Arriving at the town of Lecce, in the heart of Puglia, was a step back in time. Quiet is an understatement; it was siesta hour. We spent the first evening overlooking the spectacular Roman amphitheater and the next day wandering the stone lined street of the historic center, beautifully preserved like a crown jewel for 2,000 years.
By 6pm our friends (he's German, she's Italian, they live in London) arrived to fetch us for the 40 minutes ride down to Salve (the tip of the heel) where they keep an impeccable summer escape home. In Lecce, stay at the Alvino Suite on Via Roberto Di Biccari 6.
Nestled between the waters of the Adriatic Sea to the east and the Ionian to the south, the landscape was rugged, with a heady heritage of mixed cultures. Traits of Arab, Spanish and Greek were present in the architecture, cuisine and lovely dry wind that continually swept away summer humidity. Our friends created a unique oasis filled with art and good cheer, mixing their outstanding humor with purity and respect for the culture. We feasted on octopus and pastas, ricotta and huge, handmade burrata, topping it all off with a homemade limoncello.
With plenty of time to lounge by the pool, I read Tom Reiss? The Orientalist a marvelous biography tracing mysteries of the strange and dangerous life of Essad Bey. His celebrated adventures from Azerbaijan to Berlin were a poignant companion enriching the ambiance with exotic tales of courage and daring. As a destination, Puglia is still has the scent of uncharted, bohemian territory, maybe because of it?s long history of colonization and invasion. Go there and relish its fruits including award winning wine and olive oil harvested locally.
For a fabulous place to stay, peaceful and welcoming, I recommend Masseria Montelauro. The manager is Renato and the owner is Elisabetta. If you?re looking for an exotic retreat, you?ll be in the right place.