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Lecce, Italy - What To See And Do

Updated on December 23, 2012

Architectural Excellence

 Lecce is known as The baroque capital of Italy.
Lecce is known as The baroque capital of Italy. | Source

Rural, Rustic . . . . . Regal

Lecce pronounced "lay-chay", is the pride of the Puglia Region in southern Italy and is one of the most important cities in Italy. Not widely known outside of Italy, it is one of those rare finds that needs to be shouted about as lives are touched when this “Pearl of the Baroque” is discovered.

The passion that was demonstrated centuries ago here in its architectural splendour, is alive and well, and still beats oh so strong in the Leccese people.

I have put together some must see sights and things to do with a few tips along the way to show you the very best Lecce has to offer and to make this a trip you will never forget. Italy's best kept secret and it's sheer domination of the Baroque style of architecture has won respect throughout the world, and here is a glimpse why.


Day & Night at The Basilica

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Basilica Di Santa Croce (Church of the Holy Cross)

Here it seems the stonemasons must have been a “sandwich short of a picnic”, on some type of “trip” or had a little too much Vino Rosso (red wine)!!!! Constructed over two centuries, the facade of the Church is quite mind blowing, under the guidance of Giuseppe Zimbalo, one of Lecce’s finest architects and sculptors. Trying to understand it or make sense of it doesn’t work! What meets you is an assortment of gremlins, sheep, dodos, cherubs and other beasties interlinked by what you assume to be is a purpose!! These sculptures are lit up at night and are an even more impressive sight not to be missed. Make sure you don’t forget about the interior of the church, once you can drag yourself away from the facade. The interior is breathtaking and more traditional Renaissance in design and a wonderful example of why Lecce is so closely linked with Florence.

Piazza Sant’Oronzo

Classed as the main Piazza, it was dedicated to and named after Lecce’s patron Saint in 1656. Today a large statue may be seen in the middle of the Piazza depicting him blessing the city. Beautiful mosaic paving adorns the Piazza and a cocktail of mixed architectural splendour, dating from the middle ages to the 14th century, surrounds on all sides. Throughout the summer the city puts on free daily concerts here, anything from Classical to Jazz. A real focal point of the city for locals and visitors alike and is home to the amazing Roman Amphitheatre.


The Roman Amphitheatre

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See A Concert Here

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The Roman Amphitheatre is a sight to behold. Found below the Piazza Sant’Oronzo, in 1901 by a construction worker, it dates back to the 2nd Century A.D. Following excavation works in the 1930’s, a horseshoe shaped theatre, with a capacity to seat 25,000 people was uncovered.


Part of it remains hidden due to other buildings now existing on top of it. Being situated in a Piazza makes it so accessible for all to marvel at and imagine times of old. I sat leisurely over a Cafe Latte or two, doing just that. Today, believe it or not, concerts and ballets are still performed here, so if you get the opportunity to attend a performance, go for it!!


Piazza del Duomo

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Baroque Architecture At The Piazza

piazza del duomo
piazza del duomo | Source
archbishops palace
archbishops palace | Source
cathedral facade
cathedral facade | Source

One of my favourite Piazzas’ here and sometimes referred to as Cathedral Square, Piazza del Duomo is a beautiful large square full of character and baroque features on all sides. Almost completely sealed off, It was used in the early days as a safe haven by all the townsfolk to congregate in when Invaders came a knocking. A favourite for taking a stroll around as part of the Italian custom and tradition of La Passeggiata.


Home to the magnificent 12th century, Duomo di Lecce (The Lecce Cathedral) with its magical 68 m high Bell Tower, it is believed to have been the great Giuseppe Zimbalo’s finest work. What is very unique about this Cathedral is the fact it has two facades, one on the west side and a very ornate one on the front facing into the Piazza. There is much to see inside and the Crypt is well worth seeing. There are stunning columns all unique to each other, beautiful Paintings and magnificent tiles.


The attention to detail given during the recent restoration work is evident in bucket loads The Cathedral lies nicely with the 15th century Palazzo Vescoville (Episcopal Palace) and the Palazzo del Seminario (The Seminar Palace) which are just two of approximately 40 Palace’s in the city, which makes for a dramatic and engaging landscape of architectural brilliance when you consider there are a similar amount of churches here also!


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Churches of Lecce

Lecce is home to a staggering 40 or more churches so needless to say, if you blink you may just miss one!! Not a big problem since along the next cobblestoned lane and around the corner another one will be awaiting! There are a few, however, worth mentioning to put on the radar for you as ones not to miss.

Chiesa dei San Niccolo e Cataldo (Church of San Niccolo and Cataldo)

This church was founded by Tantred, the King of Sicily in 1180 and is a great example of Italo-Norman architecture. An Exquisite example of craftsmanship having had the facade rebuilt in 1716 and additions made with the inclusions of a number of statues, giving it the Baroque feel by the prolific Cino, but he retained the very Romanesque portal and rose window.

Chiesa di Sant’Irene (Church of Saint Irene)

Recently under renovations, this church features a magnificent matching pair of baroque altarpieces, looking as if they are sizing each other up across the transept.

Chiesa di San Matteo (Church of Saint Matthew)

Built in 1667 by Artist Giovanni Andrea Lorducci in Baroque style, this church is very striking when you first see it as it has a concave and convex structure. Inside it has an incredible nine altars.


Tomatoes, Mozzarella Cheese, Basil and Olives . . . . . The Italian Culture

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Suzie's Tips for Lecce -

Siesta – Be aware that siesta is very much part of life here and in the Puglia Region. From 12 noon most shops, cafes, and other businesses will close for 4 or 5 hour and come to life again later in the evening. I got caught out with places I felt would not close but did, so you have been warned! Plan your days so you are not looking for bottled water, shopping, food or services in the afternoon.

Dinner – Italians eat very late, often not before 9 or even 10pm and it’s very common to see the entire Italian family out in restaurants, including young children. Family is numero uno to Italians and next is food! I remember going to get a pizza to find at 8pm the pizza oven at the restaurant was not even on, as it was too early!!

Coperto – This is a charge that is added automatically in restaurants, unless you say no thank you. It works like a “covers charge”, and you will pay anything from €1 - €3 euro per person for basically just sitting at the table, but more often than not they bring bottled water and breads you may think are “free”, so its these that you say no to before you delve in, unless you want it. Just be aware of it at the end of the meal on the check.

Parking in LecceDriving into Lecce, keep an eye out for car parks as there are virtually no cars in the centre of Lecce, and is predominantly a pedestrian zone. You are better to park up and walk to the centre, otherwise you will be trying to navigate tiny one way streets for hours!!!! Take it from one who has “been there, done that and have the t-shirt”!!!!!!!!

Tourist Information – The Arco di Prato Services is situated on Via Leonardo Prato and is a great place to touch base with for anything to do with Lecce and the area. You can book accommodation, excursions, get maps, hire bicycles and even organise airport transfers to name a few. The staff are friendly and helpful and will steer you in the right direction or check them out on the web beforehand.


Lecce has something for everyone and makes a great base for exploring the delights of the south from and there are many well worth seeing. This “Florence of Southern Italy” is firmly on the map and will continue to amaze visitors forever.

Lecce, Italy - What to See and Do Comments

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    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Excellent Hub Suzie. The Roman amphitheater looks amazing and Lecce does remind me of Florence. This area of Italy probably does not get the tourists that some of the other areas get but certainly looks just as beautiful and worthy of a visit. Great job. Voted up.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Thanks bdegiulio, It really is a wonderful place and hopefully you will get the opportunity to visit this region. Amazing that the amphitheatre still lies partially undiscovered under the piazza! Thanks so much for your comments and votes!

    • profile image

      mjkearn 5 years ago

      Hi SuzieQ,

      really beginning to love this place, definitely gotta go. Another great hub, voting up and the rest,

      MJ.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi MJ, thanks for your great comments,the entire south of Italy is well worth visiting,hope you get to experience it!Thanks again MJ

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      If I ever travel internationally, I would love to go to Italy. This hidden city looks amazing. I would love to see the baroque style and the ampitheater. Well written and very inviting! Voting up and sharing.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi tammyswallow, Thanks so much for taking the time to read my article on Lecce.It is a wonderful city full of so much character and creativity. Italy is very special and if you get the chance to travel to Europe, it is definitely a place to visit!! Appreciate your votes and for sharing!!

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Wow....this is only one word which came from my mouth. I really impressed with Lecce, Italy. You describe this hub very well and I really enjoy reading this hub, including the pictures. I love your tips. You have done a great job by share this information with us. I hope I can go to Lecce one day. Voted up, shared and press the buttons except funny. Take care :-)

      Prasetio

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi prasetico30, Thank you so much for reading and your great comments! Glad you enjoyed . Lecce is truly worth visiting and I hope you get to see all it has to offer some day soon! :-)

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      Never been to Europe, or Italy for that matter. I enjoyed this virtual tour.

      PS: Suzie, thanks for your wonderful fan mail.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Thanks Vinaya Ghimire, I appreciate your comments.I've never been to Nepal so look forward to exchanging tours!

    • StileMediterraneo profile image

      StileMediterraneo 5 years ago from Lecce Puglia taly

      Wow Suzie! grazie mille for sharing all this wonderful information about my hometown Lecce. When I moved back here in Lecce from the US/UK 5 years ago nobody knew about it. Now, Lecce is becoming more and more popular and so many people are falling in love...and moving down here.

      I run culinary and wine tours for people who are interested in getting to know our culture through food and wine. Let me know if you are around. It would be nice to meet you one day. All the best. Ciao Ciao Cinzia

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Grazie mille Cinzia. Wow, how great to hear from you. Will definitely keep in touch here. Would love to do your course too, when i am there. Appreciate you taking the time to comment and i am delighted that you like what i have written about your home town! Such a beautiful town in every way. Ciao for now!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      What an amazing hub you have written about Lecce, Italy. When one thinks of the history there...the amphitheatre and its uses...the churches built over (undoubtedly) many centuries and the rest of the sites you described, this is definitely worth a visit! It must have been a place where the wealthy people settled with all of those mansions and churches. Enjoyed your many tips. If I ever get there, I will not want to wear your t-shirt. Will park the car below and walk. Ha! In Spain, from our experiences, dining is also late at night. Must be the Mediterranean lifestyle. Many up votes and definitely sharing. Thanks!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      So glad you enjoyed this Peggy W, I am very appreciative of you reading and commenting! Lecce is full of amazing architecture, history, rustic cuisine and so much more! We sat at a wee cafe next to the amphitheatre, espresso in hand just drinking in the ancient and modern side by side . . . . .Magical feeling. Thanks again Peggy, hope you get to travel to this neck of the woods minus the t-shirt! LOL

    • sofs profile image

      sofs 4 years ago

      Fabulous city this Lecce is.. Thanks for sharing this structural and artistic delight and making armchair travel possible for me. Have a great day.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Appreciate your comments sofs, delighted you enjoyed this great town of southern Italy, you have a great day too!

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 4 years ago

      spectacular! The secrets from Lecce are out! Echo Madonna! Wonderful pics Suzie! Loce that 25,000 capacity amphitheater. This was a free tour through your pics!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Sincere thanks for stopping by lord de cross! My plan is to get to see a concert or show in the amphitheater there now, glad you enjoyed the journey!

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