Today our plan is to go to Otranto and see the cathedral plus wander around and have lunch. It turns out to be a lovely day with fun, sightseeing, creative time-wasting, and great art.
Since today is Sunday we know that there will be services during the morning at the cathedral. After parking the car we scurry up the hill to the cathedral in hopes of catching some viewing time after Mass and before Italian lunch. As we walk up to the door it clangs shut. Closed until 3 PM.
So now we are left with three hours to kill. We find a free exhibition where an artist has captured the look of Byzantine icons and frescoes by analyzing brush strokes, hand positions, and facial proportions. He will not allow us to take pictures though.
It is still too early for lunch so we go out into the piazza and look at the Adriatic Sea which is quite beautiful today and take pictures of each other. On our way into Otranto we could see snow-dusted mountains across the sea. Turns out we were looking at Albania which is only 45 miles away. Gosh!
Then Sarah gives John and me a lesson in taking selfies. It seems that you have to hold the phone in a certain way so that you can still use your thumb to take the picture. Also hold it high enough so that you are not shooting up at your face which is an unflattering angle. Sarah decides that I could probably use a selfie stick since my arms are too short so my head keeps coming out too big in the pictures. (Which is amazing because I have a small head.) Much laughing ensues.
We have wasted an hour so it is time to go in search of lunch. This proves more difficult than anticipated. Places are booked up. Finally we are granted an uninviting table next to the front door and the noisy espresso machine at Ristorante da Sergio. We need to really draw out this lunch. Sergio is not going to be able to turn this table quickly!
We dawdle over our salads rearranging our lettuces and putting our forks down frequently. Fast eating Americans have real trouble eating slowly! Then on to the main courses. I refuse to choose something safe and mediocre today. I can see that Sergio is impressed by my bold choice, linguine ai ricci, linguine with sea urchin!
Sea urchin tastes and smells like the sea. Turns out that I prefer food that does not taste like this. At least I tried.
We still have half an hour to go so we buy gelato and sit around eating it slowly and taking more pictures. I do not like desserts and now we have had two in a row!
We climb back up the hill to the church. There is a crowd waiting to get in. Finally the door is unlocked and we rush in like it is Black Friday at Walmart.
The Otranto Cathedral is a Norman church consecrated in 1088. Those Vikings were everywhere in the 11th century! The most amazing thing about it is that the entire floor is covered by a mosaic done by Panteleone and his helpers. On it are Bible scenes, fantastic animals, the months of the year, and the zodiac signs. It is somewhat blocked because there are pews on it. Amazingly they let parishioners use it like a regular floor!
There is also a grisly side chapel where the skulls of the martyrs of Otranto are displayed. These were 813 inhabitants of Otranto who were killed on August 14, 1480. The mass execution is often explained as taking place after the Otranto citizens refused to convert to Islam when the city fell to an Ottoman force.
Time to head back to Lecce. We go out later for pizza at 9cento around the corner. There are lots of people in the streets even at 9PM, more than we have seen our whole time here.
Tomorrow no old churches on the schedule. We are in search of a wine tasting, olive oil sipping, local specialties gastronomic kind of day!