Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Lecce, Italy's Baroque pearl

Fri Jun 12, 2009 10:00am EDT
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By Valentina Za

LECCE, Italy (Reuters Life!) - Tucked away in the heel of the Italian "boot," the town hosting the Group of Eight's finance ministers this weekend has a lot to offer its visitors.

Famous for its voluptuous Baroque architecture, Lecce has an elegant city center which has earned the town nicknames such as "Florence of the South," "Baroque pearl" or "Apulia's Athens."

To find out why, just wander through the center and admire the facades of the buildings, all carved in a soft local stone with a warm sandy color. And when the Mediterranean sun hits too hard, sit down for an iced coffee sweetened with almond milk.


6:30 p.m. Step into the heart of Lecce, a city of about 95,000 people, and start to get familiar with its web of narrow alleys by stopping for a drink in an atmospheric little square known as Corte dei Cicala (the Cicadas' Court).

Part of the nearby Liberrima bookshop, the All'ombra del Barocco cafe (1, Corte dei Cicala, +39 0832 242 626) occupies a cozy corner with its shaded outdoor tables and offers a fine view of one of Lecce's numerous Baroque churches, Sant'Irene. 8:30 p.m. Lecce's Apulia region has a traditional diet in which vegetables feature heavily, followed by fish. The two Earth and Sea menus of the Picton restaurant (14, via Idomeneo, +39 0832 332 383) allow a vast choice, especially when ordering starters. Follow up with a tuna filet pasta dish and jumbo prawns with bread crumbs.


9 a.m. Start your tour of Lecce from Piazza Sant'Oronzo, named after the town's patron saint, whose statue crowns a pillar in the middle of the square.   Continued...