Otranto to Lecce - Early spring in southern Italy - CycleBlaze

May 21, 2006

Otranto to Lecce

As we set out, we find an official bicycle path, a percorso cicloturistico, away from the traffic and idyllic. Unfortunately it is limited and after approximately 10 km we must again resort to normal roads.

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Today is Sunday and many Italians are out on their racing bikes. However, we also see that mountain bikes are becoming popular. Regardless of the type of bike, Italian cyclists are all turned out in the most fashionable biking apparel. And because we have perfect weather and it is Sunday there are many cars on the road on their way to the beaches.

Sunday on the coast
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When we leave the coast and head inland toward Lecce, we have the road to ourselves.

Road to ourselves
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The Italians have a saying: Only "cani ed americani" - dogs and Americans - go out on the streets in the noonday heat. This observation originated in the Fifties, when the exchange rate of the dollar to the lira was so favorable that American tourists abounded. Not many Germans were yet affluent enough so shortly after the war to do much traveling. Today you would have to say only "cani e tedeschi" - dogs and Germans - are out in the noonday sun, except that doesn't rhyme.

Dog in the noonday heat
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At noon we reach Acaia, a fortified town with castello and wall. Acaia was planned by a famed military architect of the time, Gian Giacomo dell'Acaya. In the 16th century, Apulia had been given a leading role as frontier post on the eastern side of the Mediterranean, protecting what were then Spanish occupied towns from the Venetians and Turkish invaders.

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Today the castello and wall are an ambitious construction site aiming at restoring the fortress to its former splendor and attracting tourists.

Acaia
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In the early afternoon we reach Lecce, known for its exuberant Baroque. Again the streets and squares are deserted at this time of day, but this time we know it will be different in a few hours. In fact, in the evening it is almost impossible to make one's way through the crowded streets - and I'm not talking about on a bicycle but on foot. Now the empty streets are ideal for looking around and taking a few pictures.

Afternoon in Lecce
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Lecce
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Lecce Baroque is concentrated on the facades, in the courtyards, on the corbelled balconies. This decorative abundance has been possible thanks to the high malleability of the Lecce stone.

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Lecce
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Corbelled balconies in finest Lecce Baroque
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Lecce
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Lecce
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Today's ride: 59 km (37 miles)
Total: 465 km (289 miles)

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