Hi all for the final time (this trip),
Leaving Procida (our island Italian home) for Lecce (ancient Roman town from BC times, first established around the time of Troy!) in the Puglia region of Salento which is the peninsula that is better known as the "heel of the boot". We were under the impression this area was also very rural and low keyed...and the region definitely is, BUT Lecce was a wonderful deviation and surprise! It is a little piece of ancient paradise, being an amazingly preserved ancient town (most buildings from the 1600's) of about
1 kilometre square which is still totally in use as a normal walled town, a little like Venice without the water but far more affordable, situated within a newer town where the buildings are from1800's till today.
Within these few square kilometres is 1 castle, 18 churches from the corner store type (still very ornate) to Basilicas, 2 amphitheatres (yes, the lion vs gladiator type, one still in use today for concerts) plus dozens of small palaces and villas, many of which have now been converted to small hotels & b & b's such as ours. Then there are restaurants, cafes, gelato bars, wine bars, artisan shops, all local wares but the main ones being Papier Mache sculptures (see dancing lady photo..amazing detail!) plus pottery/ceramic ware, Italian designed clothes, shoes & leather bag shops surrounding many walking plazas all connected by cobblestoned streets from two car widths (only in Italian's minds) to single pedestrian alleys. It is simply stunning!!! I have always said Prague was my favourite European city but now Lecce is my favourite European town!!
One other wonderful factor is that it is flat except for the steps up to our 3rd floor room in our very own converted palace. Our room would be 6 mtrs x 7 mtrs & has a 5 metre vaulted ceiling. It also has a roof top terrace where we can chill out with a 3 euro bottle of wine (and still delicious!) & watch the sun set over the ancient roofs & spires! See "feet" photo, yes I know it was still light but as sunset is about 9 pm and wine is cheap we start early!!
The architecture is Baroque (for the uninitiated that means very, very busy!! and kept thousands of stonemasons and carvers in work for hundreds of years) using a special pale, goldy white stone called "calcareous stone" that is only found in the immediate region and today the buildings are still very clean and in fabulous condition. The church in the photos is one of the main ones but there are many just as incredible! The cost of building these places in both time & money is unfathomable! The photo with the trees is one of many entry gates into the old city.
Now if all that is not enough to entice you here, if you have a rental car & a brave partner willing to drive amongst these crazy Italian drivers, you are only 30 mins from both east & west coasts which are lined with many ancient towns, ports & beaches (& this time with golden sand, no waves but hey!) and of course beach side cafes for pizza & beer! Gallipoli (not the famous Turkish one) was one of our favourites which you can see from the photos.
As I have brought up driving (see I never know where these tales are going) I will tell you about the day that brought us to this little paradise ( thank god it turned out as such!) The ferry leaving Procida for Naples was 45 mins late due to rough seas, finally arrived at the car rental place in Naples to pick up prepaid car, but having no original credit card or driverís license (stolen) caused all sorts of drama, then whilst sorting that out with HO the power went out, so no computers etc.....waiting...11am finally off with our new GPS configured with Lecce via the Amalfi coast road, a 4 to 5 hour drive...45 mins out of Naples the GPS runs out of battery & no power cord!! We are on our own (that's the short version, Kev thinks I can't do that!) We finally arrived in Lecce at 10pm. Kev has driven the Amalfi but not seen any of it except the road surface, oncoming cars & buses, hundreds of curves and S bends, I saw a little more but covering of eyes tends to limit sightseeing! We then drove across country with no map via every wrong turn, deviation with no signs beyond the first one, lack of petrol stations, in and out of towns the wrong way never once stopping for food to arrive in Lecce where, thank heavens, restaurants and bars open at 9pm & continue to the wee hours.......many drinks later & time to show Kev the few shots I unbelievably blindly took, he now has seen as much as you!! Yes, with all this, we still love travelling!!!
Anyway this is our last night here and as it is my birthday we have booked a lovely rooftop restaurant to celebrate my day and a lovely holiday!
A train trip to Rome for 2 days then our flight home......hope to see you all soon,
Lots of love,