The 15 best sights of Lecce – descriptions and photos

Lecce

Lecce (Italy) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main attractions of Lecce with descriptions, guides and maps.

City of Lecce (Italy)

Lecce is a city in southern Italy in the Puglia region. Located on the Salentina peninsula on the edge of the “Italian boot” at a place where the waters of the Ionian and Adriatic seas meet, and the high picturesque cliffs alternate with golden beaches and forests. Lecce is a baroque pearl of Italy. It is a city that is called “Florence or Rome of the South”. And if it were not for its location, Lecce would have become one of the most popular cities in the country.

Things to do (Lecce):

Olive oil and cheese tasting at Masseria

€130 per excursion

Olive oil and cheese tasting at Masseria

Gastronomic highlights of Alupia with a visit to a local farm

Gallipoli - Treasure Island

€120 per excursion

Gallipoli – Treasure Island

Antique castles and temples, fish market and emerald sea.

Geography and climate

Lecce is found in the central part of the Salentine peninsula, almost at the southeasternmost point of the Apennine peninsula. The climate is Mediterranean. Summers are hot and dry and winters are warm and rainy. The annual rainfall is about 500 mm. Most of it falls during the cold period.

Historic Center of Lecce

Historic center of Lecce

Tourist information

  1. Population – 95.4 thousand people.
  2. Area – 238.93 square kilometers.
  3. Language: Italian.
  4. Currency – euros.
  5. Visa – Schengen.
  6. Time – Central European UTC +1, in summer +2.
  7. Tourist information centers are located in the following places: Piazza S. Oronzo, Corso Vittorio Emanuele 16 / a and Viale XXV luglio.

History

In the 3rd century B.C., the Roman Empire conquered the Salentine peninsula and founded a new city, Lupia. The city was surrounded by walls, had a forum, an amphitheater, a theater and access to the sea. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, for some time the territory of Lecce belonged to the Byzantines. Since the sixth century Salento was ruled by the Ostgoths, Saracens, Greeks, Lombards and many others.

Cathedral

Cathedral

The rebirth of Lecce as a major port and commercial city began in the 11th century after the conquest by the Normans. Since 1463 the city was subjected to Naples. In 1630 begins the construction of numerous buildings and churches. It was during this period that Lecce acquired a beautiful baroque appearance. In 1656 the city was almost devastated by the plague. Since 1734 Lecce was for a time owned by the Habsburgs.

How to get there

Lecce is situated 580 km from Rome. The nearest airports are in Bari and Brindisi, from where trains regularly go to Lecce. They have flights from London, Milan, Rome and other major European cities.

Lecce has regular rail connections to Rome, Milan, Venice, Turin and Naples. You can get to the city from Bologna and Rimini via Bari. Trains arrive at the station, which is a short walk from the historic center. Buses to Lecce also run fairly regularly.

Shopping

In the center of Lecce there are many stores with antiques and organic products. The Puglia region is famous for its wines, olive oil, and pasta. Lecce is famous for its papier-mache products.

The Streets of Lecce

The streets of Lecce

Puglia’s gastronomy relies on simple but quality ingredients, the gifts of the sea and fertile land. The traditional dishes are pasta (of which there is a great variety) with bacon, seafood, beans and tomatoes. In Lecce you can taste a variety of fish and seafood in a variety of variations – from fish soups to quite simple dishes. Another delicious typical food is frizalla. It is a hard dry bread that is soaked in water for a few seconds and then eaten with fresh tomatoes and olive oil. Most local dishes are based on the use of olive oil, and meals are often accompanied by a glass of local wine.

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Attractions

Lecce is often called the jewel of the Baroque. This is not surprising at all. Baroque style reigns in the streets of the historic center. Passing through the Porta Napoli, built in the middle of the 16th century, you will get to the old town.

Napoli Gate

Porta Napoli

Here begin the main streets where you can admire exquisite sights. On Via Umberto I you will find the Adorno Palace and the Basilica of Santa Croce, the symbol of Lecce and a masterpiece of the Baroque. Then, you must visit Piazza Sant’oronzo, the center of city life since Roman times with its ancient ruins. And, of course, look at the Cathedral Square, where there is a magnificent cathedral and the bishop’s palace of the 15th century with an angular arched loggia.

Santa Croce

Santa Croce

Santa Croce is Lecce’s most famous landmark and one of Italy’s most beautiful baroque buildings. The basilica with the Celestinian monastery (now the government palace) is one of the largest architectural complexes in the city. The church was founded in 1353. The Baroque rebuilding began in 1548 and lasted more than a century and a half. The greatest architects of Salento worked on Santa Croce. The basilica has a magnificent façade with many sculptures and decorative elements. The interior of the church is also very beautiful. The interior space is divided into three naves and has columns.

Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the main church of Lecce, founded in 1144. It was rebuilt in the Baroque style in the 17th century. During this period, a tall 70-meter bell tower was added to the cathedral. The church has two entrances. The main one on the north side of the church is restrained and elegant, while the portal facing the square is a riot of intricate Baroque stone carvings, eclipsed only by the Santa Croce façade. The interior of the church is very beautiful and richly decorated with works of art.

Cathedral Square

Cathedral Square

The wide Cathedral Square is one of the centers of Lecce and is surrounded by beautiful historic buildings. The architectural dominant feature, of course, is the cathedral with its high tower. In the square is the bishop’s palace with richly carved windows and the seminary of the early 18th century.

Santi Nicolo

Santi Nicolo

Santi Nicolo is a triumphal arch erected in 1548, which is part of the church of the same name. The church is located to the northwest of the gates of Napoli. It was founded by the Normans in the 12th century. In the center of the Baroque facade, which was added in 1716, is the superb Romanesque doorway of the original church. Around the ancient portal are several 18th century statues. The interior has retained much of the early French Gothic style with beautiful carved capitals and arches. The frescoes date from the 15th-17th centuries.

Sant'oronzo

Sant’Oronzo

Sant’oronzo is the main square of Lecce and one of the oldest places in the city. The square marks the end of the Via Appia, the ancient Roman road to southern Italy. The buildings, built between medieval and modern times, have different styles but look very harmonious. In the past this place was known as “merchants’ square”. Since 1656 the square is dedicated to the patron saint of the city. Legend has it that during the plague Lecce was helped by the patronage of Oronzo, so its inhabitants erected a tall column with a statue of the saint. Nearby are the Palazzo del Sedil, built in 1592, the small church of the Venetian community of San Marco of 1543 and the church of Santa Maria della Grazia, which was built in 1590.

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Roman Amphitheater

Roman Amphitheatre

The Roman Amphitheater is an ancient ruin in Piazza Sant’Oronzo that dates back to the 2nd century AD. The amphitheater could hold more than 20 thousand spectators. The monument was completely buried under rubble because of an earthquake and was only discovered in 1929. Today we see only 1/3 of the structure. The rest is apparently hidden under the square. The amphitheater had tufa columns that were topped by arcades. Statues and ancient bas-reliefs were found during excavations and are now on display in the Castromediano Museum.

Roman Theater

Roman Theatre

On the corner of Via Della Carpathepa is another ancient ruin that belongs to an ancient Roman theater. It was built in the 1st century AD and seated about 5,000 spectators.

Castle of Charles V

Castle of Charles V

The Castle of Charles V is located south of Piazza Sant’Oronzo. It was built between 1539 and 1548. On the first floor there is a fascinating museum of traditional crafts and art.

San Matteo

San Matteo

San Matteo is another striking example of Baroque. The church was built in 1667. The building has a beautiful façade and interior with an elliptical nave surrounded by chapels occupied by statues of the 12 apostles.

Otranto

Otranto

Otranto is a small fishing town south of Lecce in a picturesque bay. The main attractions are the 15th-century fortress, the small 10th-century church of San Pietro with ancient frescoes, the 11th-century Cathedral of the Virgin Mary with a unique mosaic floor, beautiful columns and an ancient crypt.

15 sights of Lecce worth seeing

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Today we’ll be transported to the city of Lecce, Italy. Attractions like the Basilica of Santa Croce, the old city gate and the cathedral have made this place quite popular and recognizable as a tourist destination. Lecce is often referred to as the southern Florence because of its many beautiful historic buildings and geographical location.

Local stone is one of the main exports of the city, and because of its properties it was used to create most of the city’s monuments and architectural landmarks. In addition, Lecce has a favorable geographical location and is in close proximity to a number of very interesting coastal settlements like Gallipoli. So if you’re bored with Rome and Naples, it’s time to head to Puglia on the Salento Peninsula.

Santa Croce Basilica

Santa Croce Basilica

Santa Croce Basilica | Photo: Terry Feuerborn / Flickr.

It is one of the most beautiful churches in Lecce, known for its amazing architecture and stunning Baroque façade. Santa Croce was built in the seventeenth century from the unique “Lecce stone,” which gave the building its characteristic light cream coloring.

The main façade is truly striking, especially when you consider how many different decorative elements have been used in its decoration. The walls of the basilica are decorated with intricate sculptures, magnificent rose windows and stunning stone statues. The interior of Santa Croce is less ornate, but there’s plenty to see.

Address: Basilica di Santa Croce, Via Umberto I, Lecce, Italy.

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Lecce Cathedral

Lecce Cathedral

Cathedral of Lecce. | Photo: Arian Zwegers.

The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is located in Piazza del Duomo, and is as important as Santa Croce Basilica, one of the most important religious buildings in the city. The cathedral was built at the end of the seventeenth century, so it was designed in the Baroque style and the building itself resembles a basilica with a splendid northern facade and a beautiful bell tower.

That same north façade, with its magnificent stone statues and sculptures, faces the charming cathedral square. Unlike the Basilica of Santa Croce, the interior of the cathedral is very bright and solemn. It is decorated with many stunning works of art and sumptuous arches. Note the magnificent mid-18th century marble high altar. In addition, the church also has twelve chapels, each dedicated to a particular saint or religious figure.

Address: Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta in Lecce, Piazza del Duomo, Lecce, Italy.

Piazza del Duomo

Piazza del Duomo

Piazza del Duomo Cathedral Square.

Lecce has several beautiful piazzas with magnificent architecture, and Piazza del Duomo is one of the most charming. It is located in the center of the old town and has several magnificent monuments and religious buildings.

Two of the most famous buildings are the baroque Lecce Cathedral, which we have already mentioned, with its stunning northern facade, and the magnificent library building, which looks more like a pompous palace. Most of the buildings are made of the very local “Lecce stone” and you really have to see it for yourself. In addition, the nearby streets are full of stores and restaurants that are sure to come in handy for those who want to taste the local food or do a little shopping.

Address: Piazza del Duomo, Lecce, Italy.

Piazza Sant’Oronzo

Piazza Sant'Oronzo

Piazza Sant’oronzo. | Photo: wikimedia.

Piazza Sant’Oronzo is not far from the cathedral of Lecce and is considered the main starting point for any tourist route through the city. It is another beautiful open square with interesting architecture and fantastic sights.

Among its most famous “old-timers” are: the Church of Santa Maria della Grazia, the Roman Amphitheatre and the magnificent Sedile Palace. It is the Sedile that is the most noticeable building in the square – its huge glass arched doorway, framed by intricate stone patterns, is quite difficult not to notice. The area around the square is an extremely pleasant place to walk.

Address: Piazza Sant’Oronzo, Lecce, Italy.

Roman Amphitheatre

Roman Amphitheater

Roman amphitheater.

This ancient structure, discovered only in 1929, is located in the southern part of Piazza San Oronzo. The amphitheater was built in the second century AD and once held up to 25,000 people. Today there are guided tours in which you can see the remains of this once grandiose structure.

Most of the stairs, seats, exterior walls and columns are still in pretty good condition, so you really get to experience all the splendor of this arena. If you are seriously interested in history, you will not find a better place to visit in Lecce.

Address: Anfiteatro romano, Piazza Sant’Oronzo, Lecce, Italy.

Castle of Charles V

Papier-Mache Museum

Papier-Machet Museum | Photo: Paolo Margari / Flickr.

The Castle of Charles V was built in the 16th century and for hundreds of years was the main fortification of the city, the fact becomes clear on the approach to the castle when you see the thick walls and the tall watchtower.

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During the reign of Charles V the castle was significantly fortified and strengthened, which gave it the mighty appearance that we can see today. The castle is in excellent condition – there is almost no visible damage to its walls and towers. Apart from the usual walks you can also visit the interesting Papier-Machet Museum and the seasonal exhibitions with beautiful works of art and historical artefacts.

Address: Castello Carlo V, Viale Felice Cavallotti, Lecce, Italy.

Museo Faggiano

Another excellent museum located in the center of Lecce. The Museo Faggiano is a private house in the basement of which a real archaeological excavation was carried out for 7 years. The excavations have uncovered a number of fantastic finds, some of which are more than 2000 years old.

It turned out that on the site of the house there was once a Templar base, and before that a barn, and even earlier a place of an ancient burial. Now you can look at these excavations with your own eyes and see more than 5,000 exhibits that now make up the collection of the local museum. Luciano and his sons have made the Museo Faggiano a really special place where you want to return again and again.

Address: Museo Faggiano, Via Ascanio Grandi, Lecce, Italy.

Gates to the old town

Gateway to the old town

The gateway to the old town.

As with many other old cities in Italy, Lecce once had good and strong walls surrounding the city. The gate to the old town is part of that defensive structure and is one of the three city gates (which, by the way, have survived to this day).

The gate was built in 1548 in honor of King Charles V and decorated in the Baroque style. As you can guess, the material used for construction was the familiar white stone of Lecce. The center of the arch consists of four columns and is topped by a triangular pediment with the coat of arms of Charles V and the emblem of the city. The monumental gate is part of the rich history of the city and should definitely be visited while strolling through the center of the city.

Address: Porta Napoli, Piazzetta Arco di Trionfo, Lecce, Lecce, Italy.

Villa Comunale City Park

Villa Comunale City Park

City park of Villa Comunale. | Photo: Paolo Margari / Flickr.

Villa Comunale is the most impressive square in Lecce and at the same time a great place to stroll and relax on a hot summer day. This open public space, built in the nineteenth century, is located in the heart of the city has four entrances.

In the center of the park there is a spacious square paved with decorative stone tiles. In addition, there are beautiful stone paths that run along beautifully manicured trees, bushes and flowers. You’ll also see some delightful fountains and ponds, and you’re sure to notice statues and monuments dedicated to revered Italians.

Address: Villa Comunale, Via XXV Luglio, Lecce, Italy.

Church of San Matteo

This church is often undeservedly overlooked, when in fact it has a very interesting façade and a unique design. The Church of San Matteo was built in 1667 in the Baroque style and its façade has a distinctly curved shape – the lower part of it seems to protrude forward, while the upper part, on the contrary, recedes backwards, sinking into the depths.

The walls are decorated with remarkable sculptures and statues. In addition, inside the church you will find 9 beautiful altars depicting various religious figures and motifs, such as the Nativity and the Assumption. Each altar is incredibly richly decorated, so you can stare at this magnificence for hours.

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Address: Chiesa di San Matteo, Via dei Perroni, Lecce, Italy.

Torre del Parco

Torre del Parco

Torre del Parco.

This 15th century castle is now a boutique hotel, but you can still walk around its walls and enjoy the beautiful architecture and views of the surrounding area. Of course, the Torre del Parco was once an important part of the Lecce defense system. You can find the tower in Viale Torre del Parco.

Address: Torre del Parco, Viale Torre del Parco, Lecce, Italy.

Le Cesine Nature Reserve

Le Cesine Nature Reserve

Le Cesine Nature Reserve. | Photo: wikimeda.

“Le Cesine” Nature Reserve is located on the east coast of Italy just 25 minutes east of Lecce and is protected by the state. The reserve, much of which is covered by pools and marshes, is home to dozens of species of animals and birds, not forgetting its magnificent scenery and rich vegetation.

The territory of the reserve is crisscrossed by many footpaths that lead to coastal areas with golden sand, giving access to the warm waters of the Adriatic Sea. Anyone who loves nature and prefers the outdoors is sure to appreciate this place.

Address: The Cesine Nature Reserve, Masseria Cesine, Vernole, Lecce, Italy.

Church of Saints Nicholas and Cataldo

Church of Saints Nicholas and Cataldo

Church of Saints Nicholas and Cataldo.| Photo: wikimedia.

To the northwest of the gate to the old town is the Church of Saints Nicholas and Cataldo, founded by the Norman Count Tancredo of Sicily in 1180. In the center of its Baroque facade, which was not finally decorated until 1716, one can see the beautiful Romanesque arch over the doorway, a remnant of the original church.

The seine façade is decorated with numerous statues and bas-reliefs that were added in the 18th century, while the interior of the church has retained much of the early French Gothic style with carved capitals and ogival arches. The frescoes on the walls date from the 15th and 17th centuries.

Address: Chiesa dei Santi Niccolò e Cataldo, Via Cimitero, Lecce, Italy.

City of Otranto.

Sea Front

Sea Front | Photo: Patrick Nouhailler / Flickr.

So you’ve toured all over Lecce. What to see in its surroundings? There is a lot to see. As we said, Lecce is in close proximity to some great coastal cities. For example, Otranto is only 40 minutes south-east of Lecce and is definitely worth exploring.

The main feature of this delightful coastal city is the Castle of Aragon, built in the 15th century. The walls of this castle offer you a fantastic view of the city and the ocean. You can also enjoy the picturesque harbor of Otranto where you can catch a fresh breeze from the sea. Finally, there is an excellent beach that is perfect for sunbathing and swimming in the sea.

Address: Otranto, Lecce, Italy.

City of Gallipoli

Gallipoli

City of Gallipoli.

Gallipoli is another beautiful coastal city which can be easily reached from Lecce. This city is divided into two parts – the main part of the city, located on the coast, and the “secondary”, represented by a small island, which can be reached by a single road.

This small island is a fascinating place for hiking, as it has many charming quiet lanes and incredibly beautiful architecture. It is also home to the stunning Baroque St. Agatha’s Cathedral, the Castello and the old fishermen’s harbor. All of these sites are also worth your attention.

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