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The City Sleeps

It is 1:30pm in the afternoon in Lecce and the temperature has reached the ungodly extreme of 38 degrees Celsius (roughly 100 Fahrenheit), it is accompanied by the kind of humidity usually associated with the deep south of Louisiana. All of Lecce is at home, lying in their beds with a fan propped close to their faces as they sleep away the afternoon’s most intense hours of sunshine. As for myself, this is the Lecce that I find most enjoyable, a sleeping city, where I could roam the streets alone, seeing only a stray tourist in search of an open farmacia, not knowing that for 3 to 4 hours in the afternoon, all of the local shopkeepers leave their businesses, lock the doors, and go home for a leisurely lunch and a little nap, before heading back to work for the night.

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There was one spot that I found was always open, and no matter what time of day it was, I could always count on this small bar tucked behind Piazza Sant’Oronzo to serve delicious iced espresso, or caffé in ghiaccio (a southern specialty), along with a cup of fresh fragola (strawberry) gelato, my summer favorite. When I found myself wandering the streets during these quiet afternoon hours, I would always sit here and read whichever book I had brought with me, for I always had a book in my bag. I ordered a caffé and sat for an hour reading, watching the locals jabber on in dialect, not understanding a word.

By the middle of the summer I had become a regular, and was greeted kindly when I arrived, served promptly and given a slight discount because of my steady patronage. There were certain bars in Lecce that I gravitated to most frequently, where you could find quick, friendly service and delicious cappuccinos or espressos at a fair price. I would recommend seeking out two or three preferred bars and making yourself a regular as the Italians will always remember you, even after you leave and return five months later. Some tourists are intimidated by these small, tucked away places, by I found them to be most authentic, and usually less expensive than those situated right on the main Piazzas.

After sitting outside roasting for about an hour I would go back to my apartment outside Porta San Biagio, and lie down on my bed with a fan rotating nearby, and drift off into a light sleep, punctuated with American music being played downstairs and my Italian house mates cooking their afternoon meals.