When you first see Lecce in APuglia, you think that it’s a city made of sugar, friable and delicate like a gingerbread house.
The region was not as fortunate as the north and middle Italy to have an abundance of marble and durable stone, and did not have the possibility to buy it either, so they did with what they had; calcarenite. A type of limestone that is composed predominantly, more than 50 percent, of detrital (transported) sand-size grains. And this is why Lecce is so ochre-colored and fragile.
Lecce is known as “the Florence of the South.” Of very ancient origins, the city experienced two particularly flourishing moments: that of the Roman era and that of the Kingdom of Naples. In this period there was a great development in the construction of buildings, monuments and noble palaces characterized by a sumptuous and rich ornamental and architectural scenography that deserved the definition of “Baroque Lecce“. The imaginative and meticulous work of sculpture was facilitated by the use of local stone, ductile and easy to inlay, albeit not very durable.
The visit of Lecce can start from Piazza Duomo, once used as a fortified citadel and today considered the most elegant “living room” in the city.
Not too far, Piazza Sant’Oronzo contains all the history of the city. The Roman era is evidenced by the remains of the Amphitheater which in the summer becomes the exceptional stage for theatrical representations and from the high Obelisk with the statue of the saint patron of the city. Preparation for the festivities to honor the Saint Patron were well underway.
All the numerous caffes in Piazza Sant’Oronzo offer caffè Leccese and pasticciotti. Caffe Leccese is ice-cold coffe and almond syrup, like described in my Summery Cold Coffe. A pasticciotto is a type of filled pastry, traditionally filled with either ricotta cheese or egg custard.
Vegetables, oil, bread and pasta, expertly mixed and dosed, are the basic ingredients of the gastronomy of Lecce. Rich use of vegetables that make tasty unique dishes such as eggplant parmigiana and “taieddhra“, a triumph of flavors made from potatoes, zucchini, onions, and mussels flavored with grated cheese.
Pizzas and focaccias are another characteristic feature of Salento cuisine.