Mom went away for her long trip to Japan. So Dad took us on a trip to Lecce. Lecce is in Puglia. Italy looks like a boot and Puglia is the heel of the boot, at the very bottom. We took a train from Roma. It took almost six hours to get there. We thought the train ride would be terrible. But it actually seemed to go fast. Because we went to the very bottom of Italy, there were almost no people on the train by the time we got there, just us and two other people in our carriage. It was a really fun trip and we LOVED the food there. Here are our favorite things.

DAD:

Lecce is an absolutely beautiful city. Most of the buildings were built between 1660 and 1720 in an almost bizarre high-baroque style using a soft local stone. The buildings are so ornate and decorative—I’ve never seen anything like it before. We didn’t have any plans and spent our days just wandering around and taking in the city. Puglia is off the beaten path, but we were told the people were friendly, the wine excellent, and that local vegetables are really featured in the fabulous cuisine. . .all of those things were true. The wines in Puglia were outstanding and cost just a fraction of what we paid for a bottle of mineral water. I also liked the way they do antipasti: a series of dishes arrives at the table featuring small portions of various preparations of the local seasonal vegetables. The vegetables in Puglia were truly outstanding and the cuisine was really distinct from other types of things we have eaten in Italy. It was fun to experience it together and have a special weekend with Nell and Eli.

We got a kick out of this little restaurant, Obama Take Away

NELL:

We ate at this amazing restaurant that was so good, we went back again the next day. It is a small place and you have to ring the doorbell to be let in. They only had a few tables and it looked like someone’s house. Two women cooked in a small kitchen that we could see from our table. It is called Le Zie restaurant by people who live in Lecce, but that is not the real name of the restaurant. Le Zie means “the aunts” and that is what people call the two women who are the cooks. They also serve the food and one of the woman’s husband’s helps them sometimes. They did not have a menu and we had to speak in only Italian. They came over and told us what things they had that day. They were so nice. I ordered a special dish of chicory and pureed fava beans and it was good. But the chef came over and said that she was worried that it wasn’t a food kids would like, so she made me another pasta dish also. It was noodles with chick peas. I loved it. They also brought us little round doughnuts that had tomato and zucchini in the middle. They were so good that the next day Eli asked for more and they brought us a whole new dish of them. Eli had an orecchiette pasta (that is a shape from Puglia) with a kind of sauce they make where they just smoosh cherry tomatoes.

I liked the architecture. We looked at some buildings for a really long time and we kept finding different things like lambs, flowers, monkeys, and fruit carved into the buildings.

Chick pea pasta from Le Zie

This is me and the owner/chef of the restaurant who is one of the Aunts. Her name is Carmela. She made me the pasta with chick peas.

I had a pure chocolate gelato at Natale that was almost “too dark.” It was the strongest chocolate gelato I ever had. Intensissimo!

After dinner, Dad, Eli, and I all went walking in the main piazza in the center of the town. There were so many street performers there. They were all doing performances at the same time in different parts, so we just kept going from one to another one. There was a juggler, a dancer, a mime, a magician, and a fire eater. It was really fun.

Eli:

Tomato and zucchini doughnuts from Le Zie

I liked our hotel. The woman who worked at the front desk was named Maria. She used to work at the Hotel Russie, which is on our street in Rome. So she used to walk past hour house every day, but moved back to Lecce because that is where her family lives. When we got to our room, it had its own patio. They gave us two special pastries that are special to Lecce called pasticciotti. They had really good homemade jams at the hotel.

I wore my Napoli Jersey one night to dinner and a guy came over to say hi because he was from Napoli. And one day I wore my Roma Jersey and the chef at one of the restaurants came over to say that her daughter was a Roma fan but her daughter married a Milano fan, so her daughter and son-in-law couldn’t watch games together in the same room. Some guys who worked at the hotel told me where I could buy a Lecce jersey and we went the next day. They are the last team in Series A, but they are still in Series A at least. One day we went to the beach and I was wearing my Juventus jersey. This guy came running all the way across the beach because he wanted to say hi and tell me that he was from Torino and was a Juve fan. He was surprised to see a Juve jersey down in Puglia.

One day we hired a taxi to drive us to Otranto, a town on the Adriatic. We saw a cool Castle there. It was interesting because that is where the Turks tried to invade from Istanbul. And there is a big arch in honor of Naples because the king of Napoli helped the pope keep the Turks from invading Italy.

Dipping our toes in the Adriatic while visiting Otranto

Dad, Nell, and I played tag in a park in Lecce for two hours.

I really liked the tomato sauce the way they make it in Lecce.

When we got back to Rome, I was treated to a performance by Eli and Nell to celebrate Fathers' Day in Italy.

This is what the buildings in Lecce look like!

Our favorite meal:

Trattoria Cucina Casareccia di Perrone Anna Carmela (also known as “Le Zie”)

Via col. Costadura, 19

Phone  0832/245-178

Gelateria Natale
Via Trinchese, 7

We loved the gelato al pasticciotto, the flavor of the leccese sweet pastry. Nell loved the pure chocolate.

Alvino in Piazza Sant’Oronzo

We had a lovely outdoor lunch of rustici (a baked savory snack made from puff pastry stuffed with bechamel, mozzarella, black pepper, and tomato), while watching the activity of the piazza in front of us.