eyes will leave you speechless: the lighthouse stands on a cliff high above the sea and when the sun rises you will see the outline of Albanian mountains, standing on the other side of the Adriatic Sea.