Yesterday was a full day excursion to the large town of Lecce and or first opportunity to travel by Italian train. Our faithful bus driver, Mimino, picked us up and transported us to the station (tiny building, unmanned and closed) where we picked up the regional train to Lecce. Lecce’s more famous residents include Gerard Depardieu (French actor, big nose) and Helen Mirren.
The Cathedral at Lecce is large and has an enormous Piazza outside. The Piazza was made flat and smooth for the visit of the Pope in the Popemobile and he entered the Cathedral through a specially commissioned door made of copper.
We’re lucky enough to have a really excellent Local Guide, Dianne. Here she is showing us a small china bell, that is traditionally given to local girls when they get married. Ringing it alerts their new husband that they require attention os some kind. Dianne tells us that it doesn’t work very well, at least with her husband.
My picture of the day is below. Here, in the centre of Lecce we can see in one place three of the most important architectural traditions of Italy. At the bottom is the Roman Amphitheatre, still used for concerts and live performances. Above and to the left is the Baroque style, with the Cathedral Tower in the distant centre. Finally, on the right, and startlingly unattractive is the Benito Mussolini school of block ugliness. He certainly had a lot to answer for.
We’re staying at the very bottom of the heel of the Italian boot. Puglia produces a large part of Italy’s olive oil output and so it is really sad to see that the local trees have been blighted by a parasite infection that appeared to have killed them all. Just when all was thought lost, they discovered that by grafting branches from healthy trees onto the dying trees, the dying trees would be reborn (although this would take several years). This tree in the central Piazza in Lecce commemorates the disaster (for local farmers, it was such). The tree was ‘dead’ with no leaves or olives. Now, thanks to the grafting, it is beginning to grow again.
We stopped for Caffè leccese before returning to the hotel. This is a local speciality. Espresso, poured over a layer of almond milk and served over ice.
Our train back to the hotel was of the latest kind – the kind where the air conditioning involves machinery rather than just opening a window. Cooler, but less charming.