ETR 104 126

ETR 104 126

Monday 15.4.24

Our first formally guided tour is Lecce.  Our coach takes us to Monopoli which is one station beyond Polignano a Mare, although quite why I am not sure as I think all trains stop at both.  However we are soon on a train heading generally south east to the end of the line at Lecce.  Unlike yesterday the town is on the flat and is therefore an easy walking tour.  The station is a little way outside the old town which we enter and visit the outside of the Cathedral and central Plaza which is surrounded by government and other related buildings to the church.

Lecce Cathedral

Lecce Cathedral

Local stone has been used in the construction and is easy to carve and work.  It is then hardened when exposed to milk – so that when the lactose soaks into the stone it gives a protective layer as explained here.  It then becomes extremely resistant – so ensuring survival over a long period.  Another feature of the town is that there are shops selling papier maché figures – along with invitations to test the samples from bakeries along the main street.

In the seventeenth century the city became very rich following the Battle of Lepanto which defeated the Ottoman empire and the area was no longer subject to raids and incursions so could develop as a key trading location and this era was when much of the area was rebuilt.

Chiesa di Sant'Irene

Chiesa di Sant’Irene

Chiesa di Sant’Irena allows us to rest for a few minutes out of the sunshine – which has continued from yesterday.  Saint Irena was the original patron saint of the town but later displaced by Sant’Oronzo.  The interior is lavishly decorated and so some photographs.

The Piazza Sant’Oronzo is the main public square and is over seen by a new statue of the Saint installed in the last year or so as a replacement for the older statue which was considered no longer safe following removal for restoration.  There has been some controversy as the new statue is not considered to be such a good representation of the first Bishop of Lecce (who can say?).

At the side of the Piazza are the excavated remains of part of the Roman amphitheatre which was uncovered around 100 years ago when there building work for a major bank.  The amphitheatre could hold about 25000 – so apparently quite large – possibly because it been a trading centre for a long time prior to the Romans.

We have brought a packed lunch from the hotel today – so bread and ham and cheese – but then we are in Italy.  it is again very warm and we sit in the park managing to find some shade before wandering back to the Piazza Sant’Oronzo.  The recommended gelateri has no chairs so we sit outside another one and order a pistachio ice cream and unknown coffee.  I am not sure I have ever previously come across such an adulterated coffee – I thought the Italians venerated good coffee.  Never mind it is at least wet!

The return rail journey allows the usual opportunity for a snooze – well we saw the scenery on the outward journey.