Friday June 10
Lecce is in southern Puglia and is known as the Florence of the south, mainly because of its many old churches, palaces and monuments that have the elaborate Baroque style of architecture.
Only an hour from Ostuni by train, Lecce was my destination for today. Once there I took a local bus to the centro storico and started exploring, camera in my hand.
The centro storico is fairly large; in my opinion, it is the size of Florence. The streets are made of stone and everything is very clean. One of the major differences between Lecce and Florence is the lack of crowds. Puglia has only recently been discovered as a tourist destination, so anywhere you go, there are less people.
I had a map as a guide so I would know what I was seeing, as there were numerous buildings that were incredible pieces of art and architecture.
There is actually a first century BC Roman amphitheatre at Piazza Sant’ Oronzo, and a 17th century 95 foot tall column with a statue of this patron saint of Lecce on the top.
Piazza Duomo is the site of the beautiful cathedral of Lecce with its bell tower that is over 160 feet tall.
The Cathedral was built in the 17th century but previously there had been other ancient churches on the site.
The interior is an awesome sight, and there are 12 altars in addition to the main altar, with each of these a work of art on their own.
Other buildings including a seminary complete this piazza, where an art lover could spend an entire day.
I wandered around, continuing to be amazed at the buildings and definitely can understand why the Lecce people are proud of their city. I tried one of their prodotti tipici, some typical food products from the town. This was a type of bread, orange in color, because it was made with pomodori (tomatoes), and it also had some onions and many olives inside.
The shopowner warned me about biting into it because of the olive pits. I presume that to give the bread such an intense flavor it is necessary to use the whole olives. Since this was more bread than I could eat, when I encountered someone asking for money, as is typical in almost every place I have visited, I asked him if he was hungry and gave him the rest of the bread. He looked surprised but took it and started eating it.
It is warm here in the south of Italy, and most of the regional trains are not air-conditioned. I came back to Ostuni in the afternoon and caught the bus back to my hotel, where I caught up on writing and made arrangements to get to the airport tomorrow, as I will be flying to Milan, and then going to Lake Como.
I have two and half weeks left in Italy and I have thoroughly enjoyed the ride. I realize that I have had an opportunity like no other and am savoring every experience.