Lecce: A Baroque city with a long past

Puglia plaza
Piazza del Duomo

Dating from the time of Jesus, Lecce features extensive baroque architecture, uniformly made with Lecce stone. Lecce stone is a kind if limestone, still a main export because it is easily worked.

lecce church2
Chiesa San Matteo
lecce church
lecce gate
Main gate of Lecce

Like so many locations in Italy, Lecce sits on a treasure trove of artifacts, which Museo Faggiano clearly illustrates. The museum is located in a house owned by the Faggiano family. We were met at the door by the oldest son Andrea. His father Luciano bought it in 2000 for the purpose of opening a trattoria. Following reports of a leak he looked for a broken sewer line. Down he dug until he began to unearth pottery, coins, toys, a bishop’s ring and other artifacts from the middle ages back to prehistoric times.

He hid his activity from his wife, not wanting her to know that he was lowering his then 12 year old son deep into pits to dig. The dirty clothes eventually gave him away. They carted off the dirt by surreptitiously putting it in their car and hauling it to their farm. Neighbors eventually noticed, and reported the activity to the city government. The family spent the next 10 years uncovering artifacts and structures under the supervision of the town’s archaeologists, whom they’d been unable to avoid, humorously portrayed a Andrea as “you work, you pay, we just watch and take what you find.” The discoveries are now in the local museum, largely still in boxes.

We learned from that in the 14th to the 15th centuries the building was a Franciscan convent, inhabited in the middle of the 12th century by a Templar community as they prepared to invade the Middle East. The structures we see to this day were built on foundations from the Messapic (pre-Roman) era. We know little about these presumably indigenous peoples.

faggiano 1

The house is now attractively arranged with multiple livable rooms. On the roof there are views of the surrounding buildings, flat roofs with sharp angles, tubes for this and that, and jutting trees.

faggiano 1
View from the roof of the museum

Afterwards we had lunch at a delightful by the slice place. You pay by the weight, not yours, but that of the pizza. There is a price list on the wall. You pay more for more expensive toppings. There is beer and wine. The crust is light and crunchy., a real pleasure of a place in a hole in the wall joint with wooden chairs and tables, and a pleasant woman deftly slicing pizza with scissors.

lecce pizza 2
Pizza by the slice

As you walk from one area in town to another you find art treasures as well as more architectural gems. These metal sculptures are among my favorites.

lecce scultp 2
lecce sculpt jazz band
lecce sculpt

That night we found another trattoria, sampling more local specialties, the best of this place being the bread crumb stuffed mussels.

stuffed mussels
Stuffed mussels

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