To those who say Salento is just sea, sun and wind, we reply: perhaps ... But if the weather's too dull for the beach, a stroll through some small towns, among Baroque churches and small artisanal shops might amaze even the most diehard suntan enthusiast! In recent years interest in handcraft activities has increased. Young and not so young have found new creative outlets, achieving surprising results. In Grottaglie, in the province/county of Taranto, a whole neighborhood is dedicated to the art of ceramics. It's known as the Figuli, in the Gravina di San Giorgio. Here are shops, mostly older and historical - in that for generations the secrets of the craft have been handed down from father to son - but also some more recent establishments. Many are dug out in caves, all of them are striking for their colors and the beauty of the vases, table settings, and the pumi (or pomi) fertility symbols, usually gifted on wedding days, placed in the corners of balconies.
In Lecce, in the historical center, you will be fascinated by the terracotta pieces of Maria Gabriella Epifani (la Massaia Salentina, La Sposa, le Comari); by the furniture accessories in Sikalindi made of fico d'india (prickly pear) fiber; and by the numerous paper mache shops. In fact Lecce is the undisputed capital of the art of sculpting with paper - a humble, inexpensive material used by poor artisans, which has proved itself a valid alternative to more costly materials such as wood and stone. During the 1800's and 1900's the work of some artisans reached extremely high levels. Their statuettes in paper mache became works of art on a par with others done in marble, stone or wood.
In Calimera, one of the Salentinian Greece towns, Simone Dimitri has opened a laboratory/showroom of soaps. Not just everyday soaps, they are soaps imbued with Salento - infused with the aromas of olive oil, honey, and aromatic herbs.
Suggested itinerary three days
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Please note The itinerary includes three nights' stay in Lecce and one extra program, a visit to the town of Francavilla Fontana, or, alternatively, Oria.