Like Salignano and Giuliano di Lecce, Santa Maria di Leuca is a suburb of Castrignano del Cap, a small townbelonging to the municipality of Castrignano del Capo, in the province of Lecce. It is located in the southernest part of the Salentine Peninsula, as are Taranto in its province and Pilone in the Ostuni area (province of Brindisi).
Santa Maria di Leuca is a renowned tourist town. In the past, it belonged to two municipalities at the same time. The area where the Sanctuary of Santa Maria de Finibus Terrae was divided between the municipality of Gagliano del Capo, while the area between Ristola and Punta Mèliso belonged to the municipality of Castrignano del Capo. Today, after an 83-year legal dispute, a court ruling has decreed that the whole area of Santa Maria di Leuca belongs to the municipality of Castrignano del Capo.
Santa Maria di Leuca includes the promontory where the Sanctuary and the lighthouse are located. Situated 102 metres above the sea level and 48 metres high, the lighthouse is one of the most important in Italy. Santa Maria di Leuca should not be mistaken for Marina di Leuca, which is located further to the South, between Punta Mèliso to the east and Punta Ristola, the southernest part of the Salentine Peninsula, to the west.
Although Punta Ristola is the lowest point of the “heel” of the Italian Peninsula, it is Punta Mèliso, maybe due to its important lighthouse, that conventionally is, together with Punta Alice in Calabria, the last area of the Gulf of Taranto.