Het Patria Palace Hotel is verstopt in het stadje, op een mooi plein achter het Piazza Castromediano. Eenmaal boven ademde ik de koele duisternis in, voordat ik de zware luiken met lamellen opengooide. En daar, wit brandend tegen de blauwe lucht, was de Santa Croce. Het was nog mooier dan de foto’s van de gids hadden gesuggereerd.
A few miles south of Brindisi, the coast road shook off the last of the traffic. It was just me, the car and the brilliant blue of the Adriatic. The road turned inland, cutting through olive groves and vineyards, interrupted occasionally by the strange whitewashed domes of the trulli, the ancient dwellings of Puglia. The northern bastion of the walls of Lecce, rebuilt when the Spanish king, Charles V, ruled over southern Italy, formally announced my arrival at the old city.
The Patria Palace Hotel was wedged into a small space beyond the Piazza Castromediano. Once upstairs, I breathed in the cool darkness, before flinging open the heavy louvered shutters. And there, burning white against the blue sky, was the Santa Croce. It was even more beautiful than the guidebook’s photos had suggested.