More often than not, Puglia is referred to as the new Tuscany. This spectacular region in Italy’s Deep South offers travellers the opportunity to experience the authentic dolce vita without the crowds, exactly the way Tuscany did a couple of decades ago. Therefore, no wonder Lecce’s nickname is Florence of the South. Adorned with countless gorgeous historical buildings and sprinkled with irresistible Italian vibes, Lecce does indeed remind of its northern counterpart in many respects. Yet it is also unique in so many ways. So, here’s our guide on what to do in Lecce, one of Italy’s prettiest cities. Enjoy!
Do photos of super crowded beaches in Italy (or Greece) make you think that the script of a sci-fi movie is far more realistic than the notion that one can actually have a relaxing summer vacation in said countries? Well, we can’t blame you. We’ve seen those scary shots, too. However, it’s all a matter of where you choose to go and WHEN. The when part is easy. Stay away from beachside destinations in Italy (and Greece) from mid-July to end of August. As to the where, we’re here to introduce you to the three best beach towns in Puglia, the gorgeous region in Italy’s Deep South.
When we were kids, our school teachers would go on and on about how Ancient Greek settlers founded many important towns in Southern Italy. All this sounded really exciting. For 15′ or so. However, as grown-ups and avid travellers, we were fascinated by the idea that there are still Greek communities in Italy’s Deep South and genuinely intrigued by the prospect of visiting some of them one day. So, once we decided to visit Puglia, we were determined to explore as many of the region’s Greek towns as possible. This is why we planned a 2-day Grecia Salentina trip as part of our two-week Puglia itinerary.
Do you believe in love at first sight? We do. Our love affair with Matera started the very second the existence of this ancient cave town in Southern Italy came to our knowledge. We don’t remember exactly when that was, but as soon as we googled Matera and hit the Images tab, we were hooked. We knew we had to visit Matera at the first opportunity. So, when we (finally) planned our long-awaited Puglia road trip, Matera (although not in Puglia) was the very first city we added to our two-week itinerary.
Once in Venice, it is highly unlikely that you will want to let it out of your sight. It is a city of unique, almost dreamy, beauty. That’s why we are adamant that travellers should not do Venice in a day but try to spend as much time as possible there. This way, there will also be time to visit the nearby Venice islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello and enjoy one of the best day trips from Venice.
Venice is a destination unlike any other. The floating city got us under its spell from the very first moment we laid eyes on its beautiful canals and pastel-coloured buildings. Walking around Venice’s picturesque cobblestone streets is enchanting. Yet seeing the city from the water is pure magic. Be it a private gondola ride, a vaporetto ride or a Venice boat tour the best vantage point to marvel at the charms of La Serenissima is the water.
Undoubtedly, the gondola is the ultimate symbol of Venice. It’s hard to imagine that the sleek black vessels used to be colourful in the past. The noble families who owned gondolas used them as a means to show off their power thus turning their lush decoration and vivid colours into some kind of competition. It was in the early 1600s when the Senate decided to bring this competition to an end by forbidding all other colours but black. Evidently, a gondola ride is among the top things to do in Venice.
Few cities in the world are so immediately recognisable as Venice. Who hasn’t been enchanted by its beauty just by looking at pictures of the Grand Canal and the pastel-coloured palazzi lining it? Yet there is no shortage of stories from people who have been disappointed by the city. It’s expensive, it smells bad, it’s too crowded are the commonest complaints and they are not entirely ungrounded. Εspecially the latter. However, La Serenissima, as Venice is traditionally known, is a unique almost unbelievably beautiful city. A fairy-tale destination unlike any other. So, what to do in Venice to fully immerse yourselves in its magic? First and foremost, understand its peculiarities and get ready to have the time of your life in this masterpiece of a city.
When I started planning our Bologna trip, I knew we had to take day trips to both Ravenna and Parma for the obvious reasons: the former is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage sites, while the latter is the birthplace of prosciutto ham and parmiggiano reggiano cheese. As I researched, I decided we should also visit Modena. Soon I realised that there was still enough time for yet another day trip. Bologna boasts an excellent location, allowing easy day trips to cities like Verona and Venice. However, it felt wrong just to sneak peek at said destinations rather than plan a future trip just for them. So, I thought we should stick to the Emilia Romagna region and opt for a more laid-back destination, like Ferrara.
If you are part-time travellers with a tight schedule, it takes a lot of brainstorming and rough planning to decide upon your next destination. However, if your motto is Italy is always a good idea and you live in neighbouring Greece, things get a tad easier. Therefore, when low-cost airline Ryanair added Bologna to its direct flights from Athens schedule, there wasn’t much to think about. Both Katerina and I are utterly and totally in love with Italy. So much so that we want to go everywhere in the country. Having already been to Rome twice and after a dreamy road trip through Tuscany a few years back, it felt just about the right time to visit a more laid-back Italian city. So, off we were for yet another chance to enjoy la bella vita among adorable locals. And taste some of the world’s most exquisite food in the process.