Lecce and Otranto

Lecce and Otranto

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Now the last part of the real exploration part of the trip. I left the wonderful B and B near Mesagne (two posts back) and headed to the remaining Servas host near Lecce. I have heard that Lecce is a great place but really didn’t get much of a sense of it. Why you might ask? Well, when I got up that morning my right contact lens was very uncomfortable. Of course I had brought spares and had used one of them. When I opened the package for the spare, it was torn – useless. So by the time I arrived at the house of Cecilia and Stefano I was really suffering. So I headed into Lecce to find an ottica (eyeglasses shop). I arrived at around 2:00 PM only to find that virtually everything that didn’t involve food and drink was closed from 1:00 to at least 4:00. In fact the ottica didn’t open until 4:30 and grocers didn’t open until 6:00. I was frankly not in the mood for walking around so I found a nice bar near the ottica that had magazines to read and nursed a beer and read a magazine article about the future mayor of New York, de Blasio. As an italian-american he was front page news. I bought the lens and then went looking for stuff to take back to the hosts for dinner. I bought a couple of bottles of wine, various veggies that looked good and some pastries. The next challenge was finding their place in the dark.

There was really no problem finding the small paved road but I knew that their road was just dirt and gravel and was not named on either Google or Apple maps. To add to the problem, there is poor cell phone service (at least for Vodafone) in the area so attempts to call were not very useful. I tried a number of streets only to find after a 50  meters or so that it was not the right one and had to back up since there was nowhere to turn around. I was parked outside a little factory trying to call Cecilia. A barking guard dog got the attention of a guy who came out to investigate. Ah, great. I went over and asked. He must have been local because he was washing his car and playing a video game on his cell phone. In any case he was very nice but had no idea which road it was. Of course I finally found the road eventually but did pretty much use up my entire vocabulary of curses in the process.

Cecilia and Stefano were an interesting couple. I would probably best describe them as Italian hippies – and not in a pejorative way. She’s an artist and actress and he’s a professional musician and deejay. They have a young, very cute daughter,Lisa, who makes up stories about everything. One morning at breakfast she went through her alphabet book (in English) and had a little story for every page.  They live in a house that clearly predates electricity at least and perhaps indoor plumbing as well. Cecilia told me that it was originally 3 parts. One part that has the kitchen and bathrooms and dining area was once the living area. The central part was a tobacco drying barn and the remaining 3rd at the other end was a barn space for young animals, lambs, piglets etc. It’s really quite a dramatic space and evidence of Celilia’s and Stafano’s artistic talents are everywhere. The final evening there I was going through all of the music on my laptop and Stefano knew and probably had almost all of the music that I had. He showed me his studio which I decided to call the museum of music since he has such a vast collection of not only CDs but LPs as well. When I left the next day he gave me a couple of CDs that his band has made. He wrote all of the songs (in English) and sings as well as plays a number of instruments. BTW his stage name is Tobia. Here’s a song with a video – I’ll bet Cecilia was involved.


So I never did make it back to Lecce. Frankly I was pretty tired of cities, my feet were beginning to wear out. I just wanted a low-key day. Cecilia suggested that I go to Otranto. It is the easternmost Italian city on the Adriatic coast and as far south as I would go on this trip. The weather was pleasant, there was, of course, the lovely history center inside an old fort, there were park benches to sit on and pass the time and there was a great meal. That was enough for me. One of the principle attractions for many is the cathedral. The entire floor is a mosaic. It really was impressive. The photos really don’t do it justice.  The next day I was to start the two day trek back to Bologna.


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