Lecce, the Florence of the South

Often referred to as the “Florence of the South”, Lecce is the main city on Puglia’s Salento Peninsula and an absolute gem to discover. It is a mecca of elaborate and ornate architecture knowns as “barocco leccese” and jam-packed with gorgeous Baroque monuments.  The city walking tour  includes:

Piazza del Duomo – a lovely square of “barocco leccese” with its breathless  jewels:  the Cathedral  dedicated to the Holy Vergin,  the bell tower, the bishop’s palace and the seminary;  The Roman Amphitheater – this partially excavated “amphiteatro” dates back to the 2nd century and is located smack in the middle of  the old town; Basilica of Santa Croce – the baroque masterpiece with its remarkable facade;The visit to a  Papier-mâché Workshop.

 Gallipoli, the beautiful City

Though not as iconic as the Turkish town of the same name, our Gallipoli (from the Greek kalè poli = beautiful city) is situated on an island in the Ionian Sea and is linked byby a 16th century bridge to the mainland and modern city. It was built as a fortress city with high walls and a strategic castle  to protect it against attacks from the sea.  Its harbors are used by fishing boats and there’s plenty of fresh seafood.
The 17th century Baroque  Cathedral dedicated to Saint Agata dominates the old town. For the abundance of paintings kept in its interior, it is usually considered a real baroque gallery. The island is hemmed by a series of palaces and churces built in the 16th – 17 th centuries. The Hypogeum Oil Press at Palazzo Granafei , was one of the  major centers for producing lamp oil in Salento. The castle and the Rivellino and the Helleninistic Fountain, of whose original structure three bas reliefs are left  depicting mythological scenes, are some other old town’s highlights.

 Galatina and the rythm of “Pizzica”

Galatina is the town in which Latin and Greek cultures harmoniously coexist together, mingling everything with the magic and esoteric ceremonies of “Tarantismo” (an alleged, possibly deadly envenomation, popularly believed to result from the bite of tarantula spider). Up lately, on June 29th (town’s patronal festival) all the tarantulees (women in heightened excitability and restlessness because bitten by a tarantula) met in Saint Paul Chapel to drink the water of the chapel’s well considered as a miracle water for the recovery of the bite. Nowadays those ancient ceremonies are commemorated through the typical dance of “pizzica”. Apart from “taranta” ceremonies, in Galatina there are so many interesting buildings that in 2005 the town has been declared a “city art”. One of the most important buildings is Santa Caterina Church, an enchanting example of Pugliese Romanesque; then there are Chiesa Matrice, dedicated to Saint Paul and Saint Peter, and lots of elegant palaces built in Baroque style.

Otranto, the Gateway to the East.

Otranto ,the easternmost town of Italy from where you can take a glimpse at Albania,which is right there in front of Puglia. Otranto’s leading attraction is the twelfth-century mosaic in the town’s Romanesque cathedral. This work portrays the Tree of Life on which Adam and Eve live alongside King Arthur, Alexander the Great and a bestiary of fantastic animals.
A sort of stone book full of allegorical allusions.You won’t struggle to find a thousand curious details.The mosaic of the Cathedral of Otranto is one of the largest in the world.
In fact, the mosaic work was done by Pantaleon in the 12th century and it covers almost the entire interior floor of the Cathedral of the Annunciation, that twists and turns under the feet of the visitors for over 16 meters. Hidden up winding alleys within the old part of town is a very different church, the little Byzantine Chiesa di San Pietro. This is an attractive small building containing Byzantine frescoes ; it may once have been the principal church of Otranto. The real-life ‘castle of Otranto’, the Castello Aragonese, is a mighty construction which forms part of the tough defences of Otranto. The current building is fifteenth-century, though it was built on one of Frederick II’s earlier fortresses. It is open to the public and sometimes houses temporary exhibitions.