Happy Holidays (alla Leccese)

December 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Who would have thought that I would be spending Christmas on the southern tip of Italy this year?  Not me.

Lecce4

At least not until a couple of hours before I bought a last-minute (last-hour?) train Ancona-Lecce and joined a friend onboard to spend the holiday days surrounded by crazy people and endless piles of food.

I don’t have a very extensive history of traditional Christmases (beaches on Hawaii, cliffs in Costa Rica, etc.), and so this spontaneous trip fit right in.  On the other hand, everything in southern Italy seems to be mandated by tradition, so I feel like I participated enough in other people’s Christmas rituals to make up for the fact that they weren’t mine.  This mostly consisted of visiting every relative alive, singing operatic karaoke (this was a very musical family), and eating more food in three days than some people eat in a year.

And while I am very grateful for the three days that I spent bundled up inside, stuffing my face, with a couple dozen hot-blooded southerners, I do wish that I would have had the opportunity to see something other than a table, a roof, and a pillow.  Oh well… gives me a reason to go back and explore the terrain.

Lecce6We did stroll around Lecce one day, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I had imagined it to be a big, dark, ugly city, but instead it was elegant, white, and clean.  And relatively cozy, even with all of the electrical shortages and echoes of gunshots (huh?):

In the city center, there is an old amphitheater, in which they set up a nativity scene (with a live cat who was enjoying exploring the surroundings):

LecceNativitySceneCenter
In the afternoon, a very quick stroll around Porto Cesareo:

Which was nice, in its winter-y conditions, but a little too flat for my liking.  I prefer a little bit of rough nature and some waves.  But, it’s still water, I guess:

PortoCesareo

Christmas day consisted of morning mass and trees made out of plastic bottles:

MonteronidiLecce
, and a Christmas lunch that lasted five hours and took many, many rounds of plates.  After that, I went to my first real-life nativity scene:

LecceNativityScene
Another couple of days of food, family, food, food, family, and then back on the train to head back up to Ancona.  But before, a quick nighttime stroll through Lecce to strock up on limoncino and admire the Christmas decorations at night:

Lecce7

And then, time to traverse Italy from its southern tip north, through Ancona, then Monza, and then onto Salzburg on the morrow.  After this holiday, it’ll be time for some east-west trips.  Basta with this Adriatic route for a while.

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