Lecce: Baroque in Puglia

Lecce is the principal city in the Salento peninsula of Puglia, the heel of the boot. Lecce is the southeastern terminus for Italy’s national rail line and many smaller places on the peninsula can be reached from Lecce using the private rail line, Ferrovie Sud Est.

Lecce is a riot of southern Baroque. Lecce’s abundant supply of soft stone made it a stonecarver’s dream. And they went wild.

And if you’d like to sit and stare at a facade, try the 14th century Basilica Santa Croce, a smidgen of which is shown in the picture below. It blows the mind, doesn’t it? And it’s been restored since this picture was taken.

It’s not just the churches. Look up every once in a while. Your balcony in Cleveland doesn’t look like this, does it? Can you imagine what the neighbors might think?

The narrow little streets of the historic core of the city just north of the train station are fun to get lost in.

The Iconic Food of Lecce

And the peasant cuisine is inexpensive and tasty. Try the Fave e Cicoria (puree of fava beans and a pile of chicory, a bitter green) as you see in the picture from Trattoria Nonna Tetti near the interesting San Matteo Church.

And if the restaurant experience doesn’t interest you, an inexpensive bread loaded with delectable things awaits you. These are called Pizzo Leccese, and are stuffed with onions, olives (with the pits), tomato and a few hot pepper flakes to jazz them up a bit.

The papier-mâché figurines of Claudio Riso

Italians buy a new figurine for the famile Preseppe every year, and often look for an artisan to add to the story of the personal manger scene. In the heart of Lecce at Via Vittorio Emanuele, 27, 73100 you’ll find La Cartapesta di Claudio Riso. It’s a hoot. Here are just a tiny sample of the unfinished figures you might see.

The history of Lecce doesn’t end with the Baroque

Yes, there’s a Roman Amphitheater, but it’s not just sitting in a forlorn field out of town, it’s smack among the buildings of greater Lecce in Piazza Sant’Oronzo. It was constructed between the between the age of Augustus and that of Trajan-Hadrian. It held—hold on to your hat—25,000 adoring fans when it was new, but not all of it remains. Still, it’s impressive.

Map Showing the Location of Lecce

Rating:
Unique: Cucina Povera of Puglia: Fave e Cicoria for example, a creamy puree of favas with a pile of bitter greens, chicory. recipe
Don’t miss Puglia bread, some of the best in Italy.
Puglia has the longest coastline on the Italian peninsula.
When to Go: Spring or Fall. Summers are hot. Lecce climate charts and information
Region: Puglia Map
Days: 2-7
: Train station on the south end of the old city. It’s the southern terminus of the Ancona to Lecce line, and also the terminus of the Martina Franca–Lecce railway and the Lecce–Otranto railway.
Parking: Parking lots outside of the old town, some near the train station
Recommended Hotel: Mantatelurè
Lecce Vacation Rentals
Local Wines: Salice Salentino, Primitivo


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