lecce pastries

Postcard from Lecce, Italy: A place to slip into that dolce far niente

Tarted-up pastries gifted by the landlord of our rental in Lecce

The leisurely pace of Lecce makes it easy to indulge in the luxury of sweet idleness in one’s travels. Boulevardiers and flaneurs feel comfortably at home.

Before we leave Italy, duck your head into one final museum: Museo Archeologico Faggiano.

Luciano Faggiano planned on opening a restaurant in the historic center, but his quest proved a pipe dream. Or a pipe nightmare, as it turned out.

The plumbing kept backing up, and the only remedy would be to excavate in search of the ancient sewer pipes. He summoned his two older sons back from college to help. Just for a week at most.

The pipe proved elusive. But the more they dug, the more underground chambers they uncovered. With each new opening, the older brothers would lower their 12-year-old sibling down through the hole to report back before they proceeded. The ancient stone walls contained thousands of archaeological artifacts. As they progressed, the men hauled the excess rubble away in their car.

A suspicious neighbor reported them to authorities, and everything ground to a halt. The government pushed plumbing down to a lower priority, and not a spade-full of dirt could be turned without the presence of an observer from the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. Most artifacts uncovered belong to the government and are displayed in state-run museums.

The restaurant? It is now a family-run archeology museum, leaving visitors to explore several ancient tunnels and tombs which extend past the property line of this former convent.

Now, Luciano has bought the house behind it, and the excavations continue. The possibility that either will ever serve guests pasta appears unlikely. A couple enters the museum and pays about $10; a couple in a typical restaurant in Lecce would pays about $16 for two full plates of pasta. The museum business appears both easier and more reliably profitable.

These  represent the final batch of photos from our relaxing stay this past fall. But our armchair travels have assumed such a leisurely pace during shutdown that one more trip remains. Next stop: Merida in Mexico.

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