Dare Dream Discover

A Taste of Puglia – Lecce

A Taste of Puglia – Lecce

lecce cathedral

Lecce is in the South of Puglia and is the center of the Salento area. It is known as ‘The Florence of the South’ because of its beautiful architecture, lovely Duomo and magnificent Baroque churches.

Most of the buildings in the old town are made from Lecce stone giving them a unique and warm hue. The old town is a joy to wander around and lose yourself in, with amazing sights around every corner and at every turn.

I wandered around for hours, soaking up the history, the beauty and the wonderful aromas.

street in lecce old town

palm trees - lecce

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Things to See in Lecce

Piazzo del Duomo

This is one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. Enclosed on 3 sides, it houses the Duomo di Lecce, the Bell Tower, the Bishop’s Palace and the Seminary Palace.

lecce cathedral square at night

bell tower

Duomo di Lecce

The city’s magnetic cathedral. Originally built in 1144, it was beauty restored in 1659 in the beautiful baroque style for which Lecce is so famous. The master architect Giuseppe Zimbalo built this and his signature can be seen on many more of Lecce’s baroque gems.

cathedral - lecce

duomo - lecce

me at lecce cathedral

facade of cathedral

You can buy a ticket to visit the beautiful interior and also the crypt.

inside lecce cathedral

interior lecce cathedral

cathedral organ

crypt in cathedral

headstone in crypt

The Bell Tower

This was added later and was built on the site of a Norman cathedral which collapsed. It was built between 1661 and 1682 and is 72 metres high.

bell tower lecce

top of bell tower

cathedral square

The Bishop’s Palace

Next to the Duomo, this is home to the Archbishop of Lecce.

bishops palace

The Seminary Palace

This former palace now contains the Museum of Sacred Art with artwork and old manuscripts. There is also a lovely little courtyard.

courtyard of museum

old musical manuscript

painting in historic art museum

It is also here where you buy entrance tickets to the Cathedral and other attractions. The best value is the ticket at 9 Euros which allows you entrance to the cathedral and its crypt and many other churches and museums.

admission ticket

Bassilica di Santa Croce

One of the most beautiful buildings in Puglia and one of the most beautiful churches I have seen. The building of the basilica was completed in 1695 over 150 years after it was started. Again it is made from Lecce stone giving it a rich warm hue.

Decorated in the beautiful Baroque style, so intricate and so ornate. The balcony is supported by dragons, griffin, bears and men holding it on their shoulders.

top of santa croce

statue santa croce

figure santa croce

dragon santa croce

front of santa croce

me outside santa croce

the baroque basilica

basilica santa croce

dragon and griffon

The interior contains many ornate baroque altars. Over one is a painting of Saint’Oronzo saving Lecce from an earthquake in 1748.

ceiling santa croce

interior santa croce

baroque interior santa croce

Santa Chiara

Another of Lecce’s beautiful baroque churches. This is famous for the ceiling being made from papier mache. The art of papier mache making has been practiced in Lecce for centuries and local craftsman continue the craft today.

A nearby street still contains many old workshop where the ceiling sections were created. It is named the Art papier mache street. Around the city you will see many paper mache statues and there is also a museum at the castle.

santa chiara

ceiling santa chiara

interior santa chiara

Santa Matteo

Also included in the 9 euro ticket price and worth a look. A pretty little church with statuses of the 12 apostles.

santa matteo

view of santa matteo

altar santa matteo

interior santa matteo

Chiesa di Santa Irene

Situated near the Roman amphitheatre and dedicated to Lecce’s former patron saint, this was one of my favorite churches, simply beautiful. A lady outside gave me free biscuits everyday too.

chiesa di santa irene

view of chiesa di santa irene

church of saint irene

Church of San Niccolo dei Greco

This was the church for the Greek and Albania residents of the city.

church of san niccolo dei greco

old greek church

There are many more beautiful churches dotted around the old town. There are also many other things to see.

The Roman Theatre

This was discovered by accident early in the 20th century when workers were laying pipework for the construction of a bank. Two thirds of it has been uncovered. It is not possible to excavate it fully, as part of it lies beneath old buildings and churches which can’t be demolished.

It was used for gladiatorial combat, contests between men and animals such as bulls and bears and executions. It was able to seat up to 14,000 people.

roman amphitheatre at night

roman amphitheatre

excavation roman amphitheatre

When I was wandering around, I found a smaller amphitheatre, I’m not sure if this was part of the same complex.

small amphitheatre

The Castle of Lecce

This is known as the Carlo V Castle after Emperor Charles 5th. Today it is mainly used for cultural shows and events and exhibitions.

When I visited there were 2 exhibitions. The 1st was an exhibition of photography by the photo journalist Massimo Sestini. He captured some of the most fascinating recent events as well as lovely landscapes. Some of the shots he took from a helicopter.

There is a wonderful shot of the sunken Costa Concordia and of a boatload of refugees he helped to rescue. Over 5 years he tracked down 10 of these refugees and made a documentary following their journey. I absolutely loved his work.

sinking of costa concordia

boat full of refugees

sunbathers in lecce

ship at night

The other exhibition was by the painter Gianserio Strafella. I love art that is vibrant and full of colour and his works certainly were.

exhibition - lecce castle

strafella painting

painting by strafella

wave paintings

Also here are original murals on the castle wall.

mural on castle wall

artwork - lecce castle

You can take a guided tour of the castle too. It’s is well worth it. It covers a lot of areas, many underground.

lecce - castle

castle - lecce

steps - lecce castle

underground lecce castle

The most interesting for me was the dungeon. On its walls are images etched by prisoners over the centuries, carved from the stone using animal bones.

carvings by prisoners

dungeon in lecce castle

The castle also housed a military garrison at one stage and there are also remnants of their stay.

stoves in lecce castle

The tour also includes the paper maiche museum.

papier mache statue

papier mache museum

papier mache bust

Legend has it that in the 14th century Orsini del Balzo kept a polar bear in the moat!

The tour takes around an hour and costs 8 euros.

drawing of lecce castle

underground tunnel in leche castle

passageway - lecce castle

courtyard of lecce castle

coat of arms

Porto Napoli

Also built for a state visit by Charles V in 1548, it is the main city gate, also known as the triumphal arch.

porto napoli

triumphal arch

entrance to old town

main city gate - lecce

Behind the gate is an obelisk erected for the Spanish King Fernando 1.

obelisk in lecce

illuminated obelisk in lecce

Just Wander

The most enjoyable thing for me in Lecce was just to wander and lose myself in the maze of streets in the old town, coming across hidden gems, quirky art work and beautiful Palazzos.

pianist in the street in lecce

clock - lecce

old church and blue sky - lecce

park - lecce

modern art - lecce

lecce flowers

old street - lecce

street old town - lecce

grafitti in lecce

outdoor art in lecce

street in lecce

masked ladies

Where to stay in Lecce

I stayed at Sui Tetti Luxury Rooms. It was in the perfect spot in a quiet street in the old town, yet minutes walk from the major sights. It was very reasonably priced with spacious and beautifully decorated rooms. I really liked the bedside tables made from solid stone.

view from hotel in lecce

my hotel bed in lecce
Book your stay at Sui Tetti Luxury Rooms

hotel room in lecce

stone bedside table

lecce hotel bathroom

The other selling point for me was the large rooftop terrace, complete with jacuzzi. I spent a very happy evening in the hot tub with a bottle of Prosecco, bubbles of every kind.

The terrace was also a lovely spot for breakfast with accompanying views over the rooftops of the old town and it’s church towers.

jacuzzi the the lecce hotel

a drink in the jacuzzi

me in the jacuzzi

Food and Drink in Lecce

Lecce is full of lovely restaurants, bars and cafes, both traditional and modern, too numerous to mention.

restaurant in lecce

outdoor cafe in lecce

colourful cafe in lecce

Local dishes to try include the orecciette pasta they make here, called ‘little ears’. Also the local pastries stuffed with ham, mozzarella, tomato and bechamel sauce.

local dish in lecce

lecce's local pastry

local bread in lecce

The area is also known for extremely good red wines, including Primitivo. They also make excellent crafts beers.

local wine in lecce

local beer in lecce

a beer with a view

Lecce is a beautiful city and truly deserves it nickname of the Florence of the South. It is wonderful to lose yourself in the old town and everything is in walking distance. I would say go now before more people discover how wonderful it is.

lecce street by night

modern earth

bell tower at night

balloon art in lecce

lecce statues

old murals - lecce

lecce - old church

courtyard in lecce

palazzo lecce

old door in lecce

church statue lecce

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