Our next stop after Bari, was Lecce. Which is another City of Puglia. If you know Italia as the Boot (named after the shape of the Map), Lecce is on the heel! It was 2 hours of short ride. We had a beautiful sunny day. The view from the window was wonderful. Mountains, valleys, olive trees and ocean in the far distance. We arrived at about 12.30pm in the afternoon. Even though our check in time was at 2pm, our host allowed us to check-in at 1pm. It was a Saturday afternoon. Therefore a decent weekend crowd was expected. But, during our 15 minutes walk from the train station to our apartment felt pretty calm. Lecce is one of the poor region of Italy. And we have not seen many modern buildings.
Our apartment, was on the top floor. Presumably, we were living on the roof. As a result, we had a very small bedroom with toilet, shower and kitchen all attached. That’s the bad part : humidity and insectes. The good part was, the terrace. It was as big as our room. If not, even bigger. With a wide open sky, view of the street in front of us and top parts of monuments far ahead. Therefore, tiny size of the apartment was forgivable. We went for a quick groceries for our 2 lunches, 2 dinners and breakfast. Eating lunch under open sky, was very enjoyable.
In the evening, we did nothing. Sometimes nice not to rush. We just walked around the rooftop to look around the town as far as we could though. I don’t know if that counts as “Going Out of the House” .
WHAT KIND OF CITY IS LECCE?
Even though Bari is the capital of Puglia, Lecce is another very important province of the region. In fact to us, this province felt more vibrant, bigger. There were a lot of Historical monuments. I personally read somewhere that, Lecce is the Florence of the south. Lecce is over 2000 years old. With full of baroque style churches, architectures, castles and monuments everywhere. The city has a unique color. Just like Bologna which is a red city for having red colored walls and architectures everywhere, Lecce is a Limestone colored city. From the floor to the roof , there were creamy, lemony, yellowish colors was present.
In the late morning, we started our exploration of Lecce. First stop was Porta Rudiae. It’s essentially a big and beautiful entry to the old historical Part of Lecce. It’s a baroque style beautiful gate for the entry to the ancient archeological and almost destroyed city of Rudiae, which is located within the municipal of Lecce. According to the story written on site, many parts of this area and including this, was destroyed in 17th century. It was then rebuilt. From here, we went to the best locations of Lecce within the site of Rudiae.
Church of San Giovanni Battista
Not far from the gate, this original structure was built in 1388. And the church was built on the old site in late 16th century. We didn’t go inside because there were prayers going on at the time. We certainly had no intention to ruin the peaceful praying session.
Piazza Del Duomo
As we were enjoying the design buildings, walls, streets and artworks of the area, we ended up inside a massive square. It’s called Piazza Del Duomo.
There we finally found the Bell tower. Which was visible from our apartment. A really tall tower : 70 meters tall! The bell tower was sharing it’s space with Lecce cathedral.
The baroque cathedral with large staircases was built in 1144. We don’t know what the interior look like because a ticket is required for access. As a matter of fact, tickets were necessary to access to all the churches and cathedral of the sites for around 18 euros if I remember. Just like we did in Ravenna. But, we were satisfied with the beautiful exterior designs. The Cathedral stands in between Bell tower and the Seminary as well. The seminary is another very important historical building of Lecce. Built in late 16th early 17th century.
Not far from the entry to the Piazza, there was another Basilica. Name was Basilica di Santa Croce which was built in 14th century. This area seems to have a lot of churches in almost every 20 to 50 meters. Quite impressive.
From there we stopped at a 2nd century ruin of a Roman amphitheatre. Which is essentially a miniature version of Colosseum.
We walked through a miniature Castle called The Castle of Charles V. Or Castello di Lecce. The design of the castle was more like a fortress. It was built in the middle ages. Some part of the castle was open for public. And other parts were tickets only.
There was another baroque church that came on our way, the Church of Santa Chiara. Unfortunately, it was tickets only. So, we could not get inside neither.
There was another Roman Theatre we passed by. It was discovered in 1929. As much as we wanted to spend our time there, we could not. We could in fact barely breathe. Due to overwhelming odour of urine.
After that, we took our time to get back to our apartment. Other than the old important buildings, we also loved the old decorated houses and graffitis within the city.
Lecce may not be Rome or Cinqueterre or Venice. But the city is certainly worth paying a visit. It’s beautiful, calm, not too many annoying tourists, full of Historical sites, very picturistic and has a good source of Italian food and wine. It could be a good stop to visit the rest of the Puglia for its central position.
Our next stop: Pompeii.