Explore The Puglia Region From Lecce Around The Heel of the Boot
Leaving Pescara, we drove in and out of rain down to explore the Puglia Region From Lecce.
Our lunch stop in Mare di Bari provided us with a chance to stretch our legs and try some local specialties with the town people out for a Saturday stroll by the beach.
Arriving in Lecce, we got ourselves settled into the 8 Piu Hotel, on the outskirts of the older city. The advantage of being out of the old city was a more modern hotel that offered a mini suite for reasonable prices. Our room was large enough to let us spread out again and the hotel offered lots of lounge space if the weather got bad and we got stuck in for a rain day. The downside of a hotel that seems to cater to bus groups was a general lack of customer service. The wifi service was hit and miss throughout our trip. For 2 days we had air conditioning problems and they seemed to accept that it would not be fixed. While this hotel had the softest sheets I have ever slept on (to be fixed by a shopping trip when I returned home!), we would not stay here if we returned to Lecce.
The Baroque Lecce
With rain forecast on and off for the week we were in Lecce, we couldn’t afford to stay inside if it was only drizzling. The hotel staff looked at us oddly as we headed out to walk in the drizzle into the old town. At less than 30 minutes, this would not deter us from walking although when we turned around for home 4 hours later, at times it appeared daunting. Throughout our visit, the Obelisk of Lecce would be our navigation aid – leading us into the old town and giving us a reference point to find our hotel.
Entering via the Porta Napoli gate on the Sunday morning, we were amused to find a novel old bike club meeting under the arch. Included in the group was the Italian version on an ice cream truck – a gelato bike!
We were not the only people wandering through the old town of Lecce on this grey day. We saw other tourists from our hotel, lots of Italian families and several larger tour groups. We even saw one bike tour in the town centre. Eavesdropping on one English tour we picked up a little more insight into what we were looking at but we soon left to wander on our own.
Lecce is known as the Baroque City. Everywhere we peeked, we could see the intricate designs on buildings everywhere.
We wandered around Lecce from church to church, seeing much more of the Baroque style Lecce is known for. While the Basilica di Santa Croce was under renovation on the outside, you could still see some of the amazing detail on the outside face. The inside proved surprising and worth the trip around the beggars and the scaffolding.
Targeting a stop at the main piazza, we wanted to make sure we found the statue of Sant Oronzo high on the column since this was our meeting place for our full day cooking class the next day. The main square had an interesting interactive art thing going on with coloured blocks and balloons that caught the camera’s eye.
We were interested to find two different ancient Roman amphitheater ruins in the old town.
But then we found even more churches after leaving the city centre. Most we passed by (being a bit churched out) but for a few we were drawn in to see more of the amazing Baroque design. Chiesa di Santa Chiara was less ornate on the outside but I was drawn to the fading fresco still visible on the outside. The inside made up for the less ornamented outside.
When we took our cooking class, we asked Sylvestro about the high number of churches in every town we went. He clarified that it did mean that a high percentage of the population were practicing Catholics attending one or more of the churches. Churches were often built and then abandoned as the population moved to the newest church. The old churches are often kept up not through donations but generally through corporate sponsorship. That maybe helped to explain how many beautiful but empty (and clearly unused) churches we toured.
The main duomo was closed when we got that far but we were able to walk around the large courtyard. We noted the times in case we could make it back another day.
Finally making it back to the Porta Napoli gate, we set out to walk back to the hotel but got detoured. We could see the old cemetery from the window of our hotel. We wandered up to the gate and were trying to assess if the paths through the cemetery would get us close to where we were going. After the third police car pulled up at the cemetery gate, we were not certain this was the place we really wanted to be. We passed by the archeological museum but were uncertain if its state of disrepair meant it was closed.
Our rain day really had not really materialized. We had seen far more of Lecce this first day than we had planned.
Day Trips From Lecce
As we dragged ourselves back to the hotel we began to plan our day trips to see more of the Puglia region:
- An awesome full day cooking course
- A trip to the southern most point of the heel of Italy where the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionian Sea
- Wandering through Ostuni – the White City
- Discovering trulli houses meandering the back country roads
- Enjoying both sides of Otranto – the beach and the church of skulls
- Finding the most east point in Italy and a swimming hole
The Sights of Puglia
We travelled around the whole of the Puglia region for a week although I am sure we did not see everything. As we drove the region, we noted the interesting country we were driving through:
- There were olive trees everywhere – old knurled ones and new regimental growths. We were told that the vast majority of the olive oil comes from this region.
- While there were huge patches of fertile, deep red soil, most of the countryside looked like arid desert complete with cactus.
- The fields were strewn with rocks and bounders. Where fields were cleared, we saw stone walls that completely surrounded individual properties – big and small.
- There was an abundance of alternate energy being harvested in the region – whether it was huge windmill farms or acres of sun
Next stop – Matera!
Did you explore the Puglia Region from Lecce? Did we miss a day trip from Lecce?