Lecce, sometimes called the Florence of the south, is the main city on Puglia's Salento Peninsula. Because of the soft limestone that's easy to work, Lecce became the center for the ornate architecture called the barocco leccese and the city is filled with Baroque monuments. The historic center is compact making it a great place for walking and its restaurants offer abundant fine food typical of Puglia. Also notable are the traditional handicrafts, especially the art of paper mache'.
Lecce Location and Weather:
Lecce is on the Salento Peninsula, the heel of the boot, in southern Italy's Puglia region (see Puglia map). The climate is fairly mild although it can get very hot in summer - see Lecce Weather and Climate for average monthly temperatures and rainfall.
Lecce is the terminus of the rail line that runs along Italy's east coast. It can be reached in less than three hours from Foggia on a Eurostar train or four hours on the regional train. It's half an hour to forty minutes from Brindisi. The Ferrovie Sud Est serves small towns on the peninsula and has a station in Lecce so you can reach many places in the area by train. (see Puglia train times map) From the train station, it's a short walk to the historic center.
The closest airports are in Brindisi and Bari, see Italy airports map.
Where to Stay in Lecce:
Hotels in Lecce are relatively inexpensive comapred to other Italian cities. For luxury hotels, try the Hotel Risorgimento Resort (reviews and booking) or the Patria Palace (reviews and booking), both highly rated and right in the historic center. Hotel Cappello (reviews and booking), is an economical 2-star hotel near the train station.
B and B choices include Bed and Breakfast L'Orangerie d'Epoque (reviews and book), on the edge of the historic center, and Bed and Breakfast Antica Villa La Viola (reviews and book), between the train station and the historic center.
Enjoy a virtual look at Piazza del Duomo, the amphitheater, churches, and streets with these Lecce Pictures on Europe Travel. You'll even see a photo of my lunch, 'Ncapriata, a typical dish of Lecce.
Lecce Top Sights:
- Piazza del Duomo, or Cathedral Square, is a beautiful square with ornate buildings. Here you'll find the duomo, Cathedral of the Madonna Assunta, originally built in 1144 and completely restored in 1659-70 when the 70-meter tall bell tower was added. The Bishop's Palace and Seminary, two Baroque monuments, are also in the square.
- Via Vittorio Emanuale is the main street lined with shops and cafes that runs between Piazza del Duomo and Piazza Sant'Oronzo. Along the street you'll find the tourist information office and Church of San Giovanni Battista.
- Roman Amphitheater was built in the second century AD and once held 25,000 spectators. The amphitheater is partially excavated but monuments have been built above most of it. You'll see the remians near Sant'Oronzo Square where there's a Roman column topped by a copper statue of Saint Oronzo, the city's patron saint.
- Church of Santa Chiara, famous for its ceiling with paper mache' decorations, is a short distance from the amphitheater.
- Archaeological Museum, open only on weekday mornings, and remains of a Roman theater, discovered in 1929, that once held 6000 spectators are behind Santa Chiara.
- Basilica of Santa Croce, on Via Umberto I, has a richly decorated facade and is considered the emblem of the city. Next to the church is Palazzo Celestini, a former monastery that's now a government building. Behind it are the municipal gardens.
- Castle of Charles V was built in the 16th century and was the royal residence. Next to it is the Opera House.
- Provincial Museum, on Viale Gallipoli, currently has free admission and houses important finds from the city and the region.
A few kilometers south of Lecce is Grecia Salentina, a group of towns with nice historic centers where a Greek dialect is still used. Some of these towns can be reached by train.