Lecce – Artistic by day and Entertaining by Night

The landscape of Lecce is mostly flat and dry. The houses and modern buildings tend to be low with flat roofs (except in the historic center). This creates somewhat of a “barracks” feel as you look around punctuated by an oasis of greenery from the public park -filled with palm trees, flower beds, benches and a majestic gazebo with a tiled dome. Open every day until sundown, it’s where everyone brings kids, dogs and books to wile away the afternoon.

The arid landscape changes dramatically as you head out of town toward the beaches. The land gives way to a seemingly endless expanse of crystal blue sky and sea. Lecce is located just about dead center of the heel of the Italian boot; a peninsula within a peninsula. Consequently, there is easy access to beaches on the eastern coast of the heel (Adriatic Sea) and the western coast of the heel (Ionian Sea). On any given day, you can choose your coast depending upon which way the wind is blowing. I’m not kidding. When the wind is blowing due east, go to the Adriatic. When it blows to the west, go to the Ionian coast. With so many sandy beachfronts at your disposal, you can afford to be picky. One of my favorite beaches is Torre di Chianca, on the Ionian coast. The sand is soft and the water is clean, clear and warm, even in October.

Piazza del Duomo

The historic center of Lecce is why the town is called “Florence of the South”. Filled with churches constructed in Baroque style, it’s easy to lose yourself and your way in the labyrinth of narrow streets. Eventually you’ll reach the Piazza del Duomo, the architectural centerpiece of town. Splendid in daylight, it’s especially beguiling at night. Indirect lighting installed throughout the Piazza illuminates the statuary, almost bringing them to life.

The historic center is also the place to go for entertainment and shopping. Restaurants, bars, movie theaters and gelato abound. During my stay, silent films starring Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton were shown against the wall of an outdoor café. Like so many other Italian cities, you can walk out of anyplace directly onto an excavation of subterranean Roman structures. Now that’s entertainment!

The shopping in the historic center is quite diverse. In addition to Italian clothes, shoes and artwork, you can find African and Indonesian jewelry and furniture. A famous local craft is Cartapesta. This is a centuries-old technique of fashioning lifelike figures out of straw and paper mache. The figures are then painted so skillfully that they seem to be carved out of stone. The artisans in Lecce excel in religious and nativity statues, many of them life size.

High-end and designer shopping can be found just outside the historic center, at Piazza Mazzini. Max Mara, Missoni and Valle Verde are at your disposal, just to name a few. The Piazza is also home to a large stone fountain made with whimsical, impish figures perched throughout– peeking at you from under the streams of water and having great fun.

Saturday night is party night in Lecce. Around midnight, everyone drives into the historic center, creating bumper to bumper traffic seldom seen outside of New York City. Everyone miraculously finds parking and it’s off on foot to the bar of their choice. We chose Route 66, a noisy, crowded place with music videos playing from multiple screens, but no dancing. It’s a place to sit, smoke, drink and speak loudly.

After the bar, there’s always a party going on in somebody’s apartment. It’s a great opportunity to hear someone sing, watch someone else learn how to juggle, and try to find the bathroom. When this party dies down everyone heads to Leopardi, open 24 hours serving coffee, liquor and pastry. This place is very popular (especially around 3:00 a.m.) and there’s always a line to get in. We wait patiently and our reward is cappuccino and pastry amid the music and neon. Even as we leave about an hour later, the line outside is just as long and the place is just as lively as when we arrived. It makes you wonder if anyone in this town ever sleeps on a Saturday night.


Hitting the Best Beaches in Italy

Summer is one of the best times to visit Italy and the southern part around Sicily has some amazing beaches.  The climate and the warm waters of the Mediterranean allow you to enjoy the water and soak up the sun all year long.  The coast has plenty of different regions for you to check out, so if you plan on spending your summer in Italy you can start hitting the best beaches in Italy.


Mondello is close to Palermo, the largest city in Sicily and it is one of the most well-known tourist destinations in the area.  Aside from having an amazing beach there is a pretty cool fishing village nearby that has tons of food and sporting events.  If you love pizza then you really need to try it here.  Here is a closer look at Mondello and everything you can do here.

The Beaches at Taormina

Taormina is the jewel of the Mediterranean and the beach can be found in Mazzaro.  Here you can find marine reserves and sea caves.  Make sure to stop by Isola Bella it is a small island that connects via a small beach to the mainland.

San Vito lo Capo

You can find this beach on the western coast of Sicily in Trapani, it is like going back in time.  You can visit the natural reserve of Zingaro which is famous for the “tonnare” an ancient method of fishing for tuna.  There are reefs, capes and miles of sandy beaches.  While you are here make sure to check out The Island of Currents, it is the southern tip of Europe.

The Beaches of Ragusa

If you want miles of white sandy beaches with crystal clear water then you need to head to the beaches of Ragusa, there are 4 beaches here that you will absolutely love; Marina di Ragusa, Marina do Modica, Pozzallo and Sampieri.  Be sure to check them out while you’re here.

Here are some things that you need to remember while you are checking out the beaches in Italy:

  • Tourist season is July and August, you might find the beaches less crowded in June and September
  • Some beaches will charge admission, bring some cash with you
  • Lifeguards are only available between 8am and 6pm
  • Some beaches are topless, not all, so always check beforehand
  • Don’t swim too far out from the shore the water can get dangerous
  • If you see a red flag that means there are dangers from bad weather
  • To call the coast guard in Italy use 117 and not 911

Italy is beautiful no matter when you decide to travel there but the beaches in the summertime are one of the best times to be there.