Really down on the heel in Lecce & Otranto

Remember the boot shape of Italy? I’m now down on south east corner that looks the bottom part of the heel.

Leece is one of those sites that have existed for 2000 years, with almost as many occupations, because of its location to exert control.

Imagine an amphitheatre in the centre of the city and no one knew!

The Romans were here in the 2nd century, and built an amphitheatre that could seat 25,000 people. It was discovered in 1901 by construction workers, and partially excavated after around 1950. It will likely never be fully uncovered because many other buildings are over top.

From the 15th century, Lecce was one of the most important cities in southern Italy. Starting in 1630 it exploded with Baroque architecture. There are dozens of churches and palazzi of the same era which gives a cohesive feel.

My favourite church was Basilica di Santa Croce (Holy Cross). It was started in 1353, halted in 1549, and not completed until 1695.

It has an incredibly busy facade but you can look at it and keeping seeing something new and wild.

Or see something new and wild looking back at you! So many eyes…

More pretty churches

And palazzi converted to 5 star hotels

I loved these windows that I saw on several palazzi

Castello di Carlo V was built by the Normans in the 12th century, but Carlo enlarged it in the 15th century. It looks grim outside but has a wonderful vibe to it inside.

Porta Napoli, the main city gate 1548

Laundry day.

I’ve learned that the machines automatically dispense their own soap. I spent a nervous hour last time worrying that the soap I added was going to cause a problem!

Visions of suds oozing out😳

I’ve been renting apartments, and two had washers in-house. I usually have a kitchenette as well though limited equipment and condiments so I keep it simple.

I found a deli that sold cooked food for take out. It worked well as I had a microwave for the first time.

Eggplant with meat and tomatoes, cauliflower and cheese, braised chicory, roasted peppers and meatballs.
Fresh tomatoes drizzled with local olive oil
Roasted eggplant, zucchini and peppers

And then Cisceri e trio, a local specialty. Homemade thick noodles and chickpeas. Though I understand there should be a garnish of fried noodles. Guess I’ll have to try again.

Pasticcoitti is another local specialty. My host brought them for my breakfast. Along with fresh fruits, bread, cheese, prosciutto, cereal, yogurt, expresso! It’s the most generous breakfast I’ve had here.

Pastry with a not too sweet pastry cream filling was very good. But for me, later morning would be better!

Fellow in the park

Then it was off to Otranto. Only 48 km but took me a bus, two trains, 1.5 hours and €3.60 (CDN $5).

It wasn’t stressful to make the connections because there were quite a few tourists and locals all doing the same thing.

Italians use the trains for local travel, so some got off and on along our travels through the small towns.

My favourite part was the little old trains they used for a 10 minute route!

Otranto has an incredible turquoise blue bay.

There are small beaches

It’s old town is small, almost encircled by town walls, and anchored at one end by a castle.


Castello Aragonese defined the heart of the new defensive system of the city it was rebuilt after the liberation from the Turks in 1481.

Its bordered on all sides by a deep moat (now dry), and originally had a drawstring bridge. The bastions (projecting corners) and towers were all built to repel the weapons of the day. Very high tech!

Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Annunciation (11th century) is famous for the incredible mosaics and a crypt containing the remains of martyrs.

The 813 martyrs were victims of a mass execution on August 14, 1480 after the Catholics refused to convert to Islam when the city fell to Ottoman forces. They had been hiding in the church crypt.

What I’m not sure about is why they were there, when I read others were killed in their homes.

There is a side chapel where the bones are kept in glass cases.

The crypt

Chiesa Bizantina di San Pedro (St. Peter’s Byzantine Church) has frescos from the 10-16th century.

The old walls make a magnificent entry to the small narrow streets of the old town

And again, more housing built on housing

Lunch! Polpo (octopus) with lettuce, rocket, tomato, pepper, olives, capers, roast potatoes with paprika, and olive oil.

The bowl was deeper than it looks. And so good! I might go back tomorrow because it’s a casual place where I can just order one dish.

Tomorrow it’s off to Gallipoli, reversing the awkward bus and train transfers!

8 thoughts on “Really down on the heel in Lecce & Otranto

  1. Wow Leslie! What fabulous photos of wonderful places! I am in awe of you doing all this on your own. And thanks for sharing so we can pretend to have been there. Keep on!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks again. It was interesting to read. Southern Italy is a stranger area for me ,so nice to walk with you through the pictures and texts.
    Awsome photos !

    Liked by 1 person

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