“You like the Florence of the South?” asks the cheerful waiter, placing a custard-filled pasticciotto and a cappuccino in front of me at the bar. It’s early in the morning, and this fine city, full of Roman architectural treasures and surrounded by lush Salento olive groves and blue Adriatic waters, is just beginning to stir. Around me are alleyways crammed with history and art: turn a corner and you’ll come across a basilica with decorative sheep and dodos; turn another and you’ll end up in the open Piazza del Duomo, a veritable buffet of baroque stonework.
And so, what a perfect place for another kind of a visual treat. As the heel of the Italian boot, this beautiful town is a fitting host for the Red Bull Street Style World Cup Finals: a fantastic display of the art of juggling a football using every part of your body. It’s a big deal: the event will be judged by Italian football stars like Cannavaro and Inzaghi.
For three days, the contestants – including, this year, our very own Usman Khan Tareen – competed in the ancient Roman amphitheatre. They battled in rounds of three minutes each, exhibiting grace, control and creativity that would dazzle gladiators that fought here once — in this beautiful city that is a Florence in its own right.