True confessions time: when people ask me if I’m travelling with someone else, I always say something vague and polite about “Oh I don’t know anyone on the same schedule as me” but what I really mean is, “I love travelling alone and I’ve sort of forgotten how to travel with other people anyway.”
But travelling to Lecce and the surrounding region with B. was great fun. It helped that we had a logical division of labour — she has the history knowledge to make sense of the places we saw, I have enough Italian to translate informational plaques about them. Or this sign at an altar in the basilica at Gallipoli, clearly posted by someone who’s Had It With These Tourists:
To be fair, the basilica was full of altars like this, so you can see the temptation to shift the candles a bit for a better view of the paintings
(Sadly lacking from this post are photos of the facade of the church. The sun was just too bright to get anything reasonable with my
very high end dslr phone. But you should definitely look at pictures, and then go and book some flights to Italy and go and look at the real thing.)
We were in Gallipoli because the night before, we had said, “y’know, maybe we can’t spend all 5 days of this trip looking at churches in Lecce”. This is another advantage to travelling with someone else — I would have said, “Ok, run out of church buildings to admire, maybe I’ll just sit in my accommodation with a book”. But “go and explore somewhere else” definitely feels more travel-y. Though it turns out we have the same approach to choosing somewhere else to explore: throw names of towns from the map into google, pick one that has a wikipedia page that makes it sound interesting.
Gallipoli turned out to be a good choice. It’s accessible by train from Lecce, it’s pretty, it’s coastal. At the same time, while its economy definitely relies on tourism, there is also a fishing industry, and seems like the fishing is real and not just a few rustic wooden boats left on the shore for the benefit of tourists. At least, when we arrived, there were people working at these piles of nets. (You read this blog for hard-hitting economic analysis, don’t you?)
Did I mention the place was pretty? Check out the main altar of the church of Saint Francis. Pretttty.
All our walking around in the sun from one pretty building to another was hot work, so we were glad to see a beach next to the restaurant we stopped at for lunch. (Where I had fish that was locally caught. So the scale of the local fishing industry must be at least as big as the fish requirements of a single restaurant… You’re also reading this for my high-level deduction skills, right?)
There was even empty space on the beach, something I’ve never seen in Italy in summer. Awkwardly, all that free space was in full sun, and wouldn’t get shade until late afternoon. B. burns easily — actually, so do I but I try to pretend I don’t — so we found a strip of shade cast by a wall. It was so narrow that we almost had to press up against the wall to stay out of the sun while we sorted our things out and put on more suncream, and we were right near a German guy having an intense discussion with his girlfriend over the phone, but we managed, and the water was beautiful, the sort of sea you dream of swimming in on an Italian vacation. And it is way more fun going swimming when you’re with someone else.
PS: It’s B.’s birthday today! Happy birthday!
Practical details for future reference: You can get to Gallipoli by train from Lecce (1 hour), or in summer, by bus (2 hours).
This sounds like a really fun trip! Funny about the candle sign. To be fair, probably even the artists who painted the altarpieces knew there would be candles. One of my favorite aspects of the Duccio Virgin and Child in the Metropolitan Museum in NYC is the burn marks on the frame!
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It looks beautiful! My “high end dslr” is my phone too :-)