Lecce Tourist Attractions
SituationThe provincial capital of Lecce lies mid-way along the Salentine peninsula, the heel of the Italian boot, in the southernmost part of Italy - some 30km/19mi southeast of Brindisi. Lecce is one of the most interesting towns in southern Italy, notable for its magnificent Baroque buildings erected by local architects using the beautiful and easily worked yellow limestone of the area.
In the center of Lecce is the Piazza Sant'Oronzo, with an ancient column bearing a statue of the saint, and marking the end of the Via Appia. To the west of the column is the Palazzo del Sedile, a loggia built in 1592, and adjoining it the doorway of the little church of San Marco (founded 1543). On the south side of the square are the excavated remains of a Roman amphitheater (A.D. second century).
Southeast of the Piazza Sant'Oronzo is the Castello, built by Charles V in 1539-48, on a trapezoid ground-plan. South of the town center in the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele stands the 18th c. church of Santa Chiara and farther south the church of San Matteo (built c. 1700), with a bizarrely curved facade.
Piazza del Duomo
From the Piazza Sant'Oronzo in Lecce the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II runs west, past the Theatine church of Sant'Irene (1639), into the Piazza del Duomo, with the cathedral of Sant'Oronzo (1658-70; tower 70m/231ft high), the Bishop's Palace and the Seminary, which has a richly decorated façade and a courtyard containing a fountain. 500m/550yd south of the Piazza del Duomo is the large Dominican church of Santa Maria del Rosario (1691-1728).
To the south of Lecce, in Piazza Argento, is the Palazzo Argento, which houses the Provincial Museum (ancient vases, terracottas, statues and pictures).
Address: Viale Gallipoli 28, I-73100 Lecce, Italy
Opening hours: 9am-1:30pm, 2:30pm-7:30pm; Sun: 9am-1:30pm, 9am-7:30pm; Closed: Sat
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Epiphany (3 Kings' Day ) - Christian (Jan 6), Liberation Day - Italy (Apr 25), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee: FREE
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
North of Piazza Sant'Oronzo in Lecce in the Piazza della Prefettura the magnificent Baroque church of Santa Croce has an elaborately decorated facade (begun 1548, completed 1697 onwards) and a fine interior. Adjoining it on the north is the extensive and richly ornamented facade of the Celestine convent (13th century) which belonged to the church; now Palazzo del Governo.
Santi Nicolò e Cataldo
From the Palazzo del Governo we go north along Via Umberto I and in 100m/110yd turn left into Via Principe di Savoia to reach the Porta di Napoli, on the west end of the old town, a triumphal arch erected in 1548, and a memorial to Charles V. Northwest of this is the Campo Santo, with the church of Santi Nicolò e Cataldo, founded by the Norman Count Tancred in 1180, with a superb Romanesque doorway in the center of the Baroque facade of 1716 showing Arabian influence. The harmonious interior, with strong influence of French Gothic, has beautiful capitals.
Gallipoli (14m/46ft; pop. 22,000), a little port beautifully situated on a rocky island in the Golfo di Taranto is linked by a bridge with its modern suburb of Galatone on the mainland. At the east end of the bridge is a fountain of 1560, with ancient reliefs. Beyond the bridge, to the left, is the Castello (16th century), from which the main street, Via Antonietta de Pace, runs across the town. In this street, on the left, stands the cathedral (1629-96), with fine choir-stalls, and, on the right, the Municipal Museum.
Santa Maria al Bagno
A pleasant trip from Gallipoli is on a road, partly hewn from the rock, along the "Riviera Neretina" to the little resort of Santa Maria al Bagno, which lies 12km/7.5mi north. In another 2km/1.25mi the road comes to the hamlet of Santa Caterina Riviera. From Lecce to Capo Santa Maria di Leuca (about 65 or 100km/40 or 62mi) Another attractive trip is from Lecce to Capo Santa Maria di Leuca, either on the direct road (65km/40mi) via Maglie (81m/267ft) or on the longer but scenically superior coast road (about 100km/62mi).
There is an attractive drive over the Apulian plain, passing through the little country town of Galatone (59m/195ft; pop. 14,000), with a cathedral and the Baroque church of the Crocifisso.