Saturday, December 4, 2010


I have to admit that i was not expecting the impressive, elegant city that is lecce. I think i was tainted by my visit last year, which was exclusively in the north. When you are in the north, everyone says it is the best part of Italy - much better than the "primitive south."

Lecce is known as the Florence of the south. It has forty churches to just 100,000 people. Many are in the baroque style, mostly because the area has a lot of limestone which is soft and lends itself to intricate carvings. Almost all of the churches are catholic although a few are Greek orthodox. One of the churches has a dome-shaped, tiled roof which is a sign of Turkish influence.

The city has a lot of students and is very lively. The old part of the city has a lot of high-end boutiques but also stores from Africa and a lot of local artisan shops. Dora explained that the city has a history of embracing immigrants and that they are well integrated into the community. I was surprised to see as much diversity as I did. Store hours reflect a more traditional custom of opening from 9-1, closing from 1-4, and opening again from 4-8.

People in Lecce dress very well, and according to Dora on Sunday mornings especially turn out in their very best to go to church. That was funny to me because it's similar to the south in the states in that respect. And yet so very, very different.

Part of me is tempted to buy a shiny, puffy coat with a fur-lined hood and tall black boots with pointy toes so i can strut around Ike an Italian. But I know the desire will wear off as soon as I'm home, and I'll go back to being happy with my conventional GAP wardrobe.

I'm surprised I haven't mentioned the food yet. The problem is it gets repetitive, because once again it was all very good. I ate many things that are typical of the region (Puglia) and of Lecce. My favorite was s simple snack called a rustico, which is puff pastry filled with mozzarella, tomato and a white sauce. The wine from the region is also very good - Primitivo and negroamaro are the main grapes.

Oh, I have to tell you about something called burrata. This is taking decadence to whole new heights. It's a big ball of fresh mozzarella filled with a mixture of butter, creme, and more fresh mozzarella. And then they bring olive oil to the table so you can add that too!! I could not bring myself to eat more than a few small bites. It was delicious, but kind of like eating cheese ice cream. I don't know, I guess even I have limits.

Today I have the afternoon free and am hoping to see the colosseum. Will post pictures if I make it!

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