In the heart of the Salento peninsular and the easternmost provincial capital in Italy, Lecce is full of Baroque architecture, called Lecce Baroque for its use of stone which lent itself so well to creative shapes and creations.Baroque took root in Lecce in the seventeenth century and lead to the building of many new churches and houses but also to the reworking of Roman and Gothic buildings with new façades. A visit to Lecce brings you into contact with one of the most harmonious towns in Italy with its more than 40 churches and a similar number of aristocratic town houses.
Piazza Sant’Oronzo, with its statue of the town’s patron saint, offices, bars and shops, is its commercial centre and meeting place. The Church of San Marco, built for the Venetian community, and the Lion of St. Mark dating to 1543 are both in the square as is the Sedile building that used to be the headquarters of the town council.The Roman amphitheatre, which was discovered during building work on the foundations of the current Banca d’Italia, is also nearby and worth a guided tour. Don’t miss out on a visit to Charles V’s castle with its wonderful interiors and the sloping walls that made it so impregnable or the
extremely famous Basilica di Santa Croce dating to 1549 and restored in 1689, a masterpiece of Lecce Baroque.
You can only get into Piazza Duomo in the oldest part of the town via a single, very narrow passageway which was closed off in the past by a now lost wooden gate. This adds to the excitement of a visit to the Duomo with its triumphal arch style façade and the impressive height of its bell tower.Our route ends in Porta Rudiae one of Lecce’s three monumental gates which got its name from the fact that it faces the ancient city of Rudaie, now surrounded by pedestrian-only avenues and splendid oleanders. The other two are Porta Napoli, known as Arco di Trionfo in the square called after it and early eighteenth century Porta San Biagio with its statue of the saint.
Lecce is just 11 km away from the Adriatic coast and only 23 from the Ionian sea and its proximity to the sea and marinas such as Frigole, Torre Chianca, Torre Rinalda and San Cataldo together with the beauty of its monuments make it a top class tourist destination.