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Like so many of Apulia's large cities, Brindisi is best left to its inhabitants and the sailors and Greece-bound travelers who swarm around its port, where a marble column marks the end of the ancient Appian Way. Far, far more worthwhile is to travel on to Lecce, the pink city, the Florence of the Baroque, the gleaming gem of Apulia. Few travelers venture this far, and even fewer go on to Otranto, Italy's easternmost city. If you do, you will be rewarded with a 15th-century Aragonese castle and a cathedral whose entire floor is covered by an unforgettable 12th-century Tree of Life mosaic.
Heading south from here, the coastal road is lined with massive, almost Moorish villas, adorable flocks of grazing sheep and the deep turquoise waters of the Adriatic. Travel around the southeastern tip of Italy at Santa Maria di Leuca and then northward to Gallipoli, a medieval town reached by crossing an ancient bridge. Here, among the timeworn walls, the picturesque fishing port, the Angevin castle and the baroque cathedral, you will hear very few tourists speaking English.
The tour of Apulia is completed by driving north along the coast, past some of Italy's most pristine beaches, to Taranto, whose Archeological Museum is second only to that of Naples. Here too you will find an ancient bridge, Roman ruins, an Aragonese castle, a baroque cathedral with a Byzantine cupola, a Doric column from the Greek temple of Poseidon: calling cards left by the legions of conquerors who have marched through Apulia over the last two millennia.
Trulli houses, classical sites, Norman castles, Romanesque cathedrals, the finest Baroque city in the Mediterranean and medieval rock dwellings.... It is a privilege to have Professor Small introduce us to this lesser-known part of Italy he knows so well, in late spring when the countryside will be looking at its best.
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