290-291: Otranto & Lecce: Extreme East of Peninsula and Extreme Baroque Architecure

290 – Thursday 4th February 2016:  Otranto – Most Easterly Italian Point

We left the Agricamping EUR50 lighter … rather steep at EUR20 per night, but we made good use of the facilities (hot showers – note the plural! and heating on at will!).  For the mathematicians amongst you 2 x 20 does not equal 50 … the additional 10 was for the husband / mechanic / taxi driver who replaced our head lamp bulb.

We drove to Marina di Leuca with the intention of having a quick walk and a coffee at the most southerly point of the heel, but failed to find a parking so got out of there and followed the coast north.  As we approached Tricase Porto … men chatting on side of road / easy parking / and a ristorante … coffee time.  One of the chaps kindly hollered into the restaurant, so that the chef came out to make us coffee.  Had it been a bit later in the day, we may have been tempted to stop for lunch as it was a) cheap and b) an attractive menu and c) a locals’ place.

Another act of kindness was when we were road blocked with a lorry uploading choppings off olive trees … he gave us a dismissive hand wave to say ‘Find another route’.  But a local driver stopped and approached us … with a few words of French and some more friendly hand gestures, we were to follow him.  A 5 minute detour through a village and further instructions and then we back on route.

The scenery along this eastern side of the heel is much more interesting than the west of the toe and the instep.  Cliffs, rocky outcrops, small bays, lots of stone towers and extensive olive groves.  A new feature is the small round stone squat towers – the ground is so rocky here that local stone is extensively used to terrace the olives and make these towers, which look to be used for storage.  There are also some Italian equivalents of Pill Boxes, concrete WW2 defences.

We parked up in Otranto by the harbour (no other motorhomes in sight) but it was right next to stairs leading to the centro storico.  Interesting old town – beautiful cathedral – magnificent ceiling – and the skulls/bones of the 800 residents who refused to renounce Christianity – then killed by the Turkish invaders. The crypt is very impressive – most unexpected – a completely separate church.

Third act of kindness today was the enthusiastic TIC chappie, who pressed leaflets on us.

We had a nice glass of local wine – “does the fat dog…?” Sorry Amelia – I couldn’t resist !

We retired to our casa for the evening… the wind blew strongly during the night – not as bad as Castlemare del Gusto (renamed by K after our windy night there…..) But not a great nights sleep – we moved the van at about 7:30 am – much better – but too late for slumber….


View from old town will … you can just spot Chardonnay.  This port used to be the main port to the Orient for a thousand years … there were are few small naval vessels to give it kudos.


Duomo ceiling was amazing … just like a wedding gift dinner service … and very unusual.




This mosaic was first built by the Normans in the 11th Century and has since received face lift or two.  The creator was a young monk who designed this fanciful vision of the tree of life, encompassing heaven and hell, lewdness and symbolism.  It is amazing that it survived at all, as the invading Turks stables their horses here!


A small chapel to the right of the main alter houses cupboards of bones … in 1480 during the ‘Sack of Otranto’ 18,000 Turks besieged the town and killed the 800 Christians who refused to denounce their faith.  These are their bones.  Not gruesome, but a tribute to them.  


The crypt under the main church with its frescos and columns.


The old town walls with many Torre and Porte.  All pedestrianised inside.


As we returned to Chardonnay, the sky became stormy, but no rain 🙂

291 – Friday 5th February 2016: Martano and Lecce

we are now lean and mean athletes (here the reader needs a modicum of imagination) – so off for a rusty gun – sorry, gusty run!  2 kinometres later, we raced (?) across the finish line and gratefully accepted our prize – brekkie!

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K trailing, as ever!, a quick whip out of the iPhone to catch a shot of the run around the old town walls and J disappearing!

Avoiding the picturesque coastal route due to more high winds, we went inland and stopped at Martano (not in the guide books but recommended by a chap in the Otranto Tourist Office).

We parked next to the new TIC and it did not look open … leaves and rubbish blown up against the door.  But no … a young girl, wrapped up in woollens and beret, ransacked her cupboards for a town map …  not to be found so we photographed the one on the wall, which she would have pressed on us.  We suspect we were her only customers for the day …

A nice town – wandering along, we came across a 17th century (my guess – no carbon dating) imposing building – now these are invariably Palazzos or Museos or even convents (Sion Hill, Amelia?).  This one – on closer inspection, was/is called “Morrisons” (not a northern English supermarket) – but (wait for it) – an Irish pub! Complete with Guiness signs, etc – see photo.


Possibly the most interesting sight in Martano?


Coffee and cake, of course!


We would have course walked on by, even had it been open!!!

Lecce – next – or as Brad calls it – “Lex”. The parking app led us to a (Forum recommended) motorhome stop in the city centre – now a building site! We parked in another car park nearby – and perambulated (that word, again…)  Lecce is known for it’s extreme Baroque buildings – it did not disappoint!  40 churches – K wanted to pray in each one – but I heroically dissuaded her!  Lunch – antipasto shared – delicious dishes – glass of vino for J – Euro equivalent of £13!  Will we afford living for the summer in UK/Ireland ?

Coastal bound for the overnight bivouac – parked at San Cataldo – “grande gusto windo” – doesn’t quite work – but you get the picture. Moved to a side road – not totally satisfactory – on the road again – destination Lequile – a very quiet car park – no gustos! Settled – Irish Times Simplex crossword – 1 across – anagram “drab” – it’s our very own “Brad”!  Try creating an anagram for Marge?  Answers on the postcard again…..


Sorry, just love these Baroque balconies.  Each is so different.


Pedestrionised and mellow local stone … apparently it is perfect as it is soft on carving and then hardens off.


The Duomo Piazza.  Apparently residents used to barricade themselves in here when the town was under siege.


Boobs or oranges?  All a bit fruity!


Yours for EUR12 for 2 people … yum yum.


Basilica di Santa Croche … opulence gone mad.  


Being restored, but such amazing detail.


Part of the Rose window.


Madcap Baroque … love it!