Night location: Lecce, Italy
This morning we rose early in order to catch the fast train south to the heel of the boot. The five hour journey covered a diverse range of landscapes: well populated hilltop towns that overlooked lush valleys cultivated with vineyards and orchards; dry open plains with rolls of hay scattered across the harvested paddocks; and ancient olive groves established beside the glistening blue waters of the Adriatic coast.
Lecce is the main city of the Salentine Peninsula and is famous for its 17th century baroque architecture. The honeyed 'Lecce Stone', a kind of limestone, is soft and workable making the decorations on the entrances to palazzos and church facades particularly ornate. After checking into our hotel which is housed in a creatively restored palazzo we set off to have lunch and explore the town.
The streets here are really a site in themselves. It is hard not to photograph every monumental doorway or bougainvillea draped balcony that you see. High above the streetscapes rises the iconic 17th century bell-tower in the Piazza del Duomo. The adjoining cathedral was originally built in the 12th century and then lavishly restored in 1659. Interestingly, the cathedral has two facades, both intricately decorated, and then the piazza is framed by a 15th Century palazzo and the 18th century Seminario. We plan to do an 'Halliday Sacred Tour' of the multiple churches of Lecce tomorrow.
After casually strolling past a 2nd century Roman amphitheatre, we stopped at Museo Faggiano. While preparing to open a restaurant, the owner of the house began plumbing works which were brought to an abrupt halt when archaeological remains were uncovered. We wandered through the multiple levels of the house which included large underground cisterns, escape tunnels, tombs, Knights Templar frescoes and a medieval watchtower.
We enjoyed an afternoon welcome drink on our rooftop terrace before heading back out for an evening passeggiata in the gloaming before dinner.