While it is possible to travel in the Salento region by train, it is much easier and quicker if you have a car. Luckily, I was traveling with my friend, Susan, who decided to rent an automobile for this section of our trip. I don’t drive, so the two of us came up with an agreement, in which she would be responsible for all of the driving and all of the car expenses, while I would cover all of the dinners while we were traveling together. Susan arranged to rent a car from the Hertz Rental Office in Lecce. According to the GPS on her cell phone, the rental office was located a short distance outside of the city walls, and was an easy walk from where we were both staying. When we arrived at the address that we had been given for the rental office, all that we found was an abandoned lot, full of overgrown grass, and a bit of trash. There weren’t many people out and about, in this part of the city — at least on this particular day there weren’t, but we did ask a few people if they knew where the Hertz Office was, only to have them look at us as if we were crazy, and walked away. Then, I spotted a Hertz sign, off in the distance, about a block and a half away. The address that we had been given was wrong, but the place did exist. We got the car, loaded our luggage into the trunk, and then set off on our journey.
Our next destination was the city of Maglie. Since Maglie was only 30.5 km from Lecce, and we had at least two and a half hours before we could check into the hotel that we had booked there, we decided to take back roads and to visit a few small towns on the way. So, we got into the car, and literally just took any road that seemed to be going in the right direction, not really caring where we ended up. We decided to stop in the town of Caprarica di Lecce, for a coffee and a quick look around. We passed an olive oil producers showroom, but they were giving a tour to a group of school children, and were not open to the general public. We drove by a site called Kalos, which turns out to be a sort of archaeological amusement park. It was closed, but we did manage to peek inside.We spent quite a decent amount of time driving along small roads, through olive groves.If we passed a town, we stopped and explored. We were always happy that we did, as each place had its own charm and beauty.We arrived in Maglie around noon. We had booked rooms at the Corte dei Granai, a lovely B&B right in the center of the city. I loved everything about this place! Legend has it that the city of Maglie began as three separate areas — San Basilico, Sant’Egidio, and San Vito, which joined together, like links in a chain, to form the first settlement. The main square of the city is Piazza Aldo Moro. It seems as if everyone passes through here, at one point or another, in the course of the day. Maglie’s Town Hall, or Palazzo del Municipio, is on this square. I was enchanted by its clock!Also in the same Piazza is the Monument to Francesca Capece, by the sculptor Antonio Bortone. As well as belonging to one of Maglie’s ruling families, Francesca was a benefactress of the city, testimony of which is the High School in the Piazza which bears her name.The Colonna della Madonna delle Grazie is one of the symbols of the city of Maglie. It stands 15 meters high, and was erected between 1684 and 1687. The statue of the Madonna at the top is not as old, however, as the original one was struck by lightning and badly damaged. The statue that now stands atop the column was made in 1926, by a sculptor from Maglie, named Luigi De Pascalis.On the base of the column, there are four statues that portray the patron saints of Maglie: San Leonardo, San Nicola, Sant’Oronzo, and Sant’Antonio di Padova. While I found the column with its statues to be lovely, for me the real excitement came when I was able to see the original statue — the one struck by lightning, which is now in the nearby Largo Madonna delle Grazie. Even in it’s damaged state, or maybe because of the damage, this statue had a powerful effect over me. Susan wasn’t feeling well, so I was on my own for dinner. I ended up stumbling upon a place called Osteria La Trombettiera. This is a small, family run place where is is possible to eat like a king and spend next to nothing. I had an antipasto, a main dish of stewed horse meat, which was incredibly delicious and tender, dessert, water, a liter of wine, and an amaro — all for under thirty euros. I loved this place!
Next up: More from Maglie, and a short visit to the town of Galatina!
Note: This blog is written in English and Spanish, and the author takes no responsibility for the quality of any other translations which may appear. If you enjoyed this post, please, visit our archives for more posts from Maglie, as well as other Italian destinations. Grazie!