Saturday 6 December 2014

Italy: Lecce

We drove south from the Gargano peninsula on the Saturday morning; we thought we'd gone the same way but it was a different road and took quite a lot longer. The landscape is quite flat and featureless. It reminded me a bit of that time I drove to Cambridge, only hotter, with prettier plants.

Upon arriving in Lecce we checked into a hotel that was straight out of Madmen: the Presidente. Enormous room, two beds (at last!), a red hallway that looked like the set for the Shining, lots of 50s features. I loved it. I thought I would have to use some Italian but the desk lady spoke perfect, though heavily accented, English.

Come play with us. Ahem.

Lecce is a real hidden gem. What a lovely city! It's full of amazing features, like the Roman amphitheatre and theatre, and the fortress built by Charles V to ward off attack by the Ottomans, and these things are right there in the street with everybody wandering past, like it's totally normal. There are some ridiculously ornate churches, lots of shops and gelaterias, and not thousands of people. Lovely.

They've dug up less than half of the amphitheatre. It's pretty big - I'm at street level taking this picture.

These apartment courtyards look out onto the Piazza del Duomo. What a great place to live!

It was difficult to photograph the theatre, which was completely deserted and smelled very strongly as though people had been weeing on it, although there was a public loo right next to it. No, the smell was not from the loo. Actually, places smelling of wee became a theme of the holiday.

There was also a jazz festival going on while we were there, so as I sat enjoying this glass of wine....

....we were also enjoying the jazz pianist playing in the amphitheatre around the corner. Well, I was enjoying it. Tutt doesn't really hold with jazz.

Incidentally, this meal was absolutely amazing. We ate the first night in the hotel, which was great (amazing salad buffet that reminded me of skiing in Sauze) and the last night in a bar that sold antipasti that was just OK; but the second night we ate at Terra and I had this cheese platter.

See those dips? Honey, apple sauce, and some kind of A.MAZ.ING. shallot paste stuff. It was delicious. I was in heaven - cheese, olives, bread, wine, and oil/balsamic which I poured into what turned out to be the ash tray. It was fun eating here; there was a scooter parking rank opposite and we enjoyed watching people come and go all night. Italians won't let a scooter get in the way of a killer outfit.

I also had probably the best ice cream of our trip in Lecce, at a cafe close to the amphitheatre. I went in for an affogato but the woman looked confused and I ended up with this sundae of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, with coffee and cream. What a pity. That vanilla ice cream was very dense and creamy. Mmmmmm. I should have taken a picture of it, but I was photographing a lot of meals and feeling a bit weird about it.

Would I come back? Hmm, let me think....

Definitely. Although the town isn't very big and wouldn't provide many more days of exploring, the beaches are less than an hour away and I think it makes a great spot for exploring them. 

More on beaches in the next post. 

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