City Guide to Lecce, Italy
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own.
When one thinks of Puglia, the southern region in the heel of Italy, small country towns coupled with seaside villages come to mind. Vast farmland and the Adriatic coast make up much of this beautiful area that is still rather under the radar. But there is also the cosmopolitan city of Lecce, which has earned the nickname “the Florence of the South” for its baroque architecture and general sophistication amongst its smaller town neighbors.
I visited Lecce on a day trip when I was staying in the Ostuni countryside, and it made for the perfect day trip to the “big city”, however I would also say it is worth a weekend trip as well. Apart from site-seeing, there are excellent restaurants and lots of shopping to be had – in fact that’s what I would say is first and foremost to do; stroll its streets, eat good food, dip into stores, and enjoy drinks in one of its outdoor cafes. Relish the city life in an area that is otherwise low-key and rather quiet.
Lecce is a beautiful city to walk around – its stunning baroque architecture can be seen everywhere, from its narrow European streets to its many churches that dot the city. Its golden limestone shines in the southern sun, giving the city its own unique look. It is said that the limestone here is particularly malleable and that’s why the style of the city is baroque – the stone could be turned into all the ornate and heavy detail that baroque is so known for.
You might also enjoy: Guide to Alberobello, Puglia: Italy’s Most Unusual Southern Town
Things to do in Lecce
I was told to make my first stop in the Piazza Sant’Oronzo, where the visitors center is. This was a great call, as the center is well managed with helpful staff, and contains maps of the city. Lecce is made up of many rambling, criss-crossy streets, and having a map was absolutely necessary. It’s a lively piazza full of cafes and shops, and the center of Lecce life. It’s a good starting point.
Also located in the piazza is an ancient Roman Amphitheatre, built at the end of the 2ndCentury B.C. Life’s events buried the amphitheater until it was discovered after the Second World War, and historians estimate it once held 25,000 spectators. It’s front and center in the square and impossible to miss.
Another wonderful piazza to see is the Piazza del Duomo, where the Lecce Cathedral is located. This is an entirely different kind of piazza – not big and bustling, but smaller and less crowded. It’s a bit tucked away, with beautiful grand buildings surrounding the square. I have to admit I never made it inside the Cathedral – just as I was exploring the square I realized it was time to go meet up with some people. However, I did make it inside the Santa Croce, which is by all accounts more of a must-see cathedral.
The Basilica di Santa Croce often comes up as the #1 thing to do in Lecce, due to its complete baroque over-the-topness. The level of detail is incredible, one of the finest in Italy. Think gargoyles, beasts, animals, all with the most intricate of detail. Its façade is famous in Puglia, however when I visited there were so many people in front, that I found the interior much more captivating.
You might also enjoy: Guide to Locorotondo: Italy’s Precious Round Town
For a fascinating archeological trip through Lecce’s history, visit the Museo Faggiano. What once was someone’s home is now a museum, after the owner discovered archeological remains when digging beneath the home to deal with a sewage problem. There he discovered medieval walls, crypts and remains, even things dating back to the 5thcentury B.C.
Finally, one of the best things to do, as I mention above, is simply to walk around and enjoy Lecce culture. Via Umberto I connects Piazza Sant’Oronzo and the Basilica Santa Croce and is bustling with restaurants, cafes and shops. This is one of the city’s main streets and is great for people-watching and taking in the city vibe.
Disclaimer: Fifi + Hop is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.