Friday, 3 October 2014


Piazza del Duomo

Lecce is famous as a city of Baroque architecture and indeed for its own style: Barocco Lecchese. It must be admitted that we are not generally fans of the Baroque, finding churches that we have seen in Austria for example to be completely over the top, especially the interiors. So we approached our walk around the centre, starting from our hotel near the railway station, with a little trepidation.

Our first experience of Baroque Lecce was Palazzo Tresca, whose lower windows immediately reminded us of a church we saw in Monopoli. It seemed both refined and restrained.

We headed towards the Piazza del Duomo to find a proper map (the one provided by the hotel was useless) and were staggered to find the whole of the square to be empty of fellow tourists, apart from two people who were inconveniently sitting on the steps. In the picture at the head of this post the nave of the cathedral is on the left, with the exquisite bishop's palace on the right. This is the impressive campanile.

We walked along via Palmieri to reach the Porta Napoli.

Then we headed back into the town to find the Greek Church (unfortunately closed, so we could not see the beautiful icons featured in the map).

And then on to the church of Santa Croce. This is regarded as a Baroque masterpiece, but seemed to us to be too much. It is being restored, so I will restrict myself to one of the more appealing details: this set of figures holding up an architectural feature, possibly an entablature. The figures in the frieze seemed reminiscent of an Indian temple and I wondered for a moment what they were up to.

Passing through the adjacent Palazzo brought us to a pleasant small park and it was not far from here to the Castle. Although unimpressive from the outside and rather shambolic inside too, there were some pleasing details like this angel drinking fountain.

There was also an interesting temporary exhibition about the film director Pier Paolo Pasolini, which left me thinking it was time revisit his films. I remember being very impressed by Theorem when I saw it in 1968.

Now we headed to the Piazza San Oronzo to see the roman amphitheatre. Only one quadrant remains but it is very impressive.

In the background on the left is the Sedile Palace. It looks like some mad recent addition, but dates in fact from 1592. On the right is the column holding the statue of Saint Oronzo (Lecce's patron) was given to Lecce by the city of Brindisi because Saint Oronzo was reputed to have cured the plague in Brindisi. The column was one of a pair that marked the end of the Appian Way.

Next to the Sedile is the exquisite tiny church of San Marco, with his lion over the doorway, just as you see in Venice.

We headed now towards a second of the city's gates, Porta Rudiae. The gate itself was very impressive, even though I had to wait some while for more inconvenient people to get out of the way.

This marked the end of our walk. We had missed some of the Baroque churches, but later walks around the city confirmed our initial prejudices.

Conditions: drizzle and rain, reasonably warm.

Distance: 2.5 miles.

Rating: four and half stars - five if you go for Barocco Lecchese.

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