Lecce has been a little bit of a struggle so far. That has nothing to do with the architecture, which is amazing, but a combination of not speaking Italian, not knowing where we are going and normal international travel.
We few from Rome to Brindisi, which is the nearest airport to Lecce, the “Florence of the South.” It is right at the boot of the heel, if you are familiar with the shape and geography of Italy.
(I am used to these kinds of names: When I was living in Walla Walla, some of the locals referred to it as the “Athens of the West,” apparently referring to its relative cultural advantage over nearby Dayton and Waitsburg. And my friend Lynn Claudon calls her hometown of Auburn the “Little Detroit of the West” because of the many car dealerships.)
Lecce is so named because of the amazing abundance of baroque architecture. The historic center of the town is a tangle of little lanes – with many of them off-limits to cars – and intricate old churches and other buildings. It is surrounded, however, by quite a busy industrial town. With help, we were able to find a place to park our car and search for the old town. But the real quandary was finding the apartment we had rented for a week on VRBO. Neither the street address of the apartment or the rental agency was on our map, nor were they on the database at the normally helpful Tourist Information offices. The Tourist guy indicated the general direction of a landmark, and I was finally able to find the street by going into the local college and asking for help. Now that we are inside, it is a lovely place with a roof deck. The climate is southern Mediterranean – there are palms around and a lot of cacti in pots on the deck. Pat is almost a permanent resident of the deck.
I am including in this post some photos of the highlights, including an old Roman amphiteatre from the third century (with a cat from the 21st century,) a night photo of the duomo, and another church entry that, while unique in itself, is typical of the intricate baroque decorations here.
Another little struggle, without which this post would not be possible, was to find an internet hotspot. Despite what you might expect, we have yet to find a Starbucks with free internet. We did go up and down the main street outside our apartment asking for the internet, and finally found a gelato place in the main square. Now we have a portable hotspot. I guess it is no surprise what kind of former luxury has come to be a necessity. But no internet? C’mon. (Actually, there are plenty of locked internet addresses. These southern Italians are as wired as anyone. They just haven’t learned to share.)