Via Theutra, Lecce
This small Roman theater is almost intact, tucked away a few blocks behind my house, it is still used for concerts and theater performances. There is also a small museum attached to it, fee 3 euros, which allows access to the ancient theater. Otherwise you will have to view it from outside the gate on Via Theutra. (You get there from Via Federico D'Aragona, left on Via del Palazzo dei Conti di Lecce, right on Via Theutra).
Piazza del Duomo
Try to go there either at sunrise or at sunset. This odd-shaped and tucked away piazza will turn a soft salmony color. It is generally very quiet, no cars allowed, and if you sit at the back end of Syrbar, you can sip your drink while enjoying the architecture and the sky. It is less than 10 minutes-walk from my house (you can view its bell tower from my roof terrace).
Museo Provinciale Sigismondo Castromediano
Viale Gallipoli 28, 73100, Lecce
From a visitor: The museum doesn't look very promising from the outside but once inside, there is a wealth of historical artefacts and information from all over the Salento. There are quite a few English information labels and the staff helpfully point you at each set of exhibits to make sure you don't miss anything. However, some ability to read Italian and/or a translation dictionary would come in handy.
Literally 5 minutes-walk from my house. Open on Sundays. Free of charge.
Chapel of Madonna dell’Itri
If you find yourself driving toward Santa Maria di Leuca, stop at the village of Nociglia. At about civic number 100 of Via Vittorio Emanuele (intersection with Via Dante Alighieri), you will see a small church. Nothing much to write home about from the outside. Once you enter, head for the altar and behind it you will see a small door. Enter and enjoy: about 5 different pictorial layers of Byzantine frescos, possibly from the XI century. Among the images of various important saints, the head and elongated neck of a young woman with turban stands out: it is the image of Santa Cesarea, possibly the most ancient one that can be found. The old church, in part destroyed, was dedicated to San Nicola and is nowadays hidden by the chapel of Madonna dell’Itri, which was recently built to preserve the ancient church.
Castle of Acaya
The only example of a fortified city in Southern Italy, the burg of Acaya, near Vernole, is worth a visit. Ask to see the circular room upstairs, it has interesting acoustic effects, if you whisper something, a person on the opposite side will hear what you said. Also, interesting frescos in the lower rooms.
The first time I visited this church I thought I was surprised by its small size. Yet the mosaic work on the floor is so enchanting that I had a hard time leaving the place. I had my 12 yr old daughter with me and she was just as transfixed as I was.
From a description in Italian Ways: The grandiose floor mosaic in Otranto’s Cathedral was created for Bishop Gionata by Pantaleone between 1163 and 1165, some eighty years after the Apulian church and seat of the city’s Archdiocese had been consecrated.
The mosaic is one of the most important examples we have of 12th-century art, and prominently features the Tree of Life growing and branching out into aisles, apses and presbytery to represent the theological itinerary of salvation, from original sin to redemption.
With images drawn from a range of sources that include the Old Testament, medieval bestiaries, “Roman d’Alexandre”, and the Matter of France, Pantaleone’s mosaic also mirrors the culture of inclusion that thrived in Otranto in the 12th century, as this crucial hub of maritime trade connected East and West.
Catholics, Greek Orthodox communities, Jews and Muslims lived and worked together in a city that was advanced and international, and where this mosaic in particular could be appreciated and easily understood by anyone who entered the Cathedral.
The Cathedral is open for visitors from June to September 7-12am and 3-7pm, and from October to May 7-12am and 3-5pm.