Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town. The following interview was originally published in my Italy guide.
Today I’m happy to introduce you to Roberto Frisino, a guitarist, basketball player, and language and literature student here to tell us all about Lecce – also known as Baroque’s city.
First, tell us about you.
I am originally from a little town near Taranto. Two years ago, I moved to Lecce to study in the university and now I’m enjoying my life here. Lecce isn’t a very big city, but you can find everything you need here.
In my spare time, I like to play basketball, play the guitar, and go out with my friends. The nights are always full of events.
If someone is visiting Lecce for the first time, what do you recommend they see or do?
First of all, Lecce is known as Baroque’s City because there are Baroque monuments spread all over the city. Piazza Sant’Oronzo is a must-see, with its Roman amphitheater and the column holding the statue of Saint Oronzo. Then there is Piazza del Duomo, with its amazing cathedral. There are a lot of things to see, but I recommend taking a tour of the monuments both in the morning and at night (at night, everything has a different look).
What neighborhoods or parts of town are best to stay in?
I think that the historic center is the best place to stay as a tourist, but if you want to live in Lecce and you’re young, there’s the neighborhood near Porta Rudiae that’s full of students and the shops here are very cheap, though the houses are a little bit old. And if you like a modern house and a quiet life, the neighborhood near Piazza Mazzini is what you need.
Let’s talk about day trips…what nearby places should everyone make sure to visit?
Lecce is surrounded by beautiful places, especially in the summer. Puglia is famous for the amazing beaches and you can see this in cities like Gallipoli, Otranto, Santa Maria di Leuca, and Santa Cesaria. Here there are huge beaches with crystal-clear water and you can reach them easily by train or bus from Lecce.
Tell us about the local dishes. What should people try here?
Try the friselle, a hard bread that is dipped in water, drizzled with olive oil, and topped with chopped tomatoes. Then, try the sagne ncannulate sciattariciati, long, twirled, ribbon-like pasta with fried eggplant strips, Leccese olives, and tomatoes.
If you want some meat, you can try the turcineddhri: heart, liver, lungs, and spleen seasoned with salt, pepper, and parsley, then wrapped with intestines and grilled.
If you want to eat something quickly, I advise you to take the puccia, a sort of sandwich usually filed with meat, pepperoni, onions, tomatoes, and salad.
The dessert of Salento is the pasticiotto, a shortbread crust (typically made with lard instead of butter) with pastry cream. Sometimes cherries are added to the cream.
What are your top three favorite bars and restaurants?
My favorite pizzeria is La Bufala (at Via Dei Mocenigo 15), which is really nice and right in the center (so you can eat and take in the views of Lecce).
Another place that I like is the Trattoria of Nonna Tetti, located at Piazzetta Queen Mary 17 in the historic center. It’s a little bit hard to find, but it’s worth it. An inviting restaurant, popular with all ages and budgets, this trattoria serves a wide choice of traditional dishes, is not expensive, and really makes people feel at home.
One of the bars that I like the most is the Caffé Letterario (at G. Paladini 46 in the center). It’s in the center and they make very good cocktails and have good wines. If you like art and music, it’s a great place to go.
Is there anything tourists do that locals find rude or strange? What can we do to better fit in with the culture?
It’s actually pretty difficult to annoy the Italians, but do try to have some respect and not dirty the monuments with papers, chewing gum, and cigarettes. Lecce is full of trash cans, so if you have some trash, please walk a little bit and you’ll find one for sure.
What is the best way to meet locals and make friends?
The best way to make friends in Lecce is to go out to a nice pub in the evenings. The local people are very open, so it’s easy to start a conversation and you will enjoy the night. One thing that I like about Lecce is that it’s a little city, but there’s always something to do and you can meet people from all over the world.
Why should people make sure to visit Lecce?
Lecce is a city with a beautiful history, full of art and emotions. Above all, if you come in summer, everything is full of colors and you can enjoy the best that this region can give. If you like music, the Salento is the father of the pizzica, a genre of music accompanied by an amazing dance.
What is the best place to go take beautiful photos of the city?
I think that the best place to take photos is in Piazza del Duomo: for lovers it’s very romantic and for thinkers it’s very inspirational.
Piazza Sant’Oronozo and Porta Napoli are also good places for taking a postcard photo of Lecce.
Anything else you want us to know?
Puglia is full of beautiful places like Taranto, which has a bad reputation because of its industry, but has an ancient history. It was one of the principal ports of Magna Grecia and is it full of Greek and Roman monuments. I’d advise a visit.
I was in Lecce as a tourist a few years ago and fell in love with the seaside nearby. I would like to rent an apt for a month in September. I think I would like to stay in the historic centre. Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.