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Lecce, Puglia Travel Guide: Discover Italy’s Baroque Gem of the South

Lecce, Puglia Travel Guide: Discover Italy’s Baroque Gem of the South

Looking to visit Lecce, Puglia? Sitting right at the heel of the Italian Peninsula, this beautiful city has plenty to offer.

Often referred to as the “Florence of the South” (although, as I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of these comparisons), Lecce is a charming city filled with friendly locals, excellent food, and stunning Baroque architecture. 

The city is over 2,000 years old and, while there are many exciting things to do in the Puglia region, a visit to Lecce is an absolute must. 

Get ready to dive into this lesser-known but equally beautiful city of Italy. Let’s go.

Top Tip: Looking for somewhere to stay in Lecce? I recommend the Suite Hotel Santa Chiara, right in the historic city centre. 

Top 5 Things to Do in Lecce

See the Baroque Cathedral (Basilica di Santa Croce)

 Leece Cathedral

Lecce is well-known for its beautiful Baroque-style buildings. Of all of the many Lecce churches, the Basilica di Santa Croce is probably the best example of this architectural style.  

Built in 1695, it took almost two centuries to construct this elegant masterpiece made from Lecce limestone. Its façade showcases intricate details, sculptures, and smooth white columns. Its most striking feature would be its large rose window – seriously dreamy. 

The cathedral’s interior boasts opulent features with grand white columns and a gold-painted ceiling. Inside you’ll also find a cool 17 altars, paintings, and glass windows. 

Tip: Discover more of Lecce’s stunning buildings with this Baroque Architecture tour 

Check Out the Church of Saint Irene 

Church of St. Irene

Another of Lecce’s Baroque churches worth checking out is the Church of Saint Irene — or Chiesa di Sant’Irene. Constructed between the late 1500s and early 1600s, it is the home of Saint Irene, one of the city’s beloved saints. 

On the façade, you’ll find a statue of Saint Irene, a sculpture of the she-wolf, and an oak tree symbolising the city of Lecce. Inside, there are a few stunning 17th-century altarpieces and separate chapels. The Church of Saint Irene is near the Duomo and Baroque Cathedral, so you can tick them off in one morning.

Admire the Anfiteatro (Roman Amphitheatre)

Lecce - Roman Amphitheater

Gorgeous buildings are everywhere, but one place that really captured my heart in Lecce was the Roman Amphitheatre. It’s found in the Piazza Sant’oronzo and while it was built more than 2,000 years ago, it remained hidden until the 1900s. 

Since then, numerous restoration efforts have been in place to try and restore it to its former glory. It’s a true symbol of the city, and could hold up to 25,000 people on its two tiers in its prime. 

Today the venue hosts various artistic performances throughout the year – you might just be lucky enough to catch one.. 

Take a Stroll Around the Centro Storico 

Lecce

The Centro Storico is the beating heart of Lecce and is a great place to kick off your adventures. The old city centre is only a few square kilometres in size and lined along its narrow streets you’ll find cute cafés, restaurants, shops and bars. 

You could easily spend hours exploring all of its little gems – as it gets dark, the centre comes to life and locals arrive to kick off an evening of fun. 

Explore Piazza del Duomo

Piazza del Duomo

While Lecce has several beautiful squares, there’s none more charming than the Piazza del Duomo. Right in the heart of Lecce’s Old Town, it’s a great place to take in all the city’s architectural wonders. 

From the piazza’s wide-vantage points, you can see the intricate details of the Baroque architecture in many of the buildings. Some highlights include the iconic Lecce Bell Tower, the Bishop’s Residence, and the Palace of Seminary. 

Brilliant Things to See & Do in Lecce

Marvel at Castello Carlo V 

castello di carlo v monopoli-2

Built in the early 16th century, the Castello Carlos V is an imposing fortress and castle in Lecce. It served as the city’s main defence fortification, and, after all these centuries, it remains mostly unscathed. 

The castle has four walls and towers with stout bastions and is also the largest castle in Puglia. Once a prison, court, and military compound, it now acts as the headquarters of Lecce’s cultural authority. 

You can wander around, explore this magnificent castle, and bask in its glory. It also houses a paper-mâché museum (totally random, but I love it) and occasionally hosts events. 

Climb Lecce Bell Tower (+ Admire the View)

Lecce Bell Tower

Lecce’s bell tower is rather famous in Puglia. Not only is it one of the tallest in Europe at 71 metres tall, but on a clear day you can even spot the Adriatic Sea and the mountains of Albania from the top.

Don’t fret, you don’t need to shlepp your way to the top – there’s now an elevator that carries you skywards. You can also spot the tower’s four bells on your journey to the observation deck.

Must-Try Bars & Restaurants in Lecce

Ristorante Blu Notte

One of my favourite places to eat in Lecce is at Ristorante Blu Notte, situated in the historic centre.

The high-vaulted, stone-arched ceilings are as impressive as the food. Speaking of which, this restaurant is where good food, wine, art, and culture meet each other in an intimate atmosphere. 

Their menu has a fine selection of traditional dishes from Salento, seafood, meat, and desserts. They also have a carefully crafted wine list with a huge array of regional wines to pair with the best food in Lecce, Italy.  

Quanto Basta

It’s not exactly a secret that this is one of the best bars in Lecce – you’ll find groups of students, intimate dates, and a slightly older crowd interspersed all throughout this cool cocktail bar.

Drinks are reasonably-priced and the menu consists of classics and a few regional offerings – they do a particularly quaffable Paloma.

Best Hotels in Lecce

Grand Hotel Di Lecce (Mid-range)

The Grand Hotel di Lecce is 200 m away from the Lecce Railway Station and 10 minutes from the historic Old Town. The atmosphere of this hotel is, as its name suggests – grand. Once you step inside this Art Nouveau building, you’ll immediately notice its ornate details and charming decor. 

La Fiermontina (Luxury) 

This small yet luxurious hotel is perfect for you if you want to get a feel of historic Lecce. La Fiermontina is set in an old family home and features stunning stone arches and details. The hotel is also conveniently located near the Lecce Train Station and the Piazza del Duomo. 

Lecce, Italy: Practical Tips for Your Trip

Leece puglia

How Long Should You Stay in Lecce, Puglia?

Lecce is very quaint, and one or two days is usually enough to see all the city offers. I recommend extending your trip to the rest of Puglia and spending around a week in the region. 

Best Time to Visit Lecce, Puglia

I recommend visiting in May, June, and September. The temperature during these months is comfortably warm, and the crowds are slightly lower than in July and August.

Where Should I Stay in Lecce?

There are several great places to stay in Puglia, and these hotels in Lecce are no exception. 

I suggest staying at the Grand Hotel di Lecce to be close to all the action. Though, if you’re looking to get a real feel of the city’s historical side, I would recommend staying at La Fiermontina Hotel.

How Do I Get to Lecce? 

By Plane (+ Car)

The closest airport to Lecce is the Salento Airport in Brindisi. You can rent a car and drive to Lecce in about 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can drive in from the city of Bari, which is about two hours away by car. 

By Train 

There are direct trains to Lecce that leave from Bari and Brindisi. From Brindisi, the journey is only 30 minutes, while from Bari, it’s about 90 minutes. 

Things to Do in Lecce, Puglia: Map

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