After a quiet afternoon in the garden of the Grand Hotel, Lecce we returned to the centro storico and set about finding our hidden restaurant once more. Even though I had marked it on a map this wasn’t completely helpful because we still had to negotiate the spider’s web of ancient streets and just when it all looked completely hopeless again we found it, presented ourselves and were shown to our table.
It was wonderful, and I am jumping the gun here because only five days into our Italian travels I was happy to declare it, without fear of contradiction, the best restaurant of the fortnight. It was full of local people including Gianfranco from the hotel desk who was pleased to see us and came over to introduce us to his wife.
The food was first class but I am going to whisper this – I ordered horse meat described as foal and it was excellent but I really wouldn’t want my little granddaughters to know that I had eaten and enjoyed a ‘my little pony’ casserole!
Delighted with our meal we now walked back to the main square which, this being Saturday night, was brimming over with entertainment. First there was a daring acrobat who was encouraging audience participation and performing impressive balancing acts and then in a side street there was a four piece acoustic combo band who were drawing a large crowd and a mountain of loose change in their payment invitation bowl.
We were hopelessly lost again now in the labyrinth of streets that seemed to loop around in continuous circles designed to stop people ever leaving the city centre until we came across the side door to a church so we slipped inside to where there was a late night service where people were taking it in turn to take the lectern and tell their personal stories. It was a big church and as we crossed the nave and left by the opposite door we realised that it was in fact the Doumo and having established our coordinates at last we left by the main city gate and made our way back to the Grand Hotel for our final night in Lecce.
The next morning the sky was blue, the sun was shining and the temperature was already rising when we took our breakfast in the garden and then packed, checked out and spent our last couple of hours in the Florence of the South in the shaded gardens around the pool.
At midday we walked the short distance to the railway station and waited for our train back to the north-west to our next stop – Ostuni, called “La Città Bianca”, the White City, and as we began to approach it I could understand why because it rose out of the flat countryside ejaculating like a white hot Icelandic geyser and frothing like an Ibiza foam party.
The train arrived in the station and we set ourselves down on the platform and went outside and we could see straight away that we had a problem. It was Sunday, it was the start of the siesta, the station was about five kilometres out of the town, there were no taxis and the station bar was closed. Eventually we discovered a bus timetable that was scorched and disfigured by the sun that suggested that there might be a bus in fifteen minutes or so and so we sat and waited and believe it, or believe it not, there was, so we gratefully climbed on board, paid the modest fare and took the short drive to the main town square.
Here we were met by Giorgio who took us to most possibly the worst accommodation that I have ever booked in Europe – except that is for one in Naxos, Greece which I paid for but refused to stay. The Nonna Isa Bed and Breakfast was a truly dreadful place. A dump. Shabby without the chic, one star without the star! I didn’t like it and in a silent sort of way I knew immediately that Kim didn’t either so we abandoned the bags without speaking to each other or unpacking and returned as quickly as we could to the main square to cheer ourselves up and find somewhere for lunch and a glass or two of wine.
I find that generally things always seem better after wine and we returned to the room, unpacked, sat on the roof terrace (well, roof actually , without a terrace) had some more alcohol and then returned to the old town where there was a food festival taking place tonight.
Despite all of the gastronomic offerings we decided on a pizza and a jug of red wine and after picking up some more mosquito bites each we walked back via the main square where there was a cookery demonstration taking place that we couldn’t possibly hope to understand and then returned to the Nonna Isa where we went straight to bed and tried to get to sleep as quickly as we could so that we didn’t have to endure the dreadful place any longer than absolutely necessary.