Thursday, September 20, 2007
Viaggio: A Day in Lecce
Lecce is a wonder of baroque architecture, and is sometimes referred to as the Florence of the South. It's no surprise that we wanted to check it out!
As you can see from the photo above, the city center conserves the ruins of a Roman amphitheater (one of three we would see during our trip in southern Italy). It was built in the first or second century B.C., but was only uncovered in the early 1900s. About half of it has been excavated.
Lecce also has numerous other notable churches, squares and porte. The city is really beautiful. Only one small problem: it was hot hot hot!
We visited Lecce at the beginning of our second week in southern Italy, while we were renting a house with our friends in Ruffano. (If you're keeping track, this is Day 8 of the trip; still a week more to report on!)
In addition to sightseeing, we wanted to eat at another restaurant listed in the Gambero Rosso guide to restaurants. We struck gold at Picton.
Here's what I ate:
Ciceri e tria: Pasta e ceci alla leccese con la pasta fritta
Translation: Pasta with chick peas (the noodle-like homemade pasta in this dish is half fried, half boiled -- a special preparation known to Lecce)
This dish came with a special note on the menu: "Piatto storico Salentino: unico in Italia per la sua preparazione." Translation: Classic dish from the Salento area; prepared here in a way that's unique throughout all of Italy.
Padella di scamorza affumicata con funghi porcini
Translation: Smoked scamorza cheese cooked with porcini mushrooms
Here's what Il Nostro Inviato (Mike) ate:
Spaghetti di Gragnano (con acciughe, peperoncino, aglio, mollica speziata)
Translation: Spaghetti with sardines, hot pepper, garlic and spiced breadcrumbs
Insalata tiepida di farro con fricassea di gamberi e seppioline
Translation: Lukewarm salad of spelt (raise your hand if you're an American who knows what spelt is!), with fricasee of shrimp and cuttle fish
Wine: a bottle of Cappello di Prete Salento Rosso Candido 2003, which is a red wine from Puglia that's made only with the negroamaro grape
Here's what we both thought: one of the best meals we have ever had!
I am sorry to say none of the photos we took at the restaurant came out well. But it's gorgeous inside, with a high ceiling and an arbor, and the food is exceptional. The owner, Tonio Piceci, is a well-known chef who's published several cookbooks.
We also did a little shopping in Lecce (just a little, though, because almost everything was shut tight like a drum for the afternoon break until 5:30 or 6 p.m., which was when we headed back to Ruffano).
In particular, we visited a bookstore, Liberrima.it, La Libreria All'Ombra Del Barocco (Corte Dei Cicala, 1), where I went a wee bit crazy. I will report in a future post the wonderful books I bought there and elsewhere.
We also bought a few gifts at a lovely store, Al Levante Taberna Libreria (Via Umberto, 1), that sold a bit of everything. Mike even got a free store t-shirt that says "Smetto Lunedi"! ("I'll quit Monday"). There, I bought a fantastic CD that takes traditional Pugliese music and overlays it with drumbeats and other modern synthesized music.
Since returning home, I have rocked out to this album while driving to work! It's oddly compelling!
Here are a few other photos we took while in Lecce.
I saw this tree in Piazza Sant'Oronzo (named for the city's patron saint) and thought it looked cool. You can see the amphitheater in the background. Do you see how cool this city is? I hope so. I would also like to note the people in Lecce were very friendly.
I will admit I don't remember where in Lecce I saw this bust of Aldo Moro, but I had to take a photo of it. I personally don't see much in Italy that memorializes the leader of the Christian Democrat party who in 1978 was kidnapped and killed by Italian terrorists. Which reminds me of another book I bought in Italy: "L'Ultimo Brigatista." But now I am getting ahead of myself (I bought it in Trani....which is coming up in the travelogue!)
The last photo below is of the "porta" through which we entered and exited the city.
For more information on what we saw in Lecce:
Picton, Via Idomeneo, 14, Lecce; www.acena.it/picton, or www.toniopiceci.it
www.salento.it (this site provides information about the entire region surrounding Lecce)
Goodbye Lecce! Arrivederci!