A city of architects, stonemasons and artists, Lecce is a place of Baroque buildings and stone embroidery. Capital of the province and the cultural centre of Salento, Lecce is one of the most fascinating cities in southern Italy. Nicknamed ‘the Florence of the South’, Lecce amazes with its artistic and architectural beauty. Its ancient Messapian origins and Roman ruins, combined with the richness of the Baroque, make Lecce a unique city. The streets of the centre are an open-air museum, with works of art from the Roman, Medieval and Renaissance periods; however, the city is most heavily characterised by Baroque, an architectural style that arrived in the seventeenth century, during the Spanish occupation, and was interpreted in such an original way that a new style was formed: ‘Lecce Baroque’.
This was also a new use for Lecce stone—a type of calcareous material, easily mouldable and with warm colours.
An example is the wonderful Piazza del Duomo, featuring the Cathedral, with its bell tower and two façades; the Bishop’s Palace, from the Renaissance period, with its splendid loggia; and the Palazzo del Seminario, known for its ashlar façade and its internal cloister. The greatest expression of Lecce Baroque, however, is the Basilica of Santa Croce, together with the adjacent Convent of the Celestines. Continuing through the city centre, you will see the exuberance and splendour of the Baroque in numerous other churches and palaces. Nevertheless, major testaments to the Roman era are preserved in the elliptical amphitheatre and the Roman column, with a bronze statue of the city’s patron saint next to it. The castle, from the thirteenth century and rebuilt by order of Charles V 300 years later, today hosts numerous art exhibitions and cultural initiatives. Lecce is a lively city, so give yourself at least a day to discover it before relaxing by the sea, which is only 13 km away.