Brindisi and Lecce. 3/17/18

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! There doesn’t seem to be much celebrating of the Irish here in southern Italy.

We leave Bari today to make our way to Lecce via Brindisi. The wind is really blowing today even though the temperature is around 70F. We are hoping to find Chiesa Santa Maria del Casale near the airport in Brindisi. Amazingly this 13th century church is right next to a runway even though it was named an historic site in 1875. Santa Maria del Casale was in use in1310 when a trial took place involving the Knights Templar of Sicily.

Santa Maria del Casale near the Brindisi airport

The outside called a “hut facade” of this church is beautiful but the inside is astounding. It was once covered with frescoes and luckily many of them still survive. There are layers of frescoes inside. One of the most striking is the Last Judgement on the side nearest the door.

In this fresco the good are weeded out and appear on the left. The devil and fires of hell appear on the lower right along with a multitude of sins that can get you there.

Last Judgement

In the upper portion of the following fresco stands St. Catherine surrounded by scenes from her life. She is holding a broken wheel since that was the instrument of her martyrdom.

Life of St. Catherine
Last Supper

I have lots of pictures but this sums it up.

St. Maria del Casale looking towards the altar

After a quick stop at the airport for a bathroom break because finding a bathroom in Italy can be tricky we are off to the city center of Brindisi. Brindisi is not as charming as Bari as we drive in.

We are looking for.the Temple of St. John entombed (Tiempo S. Giovanni al sepolcro) an11th to 12th century reconstruction of a 6th century circular building.

Tiempo S. Giovanni al Sepolcro (picture from Wikipedia)

This building is wedged between apartments and business down a little alley. Along with sadly deteriorated frescoes and fanciful animal carvings on the door jambs there is a glimpse of a mosaic floor underneath from a 1st century Roman house.

Interior of temple
A look down at the mosaic floor of a 1st century house
Badly deteriorated frescoes – one on top of another
Bird carving on door jamb

We find another church that we are looking for but it appears closed and there is no parking nearby so we head off to Lecce which is the next stop on our tour of southern Italy. We are able to check in early at the Risorgimento Resort which is not a resort but just a hotel. We stayed here in 2011 and the hotel looks a little more worn than when we were here last.

Our room (picture included so I know for the next time we are in Lecce. Also stall shower!)

John has found a restaurant nearby that rates highly on TripAdvisor. Sometimes I wonder who rates these places. People who have never eaten anything good before?

John lunch – chickpeas and pasta
Sarah lunch – the local dish orecchiette di rape
My horrible lunch – orichiette with tomato sauce and cheese (the tomato sauce was thick puréed tomato glop)

After siesta we explore our environs. Lecce is more of a central base to do other things and less a place to examine old churches. We look at the Roman theater, the statue of St. Oronzo, and visit some Baroque churches.

Roman theater around the corner from our hotel
St. Oronzo, patron saint of Lecce, atop the marker for the end of the Appian Way taken from Brindisi

St. Oronzo was bishop when there was an outbreak of plague. Lecce came through it quite well so the populace decided it was because of their bishop rather than their nice lady patron saint, St. Irene.

Baroque churches make me tired. Too much over-the-top decoration.

Santa Croce
Former patron saint Irene’s church
Exterior of Lecce duomo
Interior of the cathedral

We meet for drinks on the rooftop bar and to plan tomorrow’s activities. We are supposed to go out to dinner tonight but Sarah is practically falling asleep at 7 PM and we all decide just to call it a night. What is up?! We are supposed to be over jet lag by now!!!!

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