It is difficult to decide which town we visited in Apulia was the prettiest, but Lecce undoubtedly is high on that list. Lecce is affectionately known as the Florence of the South due to its magnificent Baroque architecture. It has been inhabited for over 2000 years, and in the city, the remains of Romans, Greeks, and Medieval ages coexist. A legend goes that Lecce existed already at the time of the Trojan war. The old sights still exist, but sometimes new buildings were built on top of the old ones. We spent an evening and morning in Lecce, and it was fun wandering around old streets, getting lost and accidentally finding amazing buildings.
In our hotel, the owner recommended us what are the must-try dishes in Lecce which we then tried in one of the local restaurants, where we were the only tourists. Namely, pasta ‘ncannulanta with strong ricotta sauce, orecchiette with tomato sauce, and sweet pasticiotti. He also reluctantly recommended ordering pizzette di cavallo (pieces of a horse in a sauce) which we of course tried and they were excellent.
From Lecce, we went even more to the south, to Otranto. Otranto is a charming coastal town known for its clear turquoise water. When the weather is nice, you can see all the way to the coast of Albania! We entered the old town through magnificent stone gateway Largo Porta Alfonsina. We wandered the streets of Otranto and enjoyed its seaside architecture with narrow alleys, stone houses, and small piazzas. Imposant sight above the town is the Aragonese caste which should not be missed. The only problem of Otranto was that all restaurants were closed because it was the off-season, and owners were renovating most of them. So for lunch, we bought rustico (pizza-like pastry) and other delicacies in the local bakery, and we ate in the park with a beautiful view over the port.
From Otranto, we drove up north along the coast all the way to Bari. In the summer, this coast is full of tourists, and there were whole villages made just of hotels and apartments. However, all these towns looked like ghost-towns. It was like being in some apocalyptic movie as there were absolutely no people. Near one of the more popular sights, Grotta di Poesia, we saw five other tourists and that was it. So we can say we had the coast just for ourselves!