A Summer Stroll through Lecce, Puglia

Let’s take a stroll through Lecce. A lunch date calls! Hopping aboard the Regionale from platform 2 in Ostuni railway station at 09.40, I arrived in Lecce just under an hour later.

Crossing Piazzale Oronzo Massari, I strolled down the broad Viale O. Quarto towards the Centro Storico.

Famous for its Baroque style buildings, Lecce is known as the ‘Florence of the South’. Personally, I don’t think it’s even remotely like the Tuscan city of Florence as, though both cities are famous for their Baroque architecture, they have a completely different ‘look’ and atmosphere, just as the regions of Puglia and Tuscany differ greatly. But that’s just my opinion and I am open to argument.

As I walked under the pretty balconies, I admired their elaborate corbels.

My first port of call just had to be the Duomo: The Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption. Wandering down the narrow streets of the historic centre I spotted the campanile (bell tower) looming over the rooftops and knew I was heading in the right direction.

I strolled down an alleyway and arrived at a side door of the Duomo adorned with elaborate baroque decoration over and around the door.

I slipped inside to explore.  It is lavishly decorated as only a Roman Catholic Cathedral can be and I looked around in wonder at the lavishly gold-plated bronze and marble altars and pillars.

Originally built in 1144, the cathedral was rebuilt in 1659 by order of Bishop Luigi Pappacoda, who also ordered the bell tower to be reconstructed and whose remains rest beneath the altar dedicated to St. Oronzo, the patron saint of Lecce.

Exiting by the main door, I found myself in the magnificent Piazza del Duomo.

This huge square is, in itself, a wonderful space to spend some time wandering around, just looking at the wonderful Baroque architecture. It is closed on three sides, which is fairly unusual. Including the cathedral and bell tower, there are the splendid buildings of the Bishops’ Palace and the Seminary.

Realising that my lunch date was imminent I decided to make my way to the Piazza Sant’Oronzo, where we were meeting up for a pre-lunch aperitivo. As I walked I passed by the ornate façade of the Church of St. Irene….

followed shortly by the Church of Gesù.

Arriving in Piazza Sant’Oronzo I stopped to examine and photograph the remains of the ancient Roman amphitheatre which forms the heart of the city.

This monument was built about 2000 years ago by the Romans and was discovered when the Bank of Italy building was under construction over a hundred years ago. Excavations, uncovering as much of the ancient amphitheatre as possible, lasted until 1940. Unbelievably, only about a third of the ancient monument is visible as the rest is still covered by various buildings and Piazza Sant’Oronzo itself.

Apparently, back in Roman times, it had the capacity to seat around 25,000 spectators. It is now used for various artistic performances which are open to the general public.

Surrounded by several bars and restaurants, their sun shades billowing in the warm, gentle breeze, I sank gratefully into a chair looking out over the amphitheatre and ordered a refreshing Aperol Spritz, just as my friend and fellow blogger arrived in time to say ‘Hey! Make that two!’

Catching up on the latest gossip in the blogosphere, we decided to have lunch in a nearby restaurant in a fairly quiet location, called MAD. Situated in small, grassy Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, we enjoyed a Salentino salad comprised of local meats and fresh ricotta atop crispy lettuce leaves and radicchio, accompanied, of course, by a bottle of chilled Fiano.

After our happy chat and exchanging hugs, we went our separate ways. Walking down Via Federico d’Aragona from MAD to the church of San Matteo, I stopped for a few minutes to admire its interesting shape and lavish Baroque decoration…..

……after which I promptly got lost on my way back to the railway station.

I finally ended up outside Porta San Biagio. a pretty city gate which made it well worth my time getting lost.

Retracing my steps towards Via Carlo Russi, I passed by what I assumed was some gorgeous wisteria, but is apparently Jacaranda, which I did not know grew in Puglia.

I finally found myself back at Lecce Stazione Centrale, just in time for the 4 pm train and home to Ostuni, promising to return soon.

My route:

Stazione Ostuni

Stazione Centrale Lecce

Piazza del Duomo

Chiesa di Santa Irene

Chiesa del Gesù

Piazza Sant’Oronzo

Anfiteatro

Mad Lounge Bar and Restaurant in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele

Via Federico d’Aragona

Chiesa di San Matteo

Porta San Biagio

Via Carlo Russi

Stazione Centrale Lecce

Ostuni

Orna O’Reilly

Ostuni, Italy

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “A Summer Stroll through Lecce, Puglia

  1. Good and lovely description of Lecce. Only the trees with lilac flowers are Jacaranda, not Wisteria. There are very few trees in Lecce and Bari, while in Cagliari there are wonderful tree-line roads, offering a beautiful view in spring.

    • Thank you for pointing it out. I have never knowingly seen Jacaranda in Puglia, whereas we have lots of wisteria. Having seen so many in South Africa, however, I think you are probably correct and I will change it straight away. Seems I learn something new about this beautiful part of Italy every day!

  2. Thank you for your wonderful post. We are planning to come to Puglia in spring and I will be looking in detail at your posts before then for ideas. We did not ge to Lecce on our previous visit, but will definitely be going there next time. I don’t think it looks like Florence at all.

    • Spring in Puglia: perfect! Though, it’s pretty gorgeous most of the time. Lecce is a truly unusual city with a lively atmosphere and is a great place to stroll and browse. And certainly nothing like Florence…. especially with Lecce’s lack of huge hordes of tourists.

  3. Very nice. Funny thing, in Calabria they refer to the town of Gerace as the “Florence of the South.” And just as you noted with Lecce, Gerace and Florence don’t have anything in common, so in Calabria I take the reference as a nod to the cultural importance of the small community, still a religious seat and one of the ever-increasing number of the “borghi più belli d’Italia.”

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