Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Pretty Puglia (summer of 2017)

The Puglia region is located in the heel part of Italy.  Lecce is perhaps the area’s nicest town, at least one of the towns we visited there during the month of September, 2017 (a great period to go as it’s still warm, there’s plenty of sunshine and the kids are finally back in school).  Lecce, with a population of 100,000 souls, is also a fine example of the Baroque period and its main Duomo and adjacent square are both very captivating, especially in the evening.  We stayed in the Corte dei Memoli, a B&B with cooking facilities,  It’s also very conveniently located in the heart of Lecce. 

The Duomo of Lecce. 

 And the wonderful streets of Lecce.

Lecce itself goes back to the first phase of the Iron Age (800-600 B.C.).  It was also governed by the Romans, which would also explain the nice Theater and Amphitheater in the central part of the city.  The local cuisine?  The region is awash with olive trees, the vino is excellent, as are the almond pastries (ALWAYS forget about dieting when you travel around Italy)!  

 The ancient Roman amphitheatre in the center of Lecce.

Love is in the air in Lecce!

Instead of driving all the way down from Rome we opted for the train to Lecce, a five-hour ride with a few stops here and there in Bari and Brindisi.  Once there we rented a handy Renault Twingo and covered 700 kms around the area.  The driving is rather pleasant and not at all stressful, at least not on the country roads.   The only oddity though was the intersections in Puglia: about 15 of them had traffic lights…which didn’t work, so once you reached them you had to figure out who got to go thru first!  Just one example of of the many problems that affects infamous Mezzogiorno region of Italy?

 Lecce by night, including the square in front of the town's Duomo. 

The ancient Roman theatre in the center of Lecce.


On the way down to our final destination from Lecce we stopped for a coffee in the small town of Maglie.  The town has a statue in honor of the elder statesman and former Italian Prime Minister, Aldo Moro.  And right next to the statue is his former home.  In the late 1970s Moro had been kidnapped by the Red Brigades.  It’s indeed sad to see how a man from such a small town ended up dead in the trunk of a car in central Rome when the Red Brigades eventually murdered him. 
Moro's statue and former home here below with other scenese of Maglie.

Our final destination was near the town of Racale on the Ionian Sea in an exquisite inn, the “Tia Maria Country Inn”.  You can see from the pics just how nice it is, with cooking facilies, a bbq, a swimming pool (with seawater) and even a few horses nearby.  A very nice rustic touch to this “masseria” and to the local architecture-abodes of Puglia, known as “trulli”.   The Inn is just 500 meters from the town of Racale which has a great supermarket for all your cooking (and drinking) needs.

Our VERY nice masseria in Racale!

The sea from the Inn is only 6 kms away at Torre Suda (the Sunset bar there is nice to have an aperitivo and to sit back and watch the sun go down) with nearby a very nice beach, the Lido del Pizzo. Only 17 kms away is the unique town of Gallipoli which is also worth a visit.  If you want even a nicer beach you can travel about 25 kms away to the “Maldives” beach. It takes its name from the world famous Maldive islands because of its fine sandy beach and crystal-clear blue water.   You can either pay for some sunbeds or you can lie around and suntan on the free part of the beaches (no entrance fee is required for those, just 4 euros to park your car).

Scenes of Gallipoli, about 17 kms from Racale.

The Barber of Gallipoli?

Some of the beaches near Gallipoli.

You want art, especially the religious kind, and history? Well, Puglia is CERTAINLY not missing that as the small towns like Nardo’, Galatina, Ugento and Galatone are simply awash with precious churches and cute little squares, another great place to have an aperitivo and to watch life go by.  Indeed a very religious part of Italy.

The nice town of Nardo'!

And the folks and the local merchants? Very nice, no qualms whatsoever, very hospitable, at least in the two B&Bs we were in. 

Bad moon rising?

All-in-all, a trip that was indeed very well worth it.