Hey there! Thanks for stopping by for our weekend guide to Lecce, Italy. The locals call Lecce “the beautiful Florence of Southern Italy.” Even the New York Times is in love with Lecce. After living in Italy for a year, we had to take a weekend and check it out what to do and see in Lecce, Italy.
What to Do and See in Lecce, Italy –
A Complete Guide for the Weekend
Where to stay in Lecce
First things first – we had to find a place to sleep!
I always look for a few things when booking rooms. One – whether we use our car, or rent a car
; we always look for free parking. Compare car rental prices here.
Another thing I really like is a kitchen, or kitchenette, in the unit. I love to have coffee in my pajamas in the morning and have something in the fridge to feed the kids. Free WiFi is also a must, and I always look for unique places, great reviews, and a close walking distance to the main sights we came to see.
We stayed at B&B Vianny.
The property was in a perfect location – walking distance to the city center and a great location to explore the surrounding area. The owners were fantastic, friendly, helpful, and even left us a bottle of wine and local pastries to try! The room itself was clean, organized, and immediately felt like home.
I loved having the kitchen to make coffee in the morning, and the pastry to have breakfast in the room, while planning our day! They thought of everything! I cannot say enough good things! Mamma Mia, did we hit the jackpot! Compare prices of Hotels Here.
So, here we go with your guide on what to do and see in Lecce, Italy.
The town of Lecce
has two parts – the new, modern part, which is filled with beautiful modern buildings, shopping and restaurants, and the old historic center. Both areas of Lecce have wonderful things to do and see, so make sure you get to both parts.
First, we wandered through the new, modern part of town, so see all New Lecce had to offer. Then, we made our way to the historic center.
What to do and see in Lecce, Italy
Castle of Charles V, Lecce
The castle is also known as the Castello di Lecce. It was first built in the Middle Ages and updated to prepare for attack in 1539. It looks like a giant fortress sitting right inside the city. Hmmm… I guess that is what it is, actually!
The castle has some cool history and a legend told by many of the local people. Luckily, we had brushed up on our Italian with our Pimsleur Italian course
so we could understand the locals! They say that the Orsini family, who owned the castle in the 14th century, was so worried about protection and keeping their family safe, that they captured and kept a giant white bear
in the moat for protection! So, check for bears while wandering around.
Porta Rudiae City Gate, Lecce
This gate dates back to the beginning of the 18th century and is one of three city gates remaining in Lecce. This gate is located near old town and was the original entrance into the historic center. It is also the most decorated of all the city gates. Saint Oronzo, the saint of the city of Lecce, is perched on top of the gate. The people of Lecce believe he still protects the town and its people.
Piazza Sant’Oronzo, old town Lecce
This beautiful square sits right in the middle of old town and is full of shops, cafes, and, of course, the amphitheater and the Column of St. Oronzo. The square was once a small village and gathering place for ancient Lecce. Now, it is still a hub of socialization and loaded with small local shops. The best thing to do here is wander, have a pastry and cup of coffee or a glass of wine – hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. Read our article on dining out in Italy
if you need some tips.
Roman Amphitheater of Lecce
A must see is the amphitheater of Lecce. It is in the Piazza Sant’ Oronzo, a beautiful site in the center of Lecce. When in use, the amphitheater was able to seat more than 25,000 people. It was discovered when the town was excavating to build new shops. During the excavation, they found the ruins of the ancient center. Over half of the ancient complex is still buried under the square, but you do get nice view of the old amphitheater and seats.
Column of St. Oronzo
The column is about 29 meters high and is also located in Piazza Sant’Oronzo (directly to the right of the amphitheater.) The base of the column was once the original marker of the end of Appian Way, the main road between Rome and Southern Italy. It was given to the town of Lecce, by the people of Brindisi. The people of Brindisi thought that Saint Oronzo spoke to the gods on their behalf and saved the townspeople from the plague. So, the gift of the column was their show of gratitude.
Lecce Cathedral was originally built in 1144. In 1659, the residing bishop, Luigi Pappacoda, ordered a restoration. It was completely restored between 1659-70, which is when the addition of a five-story bell tower and octagonal dome at the top were built as well. The 70 meter (five-story) bell tower helped turn it into one of Italy’s most important and visited cathedrals. Bishop Luigi Pappacoda’s remains are still kept at the altar in the cathedral. It’s gorgeous inside, so stop by to take a look.
Basilica di Santa Croce of Lecce
This gorgeous basilica was built in its current location in 1549. The church was built on the site of a massacre of Jewish families by the Ottoman Turks invasion in 1480. The construction of this church went on for over two centuries! The lower portion of the church was completed in 1582, and the dome was finally finished in 1590.
The entire church is decorated with ornate figurines and gorgeous circular and arched windows. Inside and out you will find amazing attention to detail as well. Do not miss this while in Lecce!
Porta San Biagio
This is the second of the three gates in Lecce. Porto San Biagio is the southernmost gateway to the ancient city center. It is located near Piazza Italy. The sculpture at the top is of Bishop St. Blaise, in bishop robes, and the gate over this port is over 17 meters high. This is actually the second gate built here; this one was built to replace the original gate in 1744.
In The center of Lecce, Italy is this HUGE park. It is a gorgeous place for a walk or to just sit in the shade and people watch. The park is full of small alters, buildings, fountains, hundreds of different types of flowers and trees, and a great area for the kids to play! We honestly just happened to stumble upon this park while we were wandering through the city streets of Lecce.
The park was originally built as a royal garden and only for members of the royal family. It was only open to the public on very special holidays; however, in 1869 the park was opened to the general public for everyone to enjoy.
Church of Santa Maria
This big round church looks like something built for ancient gods and reminds me a bit of the Pantheon in Rome, and does not really fit into the other churches in Lecce, Italy. It’s a huge round church, with a large-domed top, and was built in the 17th century. It sits right next to Porta Napoli. So, if you walk by, peek inside and walk around, and marvel at how did thy build that dome?
This is Lecce’s version of France’s Arc de Triomphe. This gate is the third and final gate leading to the ancient city of Lecce. It was named “the Gate of Napoli” because this was the beginning of the road that led to Naples. The gate was built in 1548 in honor of Charles V, and, as most gates, for defense of the city. When we first saw it I thought, “Porta? Oh, must be a port…” but in Italy it means a gate or entry.
Obelisk of Lecce
The Obelisk is just down the road past the gate of Napoli. You can see it from the entrance of the gate. It was built in 1822. It has four different motifs, one of the most important being the dolphin biting the Turkish flag crescent to symbolize the beating of the Turks and driving them from Lecce. There is a rumor that it once had color on it but the color was washed away with the first heavy rain.
What else can we help you with Lecce, Italy?
Want to know What to Eat while in Lecce? Check our guide to food in Puglia. We also have some other amazing places to see in the area. Check out our guides to Matera, and Alberobello.
Fights to Lecce
To get to Lecce, the closest airports are in Bari or Brindisi. Check here to Compare Prices for and the best flight options.
Tours In Lecce
My personal recommendations for my two favorite tours are the Lecce and Gallipoli wine tour and a walking tour of Lecce with a taste of the delicious pasticciotto at a local bakery!
Compare Tours here
Rental Car in Lecce
Renting a car is fantastic way to see the area on your own time and in your own way. If you want to rent a car and see the many towns in the area, compare car rental prices here.
I hope you enjoy Lecce, Italy, as much as we did. Do you have any questions or do you think I left something out? If so, please leave us a comment below!
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