I'm calling it c*ckgate.
Or should that be c*ckgrate.
Lecce, where I currently reside, is famous throughout Italy. It's a Baroque jewel which with each passing year becomes a little more appreciated and loved by Italians and visitors.
Its old town is a gleaming, cobbled town full of sandstone buildings that shimmy in the light here. It's a sophisticated Southern Italian town. But it has its own salacious past.
For the most part, people from around here are considered to be laidback by most other Italians. But, there's been a lot of fuss here over the past few days.
Well, most of your guidebooks won't point it out: they're too busy pointing out the jewels of the city's crown: Il Duomo, Piazza S. Oronzo and the Santa Croce church. Refined and elegant examples of excellent workmanship and the mastering of the local limestone (pietra Leccese) if ever you'll see them. And those places along with the ampitheatres attract a lot of camera happy visitors.
But there are other sites to behold in the city, that go beyond the religious history of the city. After all, it's become a city synonymous with aperitivos, live music and the booming university crowd that has added a much younger and playful dimension to the city.
One place in particular offered up a window into the soul of the old town.
If you stalked or crawled the city's back streets you may have been fortunate enough to stumble upon the most phallic window dressing that you'll see this far south from Amsterdam.
In Via Palmieri one of the city's most unlikely icons has been sitting and attracting its own subcultural visitations. You see, the building on which the pleasure grate is positioned was purportedly once a pleasure quarters. A place of fun. Of...oh you know what I'm talking about. Well actually, no one is so sure of that, but it's the going theory.
And at its peak, the house of fun commissioned a local blacksmith to create a protective window grate for the street facing window. And, to do the place justice, the craftsman created the wonderful phallic window grate that sat in front of the window, where it stayed, seemingly forever. It was a rare example of purpose built architecture and design dedicated to fun. Quite a departure from the more conventional religious expression which while wild, was always used to express religious ecstacy and not the joys of the flesh or other more playful aspects of life - but one that was immortalised in art and poetry.
The window grate, like much of the city's other attractions, attracted its fair share of visitors who liked nothing more than to photograph it and move on, sometimes incredulous, sometimes simply ticking another thing of their lists. So what's the problem? The problem is that the building that the window sits on is now privately owned. And although the windows are reflective, the owners found it intrusive that their building was under 'constant' siege by camera wielding maniacs. Or something like that. So, they took it upon themselves to have the window grate replaced (during the night?) so that their privacy wouldn't be compromised any further.
Enter huge social media shit storm. Leccese (if you're from Lecce you're Leccese) were up in arms over the owner's decision to remove a layer of the city's otherwise intangible history. And in subsequent days the city has been abuzz about city hall's reluctance to do anything about the removal of a prickly part of the city's history.
Leccese, being Leccese, were up in arms and there's nothing like a bit of social media upheaval to get logical decisions made. Turns out that the heirs of the original owners had decided the grate was of dubious moral value and she didn't care much for the unwanted attention her window awning attracted. But the moral of the story? She's been instructed, by order of the city, to restore the original grate back to its original place. Because it's an important symbol of a vanished part of the city's history? No. Because she didn't have the necessary approvals or paperwork to remove it in the first place.
Thank god for heritage protections. I'm gonna go snap me a shot of that grill as soon as it's back up (and as soon as I know the new owner's home and my popping camera flash can annoy the hell out of here.)
Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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