Did you love your trip to Florence? Then you need to add Lecce, Italy–aka the Florence of the South–to your list of cities to visit.
When you reach Lecce, Italy, you instantly fall in love with the artistic ambiance of the city and its rich Baroque architecture. Lecce, just like Florence, is a place where the Renaissance took place. Great architects, painters, and sculptures displayed their talents in this small city in Puglia, the heel of Italy. The city enraptures travelers of all types with it’s artistic décor. If you’re interested in art and history, then this Lecce Travel Guide could have you spending days on end exploring the streets of this small city. If you’re just a casual wanderer looking for a lively atmosphere in a city near the sea, then these 7 things to do in Lecce, Italy, check off your boxes.
What you’ll find in this article:
Stay: Patria Palace Hotel
Eat: Patria Palace Hotel Continental Breakfast: Atenza Restaurant
- Basilica di Santa Croce
- Piazza Sant’Oronzo: Roman Amphitheatre
- Via Vittorio Emanuele II
- Via del Teatro Romano
- Vicolo Sotteranei and Via Guglielmo Paladini
- Piazza del Duomo
- Via Giuseppe Libertini to Rudiae
Lecce Itinerary Map
How To Get Around Lecce
Where to Stay in Lecce
Patria Palace: Luxury Hotel in Lecce, Puglia
Art and architect lovers be warned: there are so many treasures at Patria Palace luxury hotel in Lecce, it’s easy to forget the outside world. But there’s always the hotel’s panoramic Atenza restaurant with terrace in front of Basilica di Santa Croce to remind you, serving dishes that are a celebration of Southern Italy on a plate. One peep into the cozy luxury Lecce hotel Patria Palace with its flowered patio, elegant dining room, modest yet comfortable bedrooms, picturesque views from bedroom windows of Italian palazzos backed by the towering Basilica of Santa Croce, expansive rooftop terrace overlooking a breath-taking panorama of baroque architecture, churches, palaces, and more–one dazzled peep, and your stereotypical idea of coastal Puglia fades away. It’s these #PatriaMoments that will stay with you long after you leave Lecce.
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Where to Eat in Lecce
Patria Palace: Luxury Hotel in Lecce, Puglia
Patria Palace Hotel is one of the rare few hotels in Lecce that offers a continental breakfast. Morning is utter bliss and the set up at Atenza restaurant could not be more divine. You can choose eat an Italian or continental breakfast on the patio. The patio is peppered with greenery that makes it feel like an enclave away from the Baroque city of Lecce where you have an opulent view of Basilica Santa Croce. The selection for breakfast is beyond extensive. It offers some of the finest pastries and local products Lecce has to offer. I started my morning with my usual cappuccino followed by a pistachio-filled croissant accompanied by their Lecce renowned poached egg on toast.
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What to Do in Lecce
1. Basilica di Santa Croce
Of all the grand architectural feats in Lecce, the 16th century Basilica di Santa Croce is the most imposing. Luckily for me, I got to take it in more than any other sight in Lecce. I stayed at Patria Palace Hotel where I had a direct view of the Basilica di Santa Croce right from my window. It’s one of the only hotels with a view. The decorative richness of the Basilica will keep your eyes fixed and scanning exterior for hours on end. But don’t forget to visit the interior as well. The Basilica is adjacent to a convent called Convento dei Celestini, which gives the optical illusion of a long and horizontal church.
2. Piazza Sant’Oronzo, Amphitheatre
I didn’t need to walk to far before being immediately struck by another historic monument. After all this is Lecce. It feels like you’re walking in Florence one second and Rome the next. The amphitheatre lay beneath me in the center of in Piazza Sant’Oronzo. A structure which, from its unique character, and picturesque beauty, merits a detailed description to accompany my above picture. Imagine an epitome of the Colosseum, or any amphitheatre, with corridors, seats, and steps. It’s easy to imagine gladiators performing here, putting on the armor of their profession, shields, short swords, and various weapons in hand. Beasts pacing in their cages somewhere in the bowels of this massive structure. Imagine this and you have the amphitheatre of Lecce. A nearby piazza had a small outdoor set-up with wicker baskets hanging from trees creating shade.
3. Via Vittorio Emanuele II
There’s one road that runs through the heart of the baroque city of Lecce, Italy. Follow this road and you can’t get lost. Can you guess what this road is called? Via Vittorio Emanuele II – of course! Just like all other cities, the main road in Lecce Italy is named after Italy’s first King of a United Italy. Usually this street in every Italian city is the most grand and recognized. However in Lecce, Via Vittorio Emanuele II has some competition from Via Giuseppe Libertini, another primary street, who locals deem is the most beautiful. More on that in your 7th stop. While you walk down this road you can admire important monuments, baroque balconies, palaces, antique residences, stores, restaurants, paper mache and leather artisanal shops. You can walk till the edge of the city where you’ll find the entrance of Porta Rudiae.
4. Via del Teatro Romano
The only way to find this gem is to get lost in the lesser known alleys of Lecce and find your way among baroque palaces steps from Piazza Sant’Oronzo. This Roman amphitheater, which could seat up to 5,000 people for comedies and tragedies, is often overlooked by the larger one in Piazza Sant’Oronzo. Why is this amphitheater so special? Because it’s the only Roman amphitheater in Puglia.
Fun Fact: Dior filmed a runway spot here July 2020.
5. Vicolo Sotteranei and Via Guglielmo Paladini
Like all cities, the best part is when you get lost. Don’t look at your phone or any maps and just get lost like in the old days. Start walking and see where you end up. My mom and I picked a street and set out on foot for an adventure. We navigated narrow cobblestone streets. I was struck by the endless rows of buildings in rich, earthy colors, covered with bright green winding ivy. Wrought-iron balconies spilled over the square filled with pots of red, yellow, and pink geraniums. Savory and sweet scents of bread and coffee drifted in the air, teasing my nostrils. I passed cafes where people lounged at small tables, smoking and drinking aperitifs, and listened to the chatter of lyrical Italian float in the air.
6. Piazza del Duomo
Our wandering brought us away from the quieter, isolated streets and into the main square of Piazza del Duomo. Unlike usual European squares or piazzas, this one is enclosed on three sides. Typically, they are open aired. The square is enclosed by the Lecce Duomo Cathedral, the Bishop’s Palace, the Seminary, and the soaring bell tower. It is a wonderful collection of architectural beauties. Each monument was in competition for my attention. Who would win? The imposing façade of the Lecce Duomo Cathedral or the corollary bell tower? Each was the body of warm yellow limestone, with decorative details on each. The Bishop’s Palace was characteristic but exceptionally rich, with columns beneath it’s cornice that supported limestone arches, which formed a series of shallow galleries.
7. Via Giuseppe Libertini and Porta Rudiae
We conclude our tour of Lecce by walking to the perimeter of the historic city, centro storico. Porta Rudiae is the oldest gateway in Lecce and one of three left standing. To get there, we strolled down Via Giuseppe Libertini, one of the primary roads that adjoins Via Vittorio Emanuele II. Some locals declare that this is the most beautiful street in Lecce. An open aired museum aligned with stunning Baroque palaces.
No matter which street you go down, there’s a richness to Lecce, Italy, and history that can have you wandering for hours. But take this tour and see for yourself. Whose side are you on? Is Via Giuseppe Libertini or Via Vittorio Emanuele II your favorite?
How to Get Around Lecce
Walking! The only way to get around the historical center or centro storico of Lecce is on foot. The cobblestone street are narrow and closed to cars unless you live in one of the street. Luckily, the centro storico is fairly small so you can take your time and still manage to walk the entire city in a day. Pro tip: Park outside the city center, but finding parking may take you up to 1 hour depending on how busy the city is.
>> Next: How to Experience the True Magic of Matera
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