After our return to Italy last summer it wasn’t long before we got itchy feet and wanted to hit the road again to travel and perhaps get to see and know mainland Europe a little better, without much of an itinerary (as per our ‘never plan’ method of travel) and whilst over the coming weeks we’d travel to and dispell the unsafe myth of Naples and enjoy the quiet life and architecture of cities like Ferrara; we started our new travels off by visiting an ancient Baroque close to Franca’s home called, Lecce
The Florence of the South
Founded over 2000 years ago during the Magna Graecia period of Southern Italy (the Ancient Greek occupation), Lecce shares all of the major characteristics of some of Italy’s most recognised historical sites – such as Rome, Florence and Napoli – with classic stone work and a rediscovered Roman amphitheater at it’s centre; but it’s not this that gives Lecce it’s nickname “The Florence of the South“, but rather the local stone that is used all over for almost every building and has been the stable export and industry of the city for multiple generations.
The most notable period of Lecce’s past was the 17th Century which was when the lavish Baroque style began to be added not just to Lecce but also to many of the largest trade and religious points of the country.
Just by wandering around the city you’ll see the unmistakable Baroque style on most, if not all of the major sights and attractions, such as the numerous churches and the cathedral of Lecce, but also across the most lavish of houses.
Worshipping In Style
Most notable of the buildings that employ the Baroque style are the churches and cathedral of Lecce.
The communal buildings that surround the cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo are of course in the same Baroque style and constructed entirely from locally sourced Lecce stone.
And If That Wasn’t Enough
Aside from the numerous Baroque churches and house is the more ancient structure of the Roman amphitheater, a 1800 year old which – like most Roman history sites in Italy – went for centuries untouched and buried amongst the rubble and gradually covered to make way for new buildings.
Thankfully, the amphitheater is uncovered now and is on some occasions actually put to use by the local community to host plays and other activities during the summer months, unfortunately for us there wasn’t anything happening on our two days in Lecce and what made us feel worse was that we saw a few men packing away equipment which led us to draw the conclusion that we must have missed something by a day!
Also next to the amphitheatre is the former Sedile Palace which maintains the similar Baroque style of the city, but which was actually constructed before the style became so common.The palace isn’t used as such any more, however, but rather is used as the Lecce tourist information centre – and it’s ceiling is lovely
Also in the centre of Lecce is one building that I really adore, but certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste. Though it’s full of shops and a McDonald’s now, this building’s architectural design was clearly designed and constructed during the period of the Italian Social Republic of the Second World War.
I love it’s block like structure and it’s straight lines, especially for the windows.
Our Taste Of Local Cuisine
In between our sightseeing in Lecce we also had time to find and try some local cuisine, but instead of trying a little bit of everything, we actually found something we loved on our first try and just kept going back for more.
It’s called Puccia and it’s delicious.
Best bought from small specialist puccia bars, you can choose your fillings from a number of marinated vegetables and other stuffing such as fish and a selection of meats, or in our vegetarian case, lots and lots of veg!
Luckily for us our puccia experience was kindly donated by our friend Ayla who were really grateful to for buying us lunch and keeping us full enough to keep travelling and discovering such great towns as this. Thanks Ayla!
Art Culture In Lecce
Of course, this being a travel and art centred blog, it wasn’t long before we investigated a little and managed to find one guy hidden behind one of the churches who was working on restoring an older religious piece.
Also, whilst this part of Italy isn’t particularly well known for a large street art scene, due to our relentless back-street searching for off-the-beaten-path discoveries, we did find one or two pieces worth sharing.