I have friends in Puglia and have visited several times, but had never made it to Lecce, so when I knew I was coming to Italy I really wanted to go there. I also hoped that by going to Puglia I would have a better chance at warm weather. (Ironically enough, the warmest weather we had was in Bolzano, but what can you do!)
I was very happy with my hotel/apartment, Casa dei Mercanti, and slept like a baby. I had a ten o'clock guided tour Monday morning, but I didn't have any problem getting up. Breakfast was a cornetto at the corner bar, and I was happy to see that although cool, it wasn't raining, despite the forecast.
The hotel had arranged a guide for me; I had wanted to take a tour so that I could both get to know Lecce and learn more about the Baroque churches that fill the city. (Just one of the many things the hotel helped with.) Angela the guide was waiting for me in the hotel office and we headed out to Piazza Sant'Oronzo. We started down Via Vittorio Emanuele in the centro storico and she gave me a great intro to Lecce's history and art. Angela is an art history graduate and a licensed tour guide and often leads groups of school kids around the city - so I think it was nice for her, too, to just have to show one person around! Wherever we went there were lots of school kids and she said she was happy to have a break from them!
We visited several churches right away, including Santa Chiara, Chiesa del Rosario and Sant'Anna, all gorgeous. It was very cool to learn some of the typical Baroque characteristics and I also learned a lot of new Italian words - for instance puttini, little angels. We then headed towards the city walls and the porte, first checking out Porta Rudiae, from the antique city of Rudiae, close to Lecce. It was originally built in the middle age but rebuilt in the 1700s in the baroque style. It has a large statue of the city's patron saint, Sant'Oronzo.
We walked on the outside of the wall, in the modern city (which is also very pleasant) and saw some of the university buildings. Angela then suggested we visit the school of Art History, as it is one of the few medieval buildings in Lecce. It was gorgeous! What a perfect place to study art history. On the way back we visited the Castello Carlo V.
The courtyard of the Facolta di Storia dell'Arte:
We continued strolling around the city, entering through the Porta Napoli, another gorgeous city gate, before visiting the Duomo. What an amazing cathedral! We ended up at a cafe where we had juice and a "rustico", a little pastry filled with tomato sauce and cheese. She wanted to show me Santa Croce, maybe Lecce's most famous church, but it was closed.
However, Angela was kind enough to invite me out for dinner as well. I met up with her and her friends at a coffee shop/bookstore, Libreria Icaro, before driving to a restaurant called Osteria Cosimino. (Many restaurants were closed on Mondays.) They asked me if I had any dietary restrictions and I jokingly said "Well, I rarely eat horse!" They, however, did not get the joke, and explained that horse meat is excellent for people who are anemic, which apparently is common in the south. But they assured me there would be other dishes on the menu. It was very funny for me to open the menu and see three different horse meat dishes!
We went mostly vegetarian, however, with some fantastic appetizers (antipasti in Puglia are wonderful!) My pasta was called ciciri e tria, and looked like a tagliatelle that was slightly fried. Very tasty! And the place was so economical, we spent under ten euro each!
(Interesting side note: I was on antibiotic for a respiratory infection, and it completely took my appetite away. For the first four days in Italy, I got full so fast! It was very strange. I couldn't even finish a simple brioche for breakfast!)