December 1, 2013
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It’s about an hour’s drive from the Valle d’Itria to Lecce on the main highway. Finding our way to our B&B, the Palazzo Gorgoni, right in the historical center took almost half an hour, even though on the map it looked so simple. The challenge in Lecce, like most towns first constructed before the time of cars, is that the streets are narrow, winding, and in many places, one way. Once we finally found a place to park (thankfully only about 100 feet from the B&B) and checked in, we headed out in search of lunch (more on this later) and a walk about town.
Over the next several days, we walked everywhere we could in town, exploring the piazza with it’s Roman amphitheater, the modern art museum, and admiring half a dozen Baroque churches and all the beautiful architecture around town. Lecce is incredibly photogenic. It’s not hard with all the Baroque detail on the churches and building, the quaint streets, and even the food!
One of the places we really enjoyed visiting was is a place for which I have no photos however, because the light inside was so poor. It’s the tiny Museo Archeologico Faggiano which is inside a three story building in the historical center. In what was once a private residence, they discovered the remains of a 16th century convent and other ruins dating back over 2000 years. There are frescos, old tiles on the walls, water storage tanks, tombs, a granary, and underground walkways. http://www.museofaggiano.it/en/
I’d read that everything shuts up tight in Lecce during mid-day and this is most certainly true. Done expect to visit shops, churches or museums between 2 and 5pm. This can certainly put a cramp in your sightseeing so plan accordingly. Our first stop was the famous Santa Croce …
November 22, 2013
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On our last day in the Valle d’Itria we drove to Martina Franca. We lucked out and parked on the street which led straight to the the main square at the Piazza XX Settembre where the walking tour in the Thomas Cook Puglia Guide begins. Street parking was paid to an attendant who stopped traffic on the narrow street, guided us into the space, asked how long we’d be, and then presented us with an official receipt for 1.80 euros for 2 hours. It was efficient, though labor intensive.
At the far end of the square, just next to the Arco di Sant’Antonio (which is the entrance to the centro storico), is an information office where we picked up a free map to the town. Pass through the arch and to the right is a lovely 17th century Pallazo Ducale (ducal palace) in one of the (now) municipal buildings. At first it appears uninteresting inside, but climb to the third floor you are rewarded with some of the original (now empty) rooms, complete with ceiling frescos, family portraits and painted doors and walls. There was a very cool modern photography exhibit there as well.
The old center, like most in the Valle d’ Itria appeared to be mostly a pedestrian only zone with the occasional scooter and car coming through. It felt like a very small town, but when I look at a map now, I realize we only saw about 25% of the main streets, so I think it would certainly be worth more time than we gave it (or rather, than we had available on that day).
We followed the main street away from the Ducal Palace and toward the Basilica de San Martino, built in the mid 1700’s, complete with a candy confection of a Baroque …