After our stay in Ostuni, we ventured down south into the ‘heel’ of Italy. A detour along the coast did not find any suitable swimming spots. It was again too cold for a dip much to my disappointment. The drive after took us to Lecce, dubbed as the ‘Florence of the south’ thanks to its Baroque architecture and rich history.
The old town had streets so narrow that only hamsters could fit in. You can tell when streets are really tight by looking at the missing side mirrors and banged up bumpers from the other cars. Pro tip: take full insurance when hiring a car in Europe.
But streets are pretty. Unlike Florence, there are far fewer international tourists which means Lecce feels just that bit more authentic. It’s a very walkable city and rewarding at the same time. You don’t really need a map, a wander can unveil quirky bars posing as bookshops, antiques sprawled on the footpath, aperitivos being sipped in the sunset, restaurants buzzing.
The next morning, we made a short detour in Gallipoli which is not to be mistaken with the one in Turkey famed in WW1. Gallipoli is a fishing village where it featurs an old town that sits on a limestone island with a bridge that links to the mainland. It looks like a old fortress from afar but there wasn’t a whole lot to see once you’ve been on your 600th church and historic museum visit.
Perhaps it was a distant memory once you see the captivating Sassi in Matera. It looks like a colony burrowed into the canyon filled with little stone shacks interlinked by staircases and pathways stacked on top of each other. There’s nothing really like it. It was once home to some of Italy’s poorest people until they were all evicted. Since then, it is now a tourist attraction and is famed for its scenery that resembles Bethlehem. Did you know Mel Gibson filmed The Passion of Christ here? You can now see why.