What Else Can I Do?
[pc-pvt-content allow=”149″ message=”Please log in to view content.”][/pc-pvt-content]What to Do in Italy, both before and After You Visit Lecce
Contrary to the common perception, Italy is actually a very, very new country, formed out of a bunch of very, very old ones. Go an hour in any direction and things change radically. Most folks take advantage of this fact and plan a three or four days on each side of their time in Lecce.
Things to keep in mind:
Lecce is at the bottom of a peninsula, so any over-land travel must go up again (Lecce is the last stop on the end of the Italian train system). Keep this in mind if you are planning on travelling to la costiera amalfitana, or Sicilia, two common destinations. Both are wonderful but take serious commitment. That commitment is very often underestimated by our guests.
Distances can be deceiving.
Ex. A trip from Lecce to Positano takes five changes and the better part of a day. Find out exactly at www.trenitalia.com. Keep in mind that to be greeted by the staff at the train station, you must arrive at the selected time. Should you elect to forgo a personal reception, you must arrange your own arrival with Elena of the B and B, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your departure is anytime you like, Saturday morning (we will arrange a taxi to the Lecce train station. Any place beyond that is your own responsibility, although we may be able to help with arrangements, just not the expense.
Decide if you want to spend your time seeing a few things but well, or travelling, because you only really can do one. Most travel plans are excessively ambitious. It is a common email that proposes Sicilia in two days, Rome in two more. Both are seriously under-cut in time and a significant distance from one another. Decide if you want to spend your time seeing things or travelling
between seeing things.
The following information is to serve as a starting point in your research. We do not make any guarantees of any service outside of our own. Still, here is what we have found after doing this for a few years. Please take this information in the spirit offered.
It should tell you something, that most of the great photographs of Alberobello are taken early in the morning, just after sunrise. That is before all the buses arrive. While it is a fascinating place, architecturally, visitors should steel their hearts to the tiny town’s modern sense of rabid commercialism. While it’s true that there is always one more tourist than you see, Alberobello’s
lack of modern commercial diversification leaves the town feeling like a one-trick pony….that is trying to sell you snow globes and glow-in-the-dark felt posters made in China. So it might come as a surprise that we recommend that you stay the night in Alberobello, if you decide you want to see the place. You WILL get that early morning and late afternoon effect, when the place is more or less all yours. We have also had some great meals in Alberobello, if you order local foods (trust the waiter). This is not the place to order i tortellini con la panna or a bottle of Chianti. Folks that stay the night tend to speak of the place’s charm in ways that folks that day trip never do.
Mimmo rents trulli (the conical houses that you are coming to see, the singular is ‘trullo’). His prices have been fair in the past and he speaks English well. When writing, tell him you are coming to the school in Lecce. Since you will need a car, Alberobello is best seen AFTER Lecce.
Matera is really two towns. The first is modern and unremarkable. The second, and the reason you know it, is from the recent Jesus movie, where Matera was revamped into ancient Jerusalem. ‘I sassi’, or caves, represent a fascinating part of Italy’s story, when folks still shared rooms with farm animals, and dying of malaria was as common as catching a cold today. (There is a charming
story commonly-told in these parts, that when the government stepped in in the 1950’s, closing the ‘sassi’, relocating the populace to the modern part of town, that it took a generation before the recently-relocated stopped using their bathtubs as herb gardens). Still, it is sobering to see how little human life changed for 9,000 years for those that lived in the caves. And how fast it changed after they left.
A stunningly- beautiful place to stay the night is La Locanda di San Martino.
They have been kind to our guests in the past. When contacting them, tell them that you are coming to the school in Lecce and that we recommended them to you.
Aside from Gibson’s film, there have been others filmed in Matera:
Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964).
Bruce Beresford’s King David (1985).
Catherine Hardwicke’s The Nativity Story (2006).
Alberto Lattuada’s La Lupa (1953)
Giuseppe Tornatore’s L’uomo delle stelle (1995)
The Omen (2006)
Carlo Levi also famously wrote about Matero in Christ Stopped in Eboli (the title indicating that Christianity never quite penetrated a lot of Basilicata and that Paganism remained long into modern history).
Like Pompeii, wise travellers do their research long before arrival. Matera is fascinating but you need to have the cultural and historical framework already laid to truly appreciate the place. Those that do truly experience a place unlike any other on earth.
La Costiera Amalfitana
(Sorrento, Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, etc).
There is no shortage of guidebooks, television programs or websites dedicated to the Amalfi coast, as it is some of the most touristed real estate in Italy. It is also very beautiful. What you need to know regarding your time in Lecce is that it takes a good day to travel between the two places, with many changes into between. Is it worth it? Most folks think so. The only real surprise is the commitment needed to travel between the two. www.trenitalia.com. Should you rent a car upon your departure from Lecce, keep in mind that driving the Amalfi coast can be terrifying, as the traffic, lack of guard rails and sure death of a fall causes the blood to flow away from the knuckles. Still, many visitors drive it every day. Decide before hand if that is for you. If you have access to American books, Mario Batali has a nice little book on the food of region, albeit, that of the winter months.
Sicily should be treated like a different country, and not in any way slanderous. It is a remarkable place, somewhere both geographically and mentally half way between Europe and Africa. And like a different country, wise travellers do not underestimate the resources needed to really see the place. In other words, it is not a ‘stop over’ or the place to use up those ‘two left over days between Rome and Turin’. Those that do visit Sicilia though often site it as the most fascinating place they have ever visited. If you are planning a trip to Sicilia, buy a stack of guidebooks and cookbooks and read up on the place, before you go. Creating a dossier is a smart idea, especially when it comes to the food and wine. (It is always heart breaking to the see the effort and expense many will go to travel great distances to see a place only to arrive under-prepared intellectually).
Tropea is a gorgeous Calabrian beach town, unknown to non-Italians. In Italy, the town is famous for its beauty, and its sweet, almost candy like red onions of the same name. Avoid the place in the height of high season, namely late July, August and early September. Otherwise, it is a fascinating place to while away a few days on the beach. And the food of Calabria is as delicious culinarily as it is fascinating, anthropologically. If you are travelling by train, the connection requires that you go up and over Italy’s instep. www.trenitalia.com.
An ancestral home or relatives in the south.
Like everything in life, ‘stuff gets more interesting the more you know’. Do not just assume that anyone you visit will know why something is interesting to you, as they often lack the same cultural references. Just being from a place rarely prepares anyone to be guide. Research the area before you depart. Many cities have their own websites. A lot of genealogy is now done online. Those that poke around beforehand always have better trips than those that just ‘want to show up and see what there is to see’. In Lecce, you have us as guides. After that, you are on your own and its best you come prepared. A thoughtful gift to give relatives is family pictures on a DVD, postcards from your hometown. Younger folks enjoy T-shirts and ball caps with your city or state on it, keeping in mind that clothing is worn much tighter in Italy. Coming from North America, visitors should also be extra sensitive to European resources, such as the expense of water, space and electricity.
Europeans tend to pay much more for natural resources and its bad manners to squander anything, even in hotels. Also, keep in mind that those that have struggled to study and learn English over the course of many years might find it insulting to hear ‘that their English is still better than your Italian’, unless you’ve committed yourself to studying Italian with the same sense of rigor. If you want to show your appreciation, arrive informed about their city, region and local food and wine. Nothing opens hearts faster.