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Best of Lecce (Italy): Travel Guide and Travel Tips

If you’re on the lookout for the grandest Baroque structures in Puglia, a visit to Lecce is a must. This delightful small town is celebrated as the Baroque heart of the region, sometimes even labelled as the “Florence of the South”.

The Baroque architecture you can find in Lecce is truly unique, and can be marveled at all throughout the old town. Nearly all the buildings in Lecce’s old town are made of light beige tuff, giving the city its very special colour scheme.

On our road trip through Puglia, we stopped over in Lecce for a night and were immediately captivated by its charm. In this travel guide, we’ll show you the most beautiful sights and share our personal tips for Lecce.

Lecce View point

1. Lecce (Italy): First Travel Tips at a Glance

Interesting and Exciting Facts About Lecce

  • The city of Lecce is home to around 100,000 residents. The old town is pleasantly compact and can be explored on foot quite quickly.
  • On Salento, the peninsula at the very south of Puglia, you will find no other city quite as big as Lecce, making it the largest city in the area.
  • Lecce equals Baroque! While other parts of Puglia are known for their typical white-washed houses, Lecce boasts some of the most splendid Baroque attractions in Southern Italy.
  • It’s no coincidence that the Baroque style in Lecce has its own name: Lecce Baroque.
  • Lecce is not on the coast, but the sea isn’t far away. You can reach the coastline in about 20 minutes from Lecce.

How Many Days Should I Plan for Lecce?

Lecce is small but mighty. The old town isn’t too spread out. In a few hours, you can at least see the key attractions from the outside. So, theoretically, a day trip is enough for a visit.

We’d recommend staying 1 to 2 nights in Lecce during your trip through Puglia. We stayed one night (with plenty of time on our arrival day) and found it perfect.

What Must I Not Miss in Lecce?

For those who like it short and sweet, here’s a little best-of list of our travel guide. (More details about these highlights and attractions will naturally follow in the course of this travel guide.)

  • Visit the Cathedral of Lecce and don’t forget to check out the crypt beneath the cathedral. Wow!
  • Marvel at the Roman amphitheatre.
  • Soak up the Baroque flair of the city and remember to look up now and then.
  • Try a Pasticciotto leccese – or better yet, several. This pastry filled with a kind of custard cream is typical for Lecce.

2. Lecce Travel Guide: Top Things to Do and See

Piazza del Duomo & Cathedral of Lecce

The most important square in Lecce’s old town is the expansive Piazza del Duomo. As its name suggests, it’s dominated by the Cathedral of Lecce, the most significant sacred building and one of the top attractions in the city.

The Baroque cathedral is quite monumental from the outside, but you should definitely take a look inside. Our tip: Don’t miss the descent to the crypt. The columned hall beneath the church’s interior impressed us the most. (Photography is prohibited here.)

Naturally, the cathedral also has a bell tower, known as the Campanile. An elevator swiftly takes you up to the viewing platform. From here, you can look in all directions and admire Lecce from above. Overall, it’s worthwhile, but at 12 euros, it’s not exactly cheap.

By the way, Piazza del Duomo is also lined with several other impressive attractions, such as the Palazzo Arcivescovile and the Palazzo del Seminario (= Antico Seminario). The latter not only houses the ticket office for the cathedral tickets but also a truly stunning courtyard.

Information for Visiting the Cathedral of Lecce

Entrance fee: Our tip: combined ticket for several churches 11 euros
Price for elevator to bell tower: 12 euros
Opening hours and more information: Churches of Lecce (official website)

Lecce Italy Travel Guide

Basilica Santa Croce

The second key church in Lecce is the imposing Basilica Santa Croce. The intricately decorated facade of this basilica, featuring both Renaissance and Baroque elements, is a highlight in itself. Several artists contributed to this masterpiece. The completion apparently took an entire century.

We definitely recommend you take a look inside the church as well. We personally really liked the comparatively simple church interior, lined with columns.

Also noteworthy is the unusual ceiling of the Basilica Santa Croce. The carved and gilded coffered ceiling, made of wood, dates back to the 17th century.

Information for Visiting the Basilica Santa Croce

Entrance fee: Our tip: combined ticket for several churches 11 euros
Opening hours and more information: Churches of Lecce (official website)

Piazza Sant’Oronzo & Roman Amphitheatre

If you follow the promenade (“Via Vittorio Emmanuele II”) eastwards from the cathedral, you’ll reach the expansive Piazza Sant’Oronzo. This square is one of the most famous in the centre of Lecce and home to several attractions.

There’s the 29-meter-tall column named “Colonna di Sant’Oronzo”, topped with a bronze statue of Saint Oronzo, who is said to have protected the city from the plague. (During our visit, the statue was not in its place, as a duplicate is being made to replace the original.)

The most famous attraction at Piazza Sant’Oronzo is the Roman Amphitheatre. Yes, that’s right – an amphitheatre right in the middle of the city. Dating back to the 2nd century, it was actually discovered accidentally during excavations at the start of the 20th century. You can admire the amphitheatre from the outside and also visit it as part of a guided tour.

Lecce Amphitheatre

Roman Theatre (“Teatro Romano”)

Another Roman theatre, you might ask? To be honest, we were a bit puzzled at first too. Yes, apart from the grand amphitheatre on Piazza Sant’Oronzo, there is indeed another, somewhat hidden Roman Theatre just a stone’s throw away in Lecce.

The Roman Theatre is much smaller than the amphitheatre but impresses with its unusual location. It nestles right up against neighbouring houses – quite a curious sight, right in the middle of the city.

You can admire and photograph the Roman Theatre through a fence at any hour. If you want to enter it, you’ll need to join a guided tour.

Lecce Römisches Theater

Other Things to Do and See in Lecce for More Time

Historic City Gates of Lecce: The former gates to the old town of Lecce are also worth seeing: Porta San Biagio, Porta Napoli, and Porta Rudiae. A detour (especially to the noteworthy Porta San Biagio) is worthwhile.

Castello Carlo V: This expansive castle complex was built under Emperor Charles V in the 16th century. Currently (as of Autumn 2022), the castle is undergoing renovations and can only be visited on a limited basis. There’s not much to see at the moment. The castle houses several exhibitions, which seem to have mixed reviews.

Abbazia di Santa Maria di Cerrate: This impressive 11th-century abbey is not located in the old town of Lecce, but about a 20-minute drive away. The detour is definitely worth it.

Tours in Lecce

Are you looking for unique experiences in Lecce? We can recommend these tours.

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3. Food and Drink: Culinary Travel Guide for Lecce

Lecce is known as one of the culinary hotspots in Puglia, so you’ll find a pretty wide range of great, authentic restaurants here.

A speciality you absolutely mustn’t miss is Pasticciotto leccese. This shortcrust pastry filled with custard cream is typical for the region and available in nearly all cafes in the city – often in various flavours.

Also very popular is Caffè leccese. You get an espresso over ice with almond milk. Tastes wonderfully refreshing on hot days.

Cafes and Restaurants in Lecce

Vico del Cuciniere: High-level Italian-Mediterranean cuisine is served at this restaurant. Meat and fish dominate the menu, but on request, the young chef prepared us two excellent vegetarian dishes. The restaurant is located in a quiet side street. When the weather is nice, you can sit outside in front of the restaurant.

Crianza: A popular, youthful spot with a relaxed atmosphere. They serve Italian cuisine, sometimes with a modern twist – like bruschetta, burgers, and salads.

Pizza & Co: Here’s a tip for all pizza fans. (Don’t be misled by the name.) In this small eatery, just around the corner from the cathedral, you’ll find excellent pizza.

Pasticceria Natale: This popular patisserie not only offers very good ice cream but also Italian sweets like the famous Pasticciotti leccesi.

4. Map: All Attractions and Tips of our Travel Guide at a Glance

To help you get a better overview, we’ve marked all the attractions and tips of our travel guide on this map. Our tip: Click on the rectangle at the top right to save the map on your smartphone (Google Maps app).

5. Our Accommodation Tip for Lecce

For our night in Lecce, we chose the Palazzo Bignami, a family-run bed & breakfast. You’ll stay very close to the centre: It’s just a ten-minute walk to the cathedral. Yet, the Palazzo is on an easily accessible street, making the approach straightforward. By the way, you can park for free right on the street.

Now, back to Palazzo Bignami. There are only ten rooms in various categories, all of them lovingly furnished. The bed was a bit too “springy” for our liking, but that’s really nitpicking at a high level. Overall, you feel very, very welcome, partly due to the exceedingly accommodating host couple.

A special highlight is the breakfast. In Italy, we usually lower our expectations, but here, we were pleasantly surprised. A dreamy buffet is served with many local products – cheese, fresh fruit, delicious focaccia, the best cakes, and more.

Our conclusion: Great value for money. Very friendly and helpful owners and an excellent breakfast. We’d book again!

You can book the accommodation here: Palazzo Bignami

Palazzo Bignami

Disclaimer: Affiliate Links

This travel guide features our personal recommendations in the form of what’s known as affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links, we get a small commission. Don’t worry, this doesn’t change the price for you at all. A massive thank you from us both!

Have you been to Lecce and thus Puglia as well? We’d love to hear about your experiences below this travel guide. Or do you have any more tips for attractions or restaurants? We’re keen to read your comments!

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