Lecce, a timeless beauty
A journey is characterised by the places you have visited and the feelings you have lived; those are like strings that keep the memories of the past alive.
And you, what are you looking for from your journey? If your answer is: unforgettable feelings, well, you are in the right place, welcome!
We are about to reveal you the 10 things to do, according to the local experts, where you visit one of the most beautiful cities, not only of Puglia, but of Italy: Lecce.
It is extremely easy to find online tour guides providing recommendations about the things to do and visit in a certain place. The team of Terrachevive.com is composed by people who are born and raised in Puglia and therefore its main question is: what are the truly authentic experiences and places to share with our foreign guests? We strongly believe that beauty resides in originality, that what is touristically commercial is “easily reachable or saleable” and not “more beautiful” or “more authentic”.
What our tourists are looking for is a deep connection with our cultural, historical, food and wine, artistic and religious roots; they are therefore looking for places or experiences through which these deep connections come to life. And this is exactly what we always try to suggest to them. It will thus be possible for them to enjoy these places and experiences and turn them into travel emotions.
Before starting our journey through the 10 things to do in Lecce, we would like to underline a comparison that instead of undermining our previously expressed “concept of originality”, reinforces it. Lecce has been defined by many as the “Florence of the South of Italy”, thus giving a recognition of honour to its historical and artistic heritage. Here, a walk through the alleys of Lecce conveys the same feelings of an itinerary through the wonderful Florence. This touching comparison places the city of Lecce in a timeless dimension made of authentic eternal beauty and makes Apulians very proud.
10 things to do in Lecce suggested by Apulians
Have you planned a stop in Lecce during your holiday in Puglia? Are you looking for something which makes this experience unique? Here you can find our top 10 suggestions:
- Visit the most representative places of the architectural style known as “Barocco Leccese”: Basilica di Santa Croce, Palazzo dei Celestini (currently called Palazzo del Governo) and Piazza Sant’Oronzo;
- Taste its gastronomic delicacies: ciceri and tria, pasticciotto and rustico leccese;
- Discover the ancient underground river Idume that crosses Lecce;
- Visit the remains of the Roman Empire: the Theatre and the Roman Amphitheatre;
- Discover the places of worship: the Abbey of Santa Maria di Cerrate and the Crypt of the Holy Crucifix;
- Enjoy the most beautiful beaches near Lecce: Porto Cesareo and Torre Chianca;
- Explore the naturalistic sites of Lecce: Porto Selvaggio Natural Park and the Bauxite Quarry;
- Observe the handicraft working of papier-mâché;
- Take part in the Patronal Celebration of Sant’Oronzo in August;
- Stay in a historical farmhouse in Lecce: Historical Residence Torre del Parco.
We are only just beginning our journey in Salento. The itinerary is ready, we just have to start!
The most representative places of Barocco Leccese
La Basilica di Santa Croce
The basilica represents the very essence of the Baroque architectural style. It was built in 1549 using the limestone from Lecce, a perfect balance between chromatic characteristics and simplicity of working. The superb result is condensed in the façade of the Basilica di Santa Croce: six mighty columns are surmounted by a large central rose window and majestic statues, enriched by elaborate decorations.
The stunning beauty of the Basilica di Santa Croce is not limited to its elaborate façade, but is amplified once you walk past the main entrance: the large naves are supported by 18 columns ending in the triumphal arch. Looking up to the sky you will admire a sumptuous coffered ceiling in walnut wood with gilding and the dome adorned with floral motifs.
It is a triumph of baroque art that will surely leave you breathless!
Palazzo dei Celestini (currently called Palazzo del Governo)
You won’t have to go a long way to admire another outstanding example of Barocco Leccese; you just need to turn your eyes to the left of the façade of the Basilica di Santa Croce.
Palazzo dei Celestini was a monastery that hosted the Celestine Fathers for three long centuries, while currently hosts important administrative offices.
According to our opinion, in addition to the external façade with 21 windows decorated with classical baroque elements, the most fascinating side of the building is to be seen in the inner atrium: if you stand in the centre of the atrium, you will be surrounded by 44 columns supporting 24 arches.
Majesty and elegance are wisely balanced and await you in Lecce…
For a person from Lecce, Piazza Sant’Oronzo is the beating heart of the city, it is like a living room located outside the domestic walls, a place of daily life.
Here, different architectural styles showing the alternation of historical periods and artistic movements are condensed; perhaps it is precisely this mixture of arts that preserves the charm of most important square in Lecce.
In addition to the ancient Roman Amphitheatre, the square houses the statue dedicated to Saint Oronzo, patron saint of the city.
The towns (and villages) of southern Italy have intimate religious and folkloristic bonds with their patron saints; in fact, popular culture acknowledges them some positive influence on the community, especially when some important events happened. And as far Lecce is concerned, local people here acknowledge the patron saint a special protection during the plague that fell on the Kingdom of Naples in 1656.
Taste its gastronomic delicacies
How can you tell a flavour with words? It is very difficult, and Terrachevive.com is well aware of this, as its staff is daily engaged in the promotion and offer of food and wine activities in Puglia.
We are about to present you three dishes belonging to the local gastronomic tradition which we highly recommend you to taste during your stay in Puglia: enjoy your meal!
Ciceri e Tria
It is a dish from the ancient peasant tradition of Lecce, so ancient that even the Latin poet Horace mentions it in one of his manuscripts dated 35 BC.
Its rich taste is unquestionable: the dish is in fact composed of fresh home-made pasta with reground semolina, flour, water and olive oil. The final shape of the pasta recalls the famous tagliatelle; the difference is that it is shorter and spiral-shaped (rolled up on itself). “Ciceri” stands for chickpeas, the main ingredient of the dish, while “tria” means fried pasta (which is added, in small quantities, directly on the top of the boiled pasta).
You can’t say you’ve been to Lecce if you haven’t tasted the famous and delicious rustico. It is a soft pastry with a circular shape and a delicious filling made of tomato, béchamel sauce and mozzarella. Its deliciousness lies in its simplicity.
Trying is believing! And please, follow our advice…we have often burned our palate just for the greed to eat it in one bite: taste it warm, but not hot, just wait a bit after it comes out of the oven!
Is there a better happy ending than a dessert? The pasticciotto is a symbol of Lecce culinary tradition: it is a fragrant shortcrust pastry wrapper filled with delicious custard. It is the ideal snack for your breakfast in Salento; we recommend you have it with a cappuccino or caffè leccese (coffee served with ice and almond milk, perfect during the hot months).
Discover the ancient underground river Idume that flows through Lecce
The importance of discovering is always characterised by a strong passion for exploration. We are going to tell you a charming story which holds a place of honour among the 10 things to do in Lecce suggested by Apulians.
In Lecce flows a non-visible river, not visible because it is in the underground; but it is willing to reveal important traces of its path to those who want to see it. Underneath Palazzo Adorno, an architectural baroque marvel of the 16th century, an aquifer has been discovered. It feeds the river Idume which crosses the historic centre of Lecce. This sinuous and silent river flows into Torre Chianca, in the salty waters of the Adriatic Sea.
One of the most fascinating sides of Lecce is hidden in its ancient Roman past. The town has been known as “Lupiae” since 89 B.C., the official date on which it became a Roman town hall.
Walking through the alleys of this small Apulian town, you will discover the traces of the glorious Roman past. Here you can find our suggestions.
You will find it in the heart of the historical centre of Lecce, in Via Arte della Cartapesta. It is an open-air theatre built between the I-II century A.D. at the behest of the Emperor Augustus who sought refuge in Lecce during the years of civil war when he was opposed to Anthony. The theatre could house about 5000 people, comfortably seated on the semicircular stands arranged in front of the space reserved for the actors.
The Roman Amphitheatre
Visiting Piazza Sant’Oronzo, you will not only discover one of the symbols of Barocco Leccese, but also one of the most fascinating Roman remains of southern Italy. The Roman Amphitheatre has now become part of the everyday life of the inhabitants of Lecce. Even This architectural treasure dates back to the Augustan period.
It shows its ancient beauty partially, since the remaining part is still under the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. This is sufficient though to express its magnificence: you just have to imagine that the amphitheatre could hold up to 25,000 viewers thanks to its two levels of terraces. Its dimension was remarkable: 102 x 83 m, with the inner arena measuring 53 x 34 m.
An itinerary that takes you to discovering a place cannot exclude a visit to its main places of worship, an essential part of the social life of a city in southern Italy.
In Lecce there are more than 34 churches; Terrachevive.com has selected two of them, very different in location and style.
Abbey of Santa Maria di Cerrate
The Abbey, like most of the ancient places of worship, immediately shows its great charm even without knowing its history. It was built between the end of the 11th and the beginning of the 12th century and its first connotation was religious; it was a Byzantine convent that became, over the decades, one of the most important monastic centres in southern Italy.
Later it also became a place specialised in the production of fine oil, called the Apulian gold, thanks to the existence of two hypogeous oil mills.
It preserves still intact the remains of its glorious past and is a stunning example of the Romanesque style.
Here you can find the link to reach it.
Crypt of the Holy Crucifix
The crypt is located in the countryside in Salento, between the green Mediterranean scrub and the typical dry stone walls built with local stone. During the 11th century, the Byzantines transformed a very ancient hypogeous environment into a suggestive place of worship that was difficult to reach because it was hidden by nature. The tuff rock was dug to create the crypt and its walls were decorated with paintings which date back to a period between the 13th and 17th centuries. It is a unique place of worship that we strongly recommend you to visit.
Here you can find the coordinates to reach it .
An authentic Apulian will always be ready to give you two types of advice: where to eat well and which beach to relax on (although, in our opinion, individual tastes can be very different).
Terrachevive.com knows about food and wine and beaches and we have already talked about them in the past. We could not therefore exempt ourselves from recommending the best beaches near Lecce. Enjoy your tan!
The beach of Torre Chianca is located on the Adriatic side of Puglia, at about 15 km from Lecce. It is therefore easily reachable by those who want to spend a few pleasant hours in an enchanting place. The beach takes its name from an ancient defensive tower located few meters far from the sea and built in 1500s as a sighting system against Saracen raids.
The coastline is a natural wonder: the crystal clear water is enhanced by the very shallow sandy seabed which allows pleasant walks in the water and relaxing and safe swims.
Porto Cesareo is a small town located on the Ionian side of Puglia, about 28 km far from Lecce. It is a very popular tourist destination during the summer months (especially July and August) thanks to its “Caribbean” sea and beaches with fine sand. There are also many beach clubs equipped with all kinds of services, restaurants, bars where you can taste typical food and wine delicacies from Salento.
Puglia is the perfect destination for any kind of traveler thanks to the many attractions that it offers. Its heritage includes food and wine, religion, history, museums, architecture and nature. And last but not least, the three natural wonders that we have included among the 10 things to do in Lecce suggested by Apulians.
Porto Selvaggio Natural Park
Those who love unpolluted nature and breathtaking landscapes, highlighted by exciting colour contrasts, should definitely visit the Porto Selvaggio Natural Park.
It is located about 40 km far from Lecce, in the area known as Salento, which many tourists have discovered in recent years and have fallen madly in love with.
The Bay of Porto Selvaggio, gem of the Regional Natural Park, is a protected area which is accessed after crossing a large and beautiful pine forest that allows you to glimpse the crystal clear waters of the bay hidden by the branches of the trees. The coast is rocky and jagged, characterised by pine forests and Mediterranean scrub. If you love going into the wild, you definitely need to visit this place.
It is located about 44 kilometers from Lecce, not far from the town of Otranto (we recommend adding it to your travel diary due to its proximity).
What is striking about this site is the incredible colour contrast offered by the Bauxite soil, a material extracted in the past from the quarry that makes the site look like a Martian landscape, were it not for a small lake with emerald green water. Finally, the lush surrounding vegetation can only enhance the intensity of the colours of this amazing place.
Puglia amazes visitors with its many attractions and preserves the excellence of many craftsmanship: ceramics, terracotta and papier-mâché.
In particular, in the past centuries, the processing of papier-mâché had, among the craftsmen of Lecce, its most skilled representatives. If you are interested in it, we suggest you to visit, at the Charles V Castle, the Museo della Carta Pesta (Museum of Paper-Mâché) where you can admire sculptures of great artistic value. The craftsmen were so skilled in creating the sculptures exhibited that the statues look like they were carved in wood or marble. Your eyes can hardly perceive the real raw material of these masterpieces, which are indeed created with just paper.
The celebration of the patron saint of Lecce falls on the 24th, 25th and 26th of August, in the peak of the summer season. During these three days, religious celebrations and secular events alternate in the alleys of the city centre.
Particularly important and charming is the church Mass celebrated on the afternoon of August 24th at the Cathedral located in Piazza Duomo.
Numerous observants, confraternities and representatives of the local government gather at the square to join in a long procession that goes through the streets of the city centre. Three statues are carried in procession by different believers and the procession is accompanied by the music played by the band, as well as religious songs and litanies. This religious ceremony ends with the celebration of Holy Mass by the bishop.
The three days of celebrations come to an end in a spectacular way: with great fireworks attracting many visitors from all the Apulian cities. A must-see event!
The Apulian farmhouses have become true icons, known and appreciated all over the world. In the past they were noble residences which housed both owners and workers engaged in agricultural activities. Today, most of them have been turned into accommodation facilities, where you can spend wonderful vacations.
We suggest you to stop at the Historic Residence Torre del Parco, a true work of architecture in Puglia, located about 10 minutes walk from the historical centre of Lecce. It is an ancient and majestic fortress dating back to 1400 that houses, in addition to the rooms for the guests, a charming frescoed chapel, underground prisons and a charming oriental garden.
It is a charming residence that located in the heart of the city of Lecce. A perfect solution for those who want to combine the comfort of being in the city centre with that of a high-level accommodation.
Our long journey through The 10 things to do in Lecce suggested by Apulians has come to its end. We have chosen for you the places to visit and the things to do outside the usual commercial channels, to turn your travel experience into an everlasting memory of this wonderful baroque city and therefore of the whole Puglia.
Please contact us if you are looking for further advice or if you have any particular questions. You can do it by filling in the form below the article or directly to our e-mail address: [email protected]
We are waiting for you in Puglia!