Italy for the Ordinary | Puglia Part 3
We spent our second full day exploring the east coast of Puglia visiting Lecce, swimming in the Adriatic Sea and dinner in Ostuni. Quite a spectacular day. There’s so much to talk about. Let’s begin.
Lecce is a beautiful city known for it’s ancient history and Baroque style. You can click on the link for some excellent historical information. This blog is mainly to give you my perspective about an ‘ordinary traveler’ exploring Italy. There are plenty of places to learn historical facts with dates and detail about every aspect of Italian towns. I have not spent hours delving into each town we visited but as I look back now, it is quite interesting to revisit these places through a different lens. While you’re wandering the streets and in and out of historic churches, it’s hard to absorb all the details and information, unless you have tons of patients and time, which clearly we did not and I do not. We did not have each day planned out prior to our departure to Italy. We knew the basics: our flights, the number of days at each “hotel”, where to rent our car and that’s about it. Everything else we kind of played it by ear. I took a bunch of notes, spent hours searching online which allowed me a general idea of where to go, but other than a basic idea, we just “winged-it”.
What I found to offer some of the best information was from asking the locals. For instance, when you’re at a hotel or wherever you’re staying, the staff should be able to offer you a wealth of information. They know the ins and outs of the area and really can guide you to the best places to visit. The other part of this is to trust their information. I think back to an instance when were speaking with the concierge at our masseria in Puglia about where to go and how we were considering places further away. She said why would you go there, when there is so much right here around Ostuni? Sometimes you don’t need to travel far to find a great experience. We often think there’s something better-over there- but often times there is so much in the more immediate area and you don’t need to spend hours in the car.
Let’s talk about Lecce, the walled city but all I can think of is milk. The city of Lecce is pronounced the same as the word Leche which means milk plus the city buildings were basically all white. Anyway, you get my point. I really enjoyed visiting Lecce. We were on the steps of the duomo and a man came by asking if we wanted a guided tour. Usually we say, nah, but this time we agreed and it certainly was a good decision. We went through the church and he taught us about the Baroque period. Apparently, from what I can remember, the baroque era followed a period of depressed living both economic and disease. People had lost hope and they had little expectation of a long and prosperous life. The trend of thought was if life is so short and somewhat “miserable” why bother making every effort to make structures, such as monuments and statues out of marble and valuable substances. They felt the effort wasn’t worth the reward. So they made facades. Statues appeared to be carved of marble or stone but in fact they may have been made out of wood or even paper machete to look like marble or stone. So the baroque period was one big guise or pretense. He wasn’t sure if this feeling was the shared philosophy of the time but more likely the sentiment was discovered once the culture was researched at a later date. I wonder what they will say about our culture in a few hundred years? I can only imagine.
Lecce is a beautiful town with so much to see and enjoy. I hope you enjoy the pictures of another ancient town in Italy. You will also see ancient Roman ruins which is rather fascinating to ponder. It makes me think about what actually took place in those ruins. How people and animals were devalued. Society still has a way to go, but hopefully we will never go back to patterns of prior generations.
As true to form, once we spend a few hours in a town, we’re ready for an escape route. So off to the beach we went. We honestly enjoy seeing the historical sights but we are more drawn to nature and if there’s beach involved, then that is where you will find us. We traveled to an area called Melendungo. Now, the pictures are quite breathtaking but there’s more behind the photo. Getting there was a little tricky. We ended up in this town because we read about a beach nearby. We parked our car and walked towards the town, which really was more like some restaurants and shops along the high cliffs overlooking the coast. The view was quite remarkable, but the shopping area wasn’t overly appealing. We didn’t know where to go so I asked someone who worked at a restaurant and he told us of this place where the locals swim. To get there however, you have to go under the road through a tunnel, down damp dark, creepy steps, then your eyes readjust to the light and you see a magnificent view of the Adriatic Sea. That was the easy part, now you have to navigate your way closer to the water by walking down a very rough and rocky path. Finally, the last challenge was actually getting into the water. We had decent footwear, but this kind of terrain required some form of water shoes, which we did not have.
I’m sure we made some facial grimaces as we made our way into the the water but we certainly were glad we made the effort. The water was spectacular. Just to swim in such an incredible setting with the stone walls all around us was remarkable. There was a definite current that pushed the waves onto the rocks, so I was a bit nervous about getting out of the water and back onto and up the rough rocks but I had no choice. I was afraid of being pushed into the rocks but you just have to go for it and allow the flow of the water push you where you need to go. It wasn’t as hard as I thought and I successfully survived the crashing of the waves and the trek back to our shoes. If you’re tender-footed you would not like walking here. Water shoes would have been nice, although they never look very fashionable.
We didn’t get our fill of sun, sand and water so we continued on our journey to find something a bit softer. Based on another recommendation from the same local guy, he advise another place worth seeing. We got in our car and traveled along the coast, likely north at this point, but we weren’t 100 % sure where we were going. Sometimes when you get advise or directions, you try your best to understand their accent and retain as much as you can. It' isn’t always easy. You don’t want to ask them to keep repeating themselves, so you act like you understand and just hope for the best. That is kind of how we did much of our traveling, and it became quite clear what he was saying when we arrived at ‘the rock’. Now we understood what he was describing to us.
Okay, let’s take a closer look at this phenomenal wonder of nature- Roca. Although we did not jump off the cliff into the water we were glad to take in the view. If we were 20 well maybe 30 years younger I’m sure we would have been more adventurous but we wanted to be able to live to share the memory. Here’s a few photos of this spectacular sight.
The distance between the two rock formations was quite short and since we didn’t swim at the second spot, we still wanted to find an actual beach with sand and water. We continued our journey along the Adriatic coast while looking through my notes and any books and brochures I had on my lap while we drove. We came upon a town called San Foca, still within Melendugno and located a beach called Tutti al Mare. Here we were able to rent a lounge chair, dig our feet in the sand and take a dip in the sea. Quite lovely and it satisfied our need to be still for just a little bit.
Well that sums up our beach time for our second day in Puglia.
We headed back to our masseria to clean up and get ready for dinner. We needed to see Ostuni. We had no idea how much we were going to love this town. Ostuni comes alive at night. Thankfully, when traveling in the summer, the days are long. There’s no reason why you can’t get a good 10 hours of activity in one day. I’m sure even more if you really push yourself. That is how we saw so much in less than 2 weeks time. If you want to just lounge and soak up the sun, this certainly is not the trip for you. We tend to be a little antsy. It’s not that we need to be entertained as much as to experience places along with all the sights, sounds and tastes!
We walked around Ostuni looking for a place to eat. Everyone was in Ostuni the night we went there. I think it was a Friday, which makes sense. Many of the restaurants were booked but we happened upon a place where we were able to sit outside and enjoy a meal. We wanted an outside table so we could ‘people-watch’ plus it was warm out and most places aren't air conditioned like in the states. It was very pleasant to be in the open air, have a very fabulous-local-tradtional meal at Sapere and Sapori. Apparently I did a trip advisor review. I forgot that. So instead of repeating my thoughts, you can read my review by clicking the link to the restaurant.
Ostuni really is a lovely town. It has a really good vibe. It’s an active, lively place to visit especially on a summer evening. There are so many restaurants, the shops are open and you’re bound to find live music somewhere in an outdoor space. I’m so glad we didn’t overlook an evening out in Ostuni. I think it was our favorite town to actually enjoy. We were there not to see a sight but just mingle and experience the local culture. There is something fun about shopping at night too. I don’t know why, maybe your mood is a little different. You’re more apt to find a random item instead of searching for the best bargain of an Italian leather bag or whatever souvenir you want to bring back home. I think you feel relaxed which makes it more pleasant and perhaps you find something random that you just love!