We spent a day in Lecce in early October 2016 at the start of a nine day trip in the region. After Lecce, we visited Otranto and the Salento, the Trulli region including Alberobello and Locorotondo, the seaside Polignano a Mare ending in Matera.
The highlights of our day exploring Lecce were (in no particular order)
- Lecce Cathedral (best viewed around dusk)
- Piazza Sant’Oronzo or Via Vittorio Emanuele II for people watching and the evening passigiata
- The facade of the Palazzo dei Celestini
- The food!!
- The three city gates: Porta Napoli, Porta Rudiae and Porta S. Giusto
- Wandering around the city without a real plan and admiring the various churches scattered throughout
- After all the white and yellow stone and craving some greenery, strolling through the Public Gardens just outside the city walls
How we spent our day in Lecce
Arriving in Lecce the night before, we walked over to the bar where we could grab our free breakfast (Rocky Bar – nothing flash, located outside the old town centre but the food was decent). There were a few sweet and savoury pastries to chose from, and without knowing it, we tried a local speciality, a Rustico Leccese, a pastry filled with tomato, bechamel and mozzarella. Very tasty! This was washed down with a cappuccino (of course). Today was our day for exploring Lecce, so without any real plan, our ‘plan’ was to walk around the town and take in all the pretty. It wasn’t hard since around most corners you’ll find either a gorgeous baroque building, a huge porta (an entrance into the old town) or a beautiful church or palazzo.
After a gelato from Alvino (highly recommended, as is the pasticciotto) eaten in the nearby Piazza Sant’Oronzo, and a quick look at the Roman Theatre, we spent a few hours wandering around looking for a supermarket to buy some fruit, water and something more substantial for breakfast than a pastry. Surprisingly, it was very difficult and we only found a store selling yogurt after we spotted a couple with their kids hanging out in front of a church with a plastic bag with what looked like groceries. Asking them where they managed to find groceries, we found out they were a family from Ottawa. They directed us to the location of the ‘hidden’ grocery store (outside the old town, near Porta San Biagio and requiring crossing over a busy street).
At Porta Napoli, we saw a couple having their wedding photos taken, complete with a vintage car in the foreground. Molto Italiano!
After a couple hours for a siesta, we headed back out for the evening passigiata along Via Vittorio Emanuele II. Lecce at night felt like a whole different city than Lecce during a Monday afternoon. There were so many people walking the passigiata, we were wondering where everyone had come from! Wanting to continue with some people watching, we sat near a group of six or so old men with their plastic fold up chairs next to the Piazza Sant’Oronzo having their evening beer.
Deciding to take in the passigiata while drinking a wine, we had a drink at All’Ombra del Barocco and then after wandering around for close to an hour, found a lovely little restaurant called Trattoria Il Rifugio della Buona Stella for dinner. We had two local specialities for dinner, Ciceri e tria (chickpeas with a mix of fried and boiled pasta) and Maccheroncini con tocchetti di pesce spada, cime di rape e pomodori (homemade pasta with swordfish, turnip tops and tomatoes). While the English translations may not sound all that appetizing, the food was amazingly good! I highly recommend it for their rustic, homemade dishes and lovely service.
An after dinner stroll through Lecce made for an excellent end to our first full day in Puglia.
We stayed two nights at the B&B Le Comari Salentine, located about 500m from the train station. For my review, click here.
Next stop, Otranto and the Salento!