Sold as the Florence of Puglia, I was very much looking forward to an eclectic mix of things to do here. We had booked a Hilton Garden Inn. We needed to save some money after our meal in the Grotto in Polignano a Mare – read here for that adventure – so we used our points. If we hadn’t been on a budget, we would have stayed at Hotel Santa Chiara or Risorgimento Resort. Both slap bang in the centre, there would have been no arguments about where to go for dinner like the one we had if you continue to read on!
A completely different vibe to what we’d been used to so far, a nicer than usual room, we got a free upgrade as Diamond members, they didn’t offer it, but we asked. The room was surprisingly modern and almost stylish for a Garden Inn! It even had a rooftop pool, which we used a few times, in need of a rest after all the miles we’d walked. The only complaints I had here were firstly, that the pigeons also liked to use the pool not for a swim, but as their water bowl. Having a mild fear of pigeons didn’t help me feel the relaxing vibe I was hoping for. Secondly, there was also no bar up there, a necessity for every rooftop pool in my books, so we had to take the lift down from the 7th to the ground floor, try to find the barman come receptionist come Maitre D, to prepare our drinks in paper cups, so we could take them back up with us to enjoy in their right environment. Well, I say we, obviously the OH got that job! It was worth it though and I tried a few Negroni’s for the first time too. Quite enjoyed them!
For our first night, I left the choice of restaurant down to the OH for once, and in the words of Julia Robert’s: ‘big mistake, huge mistake’! Deciding on sushi he told me it was a 15 min walk from the hotel, so we didn’t need a taxi as it would be a nice meander through the town. See below for pretty things we would have seen had we gone the right way initially.
Seventy five minutes later, and no longer holding hands, after walking up and down residential roads and in and out of industrial estates we arrived at a nice looking sushi place but on the main road. Nobody in it as it had just opened for dinner at 7.30pm. However who knew that if you email a restaurant asking for a reservation and you don’t hear back from them, it means it’s a confirmed reservation!! Err, NO ONE!!! So despite trying and failing to convince them we could eat in 45 minutes and that their completely empty looking restaurant didn’t even look like it would ever be fully booked, off we stormed back out into the wilderness, or rather I stormed, he’s so laid back he may as well have crawled out. After another 30 minute walk the same boring way we came, but this time in silence, we found ourselves back in the Centre of Lecce. I was NOT happy and exceptionally hangry!! Close to tears if I’m honest. I had heels on for goodness sake!! This light bulb I spotted in a shop window a bit later on couldn’t have been more appropriate.
We then happened upon an amphitheatre! A bit hard to show your interest in silence, because I still wasn’t really talking to him, so I had a quick glance down said ‘very nice’ then kept on walking to where I saw an array of umbrellas and downlights, always a sign of something happening.
We sat down at a very busy restaurant and had a lovely meal and bottle of wine, finally laughing about the ridiculousness of the situation. As it turns out where we ate was actually on the Trip Advisor list of good bars and restaurants in Lecce, so my nose for sniffing out nice places is obviously better than his! It was called Messapia. The walk home was 20 minutes by which time I was in dire need of a nice, soothing and relaxing foot massage. Well that was never going to happen, considering my trotters are as dry as the Sahara desert and he was fast asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow!
After a good night’s sleep in the most comfortable bed so far, we ventured out again for a day at the beach. We wanted to explore more of the south east cost of Puglia so headed for the village of San Foce, which has a few beaches along its coastline.
Be warned, as soon as you hit September, a lot of Italy has the mentality that Summer is over and out come the long sleeves and light puffer jackets, even if it’s still hot. So when we arrived (September 16th), a lot of the private beaches were already closed. There had also been a problem with seaweed, which is actually a worldwide issue on a lot of beaches.
Luckily here, it was only on small stretch of the beach that was affected, and further along, the water was crystal clear and almost Caribbean like. You can still sit on the beaches when they’re closed, but you’ll need to bring your own towels, umbrellas and most importantly snacks! A lot of the shops and restaurants in the village were also closed for the season by this time.
We managed to find a beach that was still open, Li Marangi, with wine at 8 euros a litre and water for 1 euro, the sun loungers were more expensive than the drinks, but it was a great place for our last day of lounging.
That evening we (I) booked us another sushi restaurant, Daiki. The food here was fresh and very good, the position here wasn’t great, as it’s not in the centre of Lecce, but it was good enough and not a long walk from the hotel!
After dinner, we wandered back into Lecce for a night cap in a great ‘speak easy’ style bar called Prohibition, with a varied cocktail menu. Other nice bars include QuarantaCinque and Quanto Basta. All right next to each other if you wanted to do a little bar crawl. We didn’t. Too old for that now. We also walked past a few lovely looking restaurants which, if we’d had more time, would have tried out. La Tipografia and Il Vico del Gusto for next time. Lecce, in fact the whole of Puglia, seems to be the centre for gastronomic experiences.
The following day we were on the move again to our next and final stop Ostuni. Click to read my review of Masseria Cervarolo.