Lecce: The Complete Guide

Lecce
CC BY-SA 1.0 / Bernard Gagnon

If Lecce, the provincial capital, were not so remotely located at the heel of Italy, its wealth of Baroque architecture would likely make it one of the country’s most visited cities. The architects here benefited greatly from the local golden yellow limestone, which is butter-soft and easy to carve. This allowed for the creation of astonishingly intricate and detailed embellishments on churches and palaces.

Throughout the city, you can look up to see delicate figures—angels, human faces, animals, plants, and fanciful curlicues—adorning balconies, doorways, windows, and column capitals.

Lecce, more than 2,000 years old, was founded by the Messapii people from the eastern Adriatic. In addition to its own tourist attractions, Lecce serves as an excellent base for exploring this fascinating and lesser-known region. Plan your visit with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Lecce.

History of Lecce

Lecce boasts a rich history that spans several millennia. Its origins date back to ancient times, with evidence of Messapian settlements as early as the 5th century BCE. The Messapians, an Italic tribe, inhabited the area before it fell under Roman control in the 3rd century BCE.

Ancient History

Under Roman rule, Lecce, then known as Lupiae, flourished as a significant city in the province of Calabria. The Romans expanded the city’s infrastructure, building an amphitheater, a theater, and other public buildings, many of which still partially stand today. The city’s strategic location made it an important hub for trade and military operations.

Medieval Period

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Lecce experienced a turbulent period marked by invasions and rule changes. It was conquered by the Ostrogoths in the 5th century, followed by the Byzantines in the 6th century. During the Byzantine era, Lecce was fortified and became a center of religious and cultural life.

In the 11th century, the Normans seized control of Lecce, integrating it into the Kingdom of Sicily. This period saw the construction of several important structures, including the Cathedral of Lecce. The Normans were succeeded by the Swabians and then the Angevins, each leaving their architectural and cultural mark on the city.

Renaissance and Baroque Period

The Renaissance brought prosperity to Lecce, but it was during the Baroque period in the 17th century that the city truly flourished architecturally. This era saw a boom in the construction of churches, palaces, and public buildings, many of which were adorned with intricate Baroque details. The local Lecce stone, a soft limestone, was ideal for elaborate carvings, earning the city the nickname “The Florence of the South.”

Key Baroque landmarks include the Basilica di Santa Croce, the Church of Sant’Irene, and the Palazzo dei Celestini. This period also saw the expansion of the city’s urban layout, with new streets and squares enhancing its aesthetic appeal.

Modern Era

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Lecce continued to grow, modernize, and maintain its cultural heritage. The city became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 and saw further development in infrastructure and public services. During World War II, Lecce, like many Italian cities, experienced hardships but emerged with much of its historic architecture intact.

Present Day

Today, Lecce is a vibrant city known for its Baroque architecture, historical sites, and cultural festivals. It is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from around the world who come to admire its stunning buildings, enjoy its lively atmosphere, and experience its rich cultural heritage. The city’s universities and cultural institutions continue to contribute to its status as a cultural and educational hub in southern Italy.

Lecce’s history is a tapestry of various cultures and influences, each leaving a lasting legacy that continues to shape the city’s identity.

Visiting Lecce for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Lecce on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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10 Best places to See in Lecce

This complete guide to Lecce not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Lecce and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

Castello Carlo Quinto

Castello Carlo Vjpg
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Velvet
The Castle of Charles V, also known as the Castello di Lecce, is a prominent historical fortress in Lecce, Italy. Initially built in the Middle Ages, the castle was significantly strengthened by Charles V in 1539, following the designs of architect Gian Giacomo dell’Acaya. To construct this fortress, the Chapel of the Trinity and the […]
Location: Castello Carlo V, Via XXV Luglio, Lecce, Province of Lecce, Italy | Distance: 0.10km
Visiting Castello Carlo Quinto

Roman Amphitheater of Lecce

Amphitheatre Lecce
CC BY-SA 1.0 / Bernard Gagnon
Italy boasts numerous Roman ruins, but it’s rare to find an ancient and well-preserved amphitheater right in the center of town. The Roman amphitheater of Lecce is situated in the main piazza of the old town. Remarkably, it was completely hidden from view and its existence was unknown until 1901. The marvelous theater spent centuries […]
Location: Roman Amphitheater, Piazza Sant'Oronzo, Lecce, Province of Lecce, Italy | Distance: 0.20km
Visiting Roman Amphitheater of Lecce

Museo Faggiano

Museo Faggiano
© Museo Faggiano
All Luciano Faggiano wanted was a working toilet in the building he dreamed of turning into a trattoria in Lecce, Italy. Faggiano and his three sons spent seven years hunting for an elusive broken sewage pipe. In the process, they uncovered over 2,000 years’ worth of archaeological finds, unearthing layer upon layer of their country’s […]
Location: Museo Faggiano, Via Ascanio Grandi, Lecce, Province of Lecce, Italy | Distance: 0.30km
Visiting Museo Faggiano

Piazza Sant'Oronzo

Piazza Sant’Oronzo Lecce
CC BY-SA 1.0 / Bernard Gagnon
Few cities are as closely identified with their central square as Lecce is with Piazza S. Oronzo. For the people of Lecce, this square serves as the main gathering place, a hub of entertainment, and a prime location for shows and musical events, all under the watchful eye of Saint Oronzo, who has observed city […]
Location: Piazza Sant'Oronzo, Lecce, Province of Lecce, Italy | Distance: 0.30km
Visiting Piazza Sant'Oronzo

Chiesa di San Matteo

Chiesa Di San Matteo A Lecce
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Fabrizio Garrisi

Location: Chiesa di San Matteo, Via dei Perroni, Lecce, Province of Lecce, Italy | Distance: 0.30km
Visiting Chiesa di San Matteo

Basilica di Santa Croce, Lecce

Basilica Of Santa Croce, Jewel Of Lecce Baroque
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Bultro
Known for the decorative richness of its central rose window, the Basilica of Santa Croce in Lecce tells the triumph of Christianity through a rich repertoire of images. The facade captures the eye with its exuberance, where celestial figures of angels and saints are juxtaposed with human and almost bestial figures. Historical and Architectural Notes […]
Location: Basilica di Santa Croce, Via Umberto I, Lecce, Italy | Distance: 0.40km
Visiting Basilica di Santa Croce, Lecce

Palazzo Taurino: Jewish Museum of Lecce

Museo-ebraico-lecce
© Comune Lcce
The Museum serves as a center of culture and a permanent exhibition dedicated to the history and presence of Jews in Lecce over time. It is housed in Palazzo Personè, located between Vico Saponea and Via Umberto, on the site of the original medieval Giudecca. Following the 1541 expulsion of Jews from Apulia, the area […]
Location: Jewish Museum Lecce, Via Umberto I, Lecce, Province of Lecce, Italy | Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10.00 am – 8:30 pm Sunday: 10:30 am - 1:30 pm | Price: € 9,00 | Website | Distance: 0.40km
Visiting Palazzo Taurino: Jewish Museum of Lecce
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Teatro Romano di Lecce

Lecce - Teatro Romano
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Simone Macchia Simone
The Roman Theatre of Lecce, distinct from the more renowned Amphitheatre, was uncovered by accident in 1929 during the excavation of the gardens of the D’Arpe Palace (Palazzo D’Arpe) and the Roman Palace (Palazzo Romano). It is believed that Octavian, who had not yet become Emperor Augustus, found refuge in Lupiae (ancient Lecce) and, out […]
Location: teatro romano di Lecce, Via Del Teatro Romano, Lecce, Province of Lecce, Italy | Distance: 0.40km
Visiting Teatro Romano di Lecce

Cattedrale dell'Assunzione della Virgine, Lecce

Cattedrale Dell’Assunzione Della Virgine, Lecce
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Holger Uwe Schmitt
On the admirable stage of Piazza Duomo, a prominent place is occupied by the Cathedral, an unshakable bastion of faith dedicated to the Virgin of the Assumption and celebrating the new myth of Saint Oronzo, proclaimed the city’s patron saint in 1658. The Cathedral, originally built in the city forum during the early days of […]
Location: P.za del Duomo, 1, 73100 Lecce LE, Italy | Distance: 0.50km
Visiting Cattedrale dell'Assunzione della Virgine, Lecce

Santi Nicolò e Cataldo

Santi Nicolò E Cataldo
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Sailko
The Church of Santi Niccolò e Cataldo is a medieval church in Lecce, Italy. Together with its adjacent monastery, it was founded in 1180 by the Norman count Tancredi d’Altavilla, who later became King of Sicily. The construction of this church represents a significant innovation in architectural and stylistic design, establishing the “New Hydruntine Romanesque […]
Location: Chiesa dei Santi Niccolò e Cataldo, Via Cimitero, Lecce, Province of Lecce, Italy | Distance: 1.50km
Visiting Santi Nicolò e Cataldo

Best Time to Visit Lecce

Spring (March to May)

Spring is one of the best times to visit Lecce. The weather is mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from cool to warm. The city’s gardens and parks are in full bloom, creating a picturesque setting for sightseeing. This season is perfect for exploring Lecce’s outdoor attractions, such as its historic streets, squares, and the Roman amphitheater, without the summer crowds. Additionally, spring festivals and events offer a glimpse into local culture and traditions, making it a vibrant time to experience the city.

Summer (June to August)

Summer in Lecce is hot and lively, with temperatures often soaring. This is the peak tourist season, attracting visitors to its beautiful beaches along the Adriatic coast. The long, sunny days are ideal for enjoying the sea and exploring the city’s historical sites early in the morning or late in the evening when it’s cooler. The bustling atmosphere, outdoor concerts, and numerous cultural events, such as the Festa di Sant’Oronzo in August, make summer an exciting time to visit. However, be prepared for higher prices and larger crowds.

Autumn (September to November)

Autumn is another excellent time to visit Lecce. The weather is still warm but more comfortable than the summer heat, and the tourist crowds begin to thin out. This season is perfect for leisurely exploring the city’s Baroque architecture and enjoying outdoor dining in the cooler evenings. The surrounding countryside, with its olive and grape harvests, offers a picturesque backdrop for day trips. Autumn festivals celebrating local food and wine also provide a rich cultural experience, making it a delightful time to visit.

Winter (December to February)

Winter in Lecce is mild compared to northern Europe, with cooler temperatures but rarely any snow. This off-peak season offers a quieter and more relaxed experience, ideal for those who prefer to avoid the crowds. The city’s historical and cultural attractions are still open, and the holiday season brings festive decorations and events, especially around Christmas and New Year. Although some outdoor activities might be limited, the cozy atmosphere and opportunity to explore indoor attractions, such as museums and churches, make winter a charming time to discover Lecce.

Average Temperatures in Lecce

  • January 15°C 9
  • February 16°C 10
  • March 17°C 8
  • April 20°C 6
  • May 24°C 5
  • June 30°C 3
  • July 33°C 1
  • August 32°C 1
  • September 29°C 8
  • October 25°C 14
  • November 20°C 19
  • December 17°C 7

How to get to Lecce

By Air

The nearest major airport is Brindisi Airport (Aeroporto del Salento), located about 40 kilometers from Lecce. This airport handles both domestic and international flights. From Brindisi Airport, you can take a shuttle bus, a taxi, or rent a car to reach Lecce.

By Train

Lecce is well-connected to major Italian cities through the national railway network. High-speed trains from Rome, Milan, Bologna, and other cities frequently run to Lecce, providing a comfortable and scenic journey. The train station in Lecce is centrally located, making it convenient to reach your accommodation or start exploring the city.

By Car

For those driving, Lecce can be accessed via the A14 motorway, which connects the city to the rest of Italy’s highway system. This option gives you the flexibility to explore the surrounding regions at your own pace. Car rentals are available at the airport and in major cities.

By Bus

Buses operate from various Italian cities to Lecce, offering an economical alternative for travelers. The bus station in Lecce is also centrally located, providing easy access to the city’s attractions.

By Ferry

For travelers coming from nearby regions or countries across the Adriatic Sea, ferries to Brindisi are available from Greece and Albania. Once in Brindisi, you can take a short train or bus ride to Lecce. Each of these travel methods offers unique advantages, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your schedule and preferences.