My friends traveling to Puglia to visit Lecce, often ask me what things they should see, which travel guide book they should buy, from where they should start visiting… and so on. My answer is always: non ti preoccupare (don’t worry!). You don’t need any planning….just come here soon (arriva presto)!
Southern Italians, we are famous for not planning enough! We say we enjoy life (non-Southern Italians say…we are lazy!). Of course I support the first interpretation…..
I think it’s great to take it easy when you come to Lecce and Puglia. Where else can you have such a wonderful opportunity to walk around an historical center which is just an outdoor museum?!
The historical center is just amazing with all his baroque style and architecture. You enter into a very narrow street, you think you are about to get lost……and suddenly you have this beautifully decorated Santa Croce Cathedral. You can only stare at it. You try to take pictures, but the street is too narrow, you just can’t take a full size picture!
You walk along the main Vittorio Emanuele street and you are just astonished by all the beautiful palaces with their handcrafted balconies, reproducing angels, lions, horses etc.
At night, you cross the main Sant’Oronzo square and suddenly you find a Roman amphitheatre (a much smaller version of the Colosseum in Rome!) where a dance ballet company is performing.
However, the best thing I usually suggest to my friends, is to mingle with the locals and live like the local Leccese people do……at least for one day! I promise you start with one day and then… you get addicted! (it’s worst than chocolate!). I have some friends who moved to Puglia from the US and the UK and are now so well accustomed to the Leccese way of life……!!
So how do people from Lecce spend their regular day?
The day starts at about 9:00am (in Lecce when we say 9, we actually mean 9:30). Of course we first need to read the news (i.e. weather forecast, horoscope, Lecce soccer team, night events). So we go to the bar in the main Santo Oronzo square for an “Espressino” and “Pasticciotto”: nobody who is a true Leccese would order anything different than this….I think it’s a breakfast written in our DNA. Espressino, which literally means little espresso, is actually a sort of espresso macchiato, served in a small glass coffee cup: 1 shot of coffee, with milk foam and bitter cocoa powder on top. Pasticciotto is a pastry filled with lemon cream that is one of the most typical pastries from Lecce (you don’t find it anywhere else in Puglia!).
Then, it’s time to work!! You ride your bike or vespa to the office, check you emails, Facebook and Twitter and then ….serious and hard work. After about two hours, the clock tower announces it’s already Mezzogiorno (Midday), time for the pre-lunch aperitif!
So you take your vespa or bike again and go to another bar (Raphael bar, near Mazzini Square) where you have an aperitif based on: rustico and crodino. Rustico is a salty pastry filled with mozzarella, béchamel and tomato sauce. You can only eat it in Lecce!
You meet your friends, check what they are doing at night and then back home for lunch with your family.
You may stop for some food shopping first or may be to buy some spring flowers at the beautiful market behind the big Castle.
Lunch time is from 1 to 4-5pm (it depends!), which of course includes the siesta. Yes, it depends because some shops open at 5.30 pm. Going back home for lunch and having a siesta is a religion which is respected more than anything else. If you walk in the streets at that time of the day you don’t find one single person. If you don’t know about the siesta, you may think Lecce is a desert town….but then at 5 (I mean ….at 5.30) life goes back again. People fill the streets, walking in a hurry to go back to work!
Well, in the afternoon a typical Leccese works until 8.30pm (yes, we do work long hours!)….then gym, shower and ready for the Leccese movida: pizza at 10.30pm and then a drink at the piazzetta behind the Duomo Cathedral. The night life goes on until 2am!….
I know life is too hard!
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