A holiday in Lecce will take you to the heart of the Salento, to the extravagance and exuberance of Baroque architecture, of which the city is the ultimate example.
Enjoy the enthralling beauty of its richly decorated churches and buildings. Then discover its Roman soul in the city's greatest monuments. Lecce never ceases to astonish, with its rituals, folklore and a history that continues to influence the present. The city offers visitors much to see and do, culminating in a spectacular monumental complex including the Duomo, the bishop's palace and seminary, the cathedral and the Church of Santa Croce. Holiday packages to Lecce are always available, thanks to the mild and sunny climate you can enjoy for most of the year, and a well-organised system of accommodation establishments that fulfils any requirement.
Start your city itinerary at the Church of Santa Croce, admiring the façade with its abundance of decorations, human figures, animals, religious statues and a magnificent rose window. Continue along Via Vittorio Emanuele to the Chiesa del Gesù, a church famous for its high altar designed by Giuseppe Cino, one of the leading Baroque architects along with Zimbalo. Overlooking Piazza Sant'Oronzo, recognisable by the statue of the patron saint, is the Chiesa delle Grazie, while a few minutes’ walk away is the Duomo with its stunning bell tower. The church has two façades: a richly decorated lateral façade and a frontal façade in Barocco Leccese style.
This same style, which is loaded with popular symbolism, can also be found in the civic monuments and noble buildings. The forms are based on a popular language rooted in Mediterranean culture. Palazzo Loffredo Adorno, with its elegant courtyard and loggia, opposite Chiesa Santa Croce, is a perfect example of this. Palazzo dei Celestini also has an elaborate façade including two sets of windows surrounded by richly decorated frames. Another important testimony of the Baroque period is the Castello Carlo V, which, despite its more ancient origins, has a façade remodelled according to the principles of Barocco Leccese style. The fortress was built at the behest of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who adapted the ancient walls built to defend the city in Norman times.
Strolling through the old city centre, you'll come across monuments that portray the glorious past of the city in the Roman era. On Piazza Sant'Oronzo is the Roman Amphitheatre, built during Hadrian's empire. The Amphitheatre is a huge structure dating from the second century, of which today only the arena and the lower row of steps can be seen. The piazza has undergone several transformations over the centuries but was originally covered and used as a place of trade and commerce, when it was still known as Piazza dei Mercanti. At the top of the Amphitheatre stands one of the most famous symbols of Lecce, the Sedile, a glazed building in which meetings and hearings were held to guarantee the transparency of the administration. Walking along Via Augusto, you'll come to the Roman Theatre and then Porta Rudiae, one of the gates to the city. If you're interested in learning more about the history of Lecce, don't miss the Sigismondo Castromediano Provincial Museum, the oldest in the whole of Apulia. Initially built as a Celestine Convent, it includes most of the historical and archaeological finds that tell the story of the city. The same building also includes the picture gallery, with works that show the influence of the Venetian and Byzantine styles on Lecce's artistic heritage. Another interesting collection of paintings can be seen in the Pinacoteca Francescana of the Convento dei Frati Minori.
Lecce has a multifaceted charm, which is expressed in the Baroque architecture, the hospitality and the food and wine. You'll have no difficulty finding a traditional restaurant or pastry shop to enjoy the local specialities, perhaps before setting off on a trip outside the city to Castello Monaci. This ancient 17th century fortress is surrounded by extensive parkland which is home to one of the most popular local restaurants. Elegant and comfortable, it's the ideal place to spend a few pleasant hours having dinner al fresco, perhaps by candlelight. Lecce and the Salento await you for a relaxing, cultural break.