What to do in Lecce, Puglia?
Visiting Lecce, in the south of Apulia, Italy, is to discover the baroque city par excellence. To such an extent that she even invented her own style, all in elegance and refinement, “the Barocco Leccese”.
Nicknamed the “Florence of the South”, Lecce owes its popularity to its extreme wealth of historical monuments. At every street corner, you will find palaces and churches. All built with the same stone, the “stone of Lecce”, a very soft limestone to sculpt the stone at will, the city is very harmonious and particularly pleasant to visit on foot.
From Piazza del Duomo to Santa Croce Basilica, it has many places of interest not to be missed.
To help you plan your next stay in the city on your itinerary in Puglia, follow our guide to 12 things to do and see in Lecce.
We also suggest our suggested routes to visit Lecce in 1, 2 or 3 days and, at the end of the article, our selection of the best accommodations.
So, what to do in Lecce?
Visit Lecce, the must-sees
1. Piazza Sant’Oronzo
To visit Lecce, we start by going to Piazza Sant’Oronzo, the largest square in the city.
It is located in the heart of the historic center of Lecce, so you can not miss it. The square is huge and surrounded by many monuments with different architectural styles.
Thus, you will be able to admire:
- the Roman Amphitheater. Discovered only in the twentieth century during work on the square, it could accommodate up to 25,000 people at the time of his glory. Only a part could be cleared, the rest still resting under the other buildings. Some tours are organized to report to you on the excellent state of preservation of the amphitheater, yet built between the I and II century. Shows are regularly organized, and in the evening, it is even more beautiful thanks to its illuminations.
- Sant ‘Oronzo column. This column once marked the end of the Appian Way and was located in Brindisi. It was offered by the city to pay tribute to the patron saint of Lecce, Saint Oronzo.
- The Sedile or Palaggio del Seggio, a curious little building topped by a loggia, mixing Gothic and Renaissance style. It now hosts the tourist office of Lecce.
- The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, of the purest Baroque style.
All around Piazza Sant’Oronzo you will find many bars, restaurants, gelaterias and shops for eating and shopping in Lecce. In the evening, it turns into the liveliest place in the city! Do not hesitate to eat an ice cream or a pastry at the gelateria Tentazioni, one of the best in the city and our HQ dessert during our stay in Lecce!
Enjoy your visit to Piazza Sant’Oronzo to go to the tourist office to pick up a map and a tourist guide of Lecce.
If Lecce is a stopover on your trip to Puglia, and you have to rent a car for your tour, please note that access to the historic center by car is only for residents. I recommend that you park your car in the parking lot next to the cemetery, not far from Porta Napoli, the main entrance to the city. The price is only € 2 for the day!
2. The Piazza del Duomo
Unmissable tourist site of Lecce and any Italian city that respects itself, Piazza del Duomo.
The Piazza del Duomo is one of the largest and most beautiful of all I have seen on my travels in Italy and Sicily . And yet, that of Milan or the island of Ortigia, Syracuse , are really pretty and impressive, but that of Lecce, has a special charm because completely empty in the middle, and closed by all buildings nearby. It can only be accessed by one entry.
Unity and homogeneity being created by the use of Lecce stone for most of them. Built by the greatest architects of the city, its size and harmony, the piazza is considered the masterpiece of the Baroque Lecce.
Piazza del Duomo includes the main religious buildings of the city:
- The cathedral or Duomo of which I speak in detail right after
- The seminary palace whose interior houses the Diocesan Museum and its collection of paintings, sculptures and silverware.
- The episcopal palace
- The Campanile 70 meters high. Divided in 5 floors, it dominates the whole city and its surroundings. It is one of the highest in Europe.
Go back to the piazza del Duomo at night when it is illuminated.
3. The Duomo of Lecce
The Duomo di Lecce is one of Lecce’s must-sees places to visit. Since I talked about it just above, I do not tell you anything by telling you that it is located on the piazza del Duomo, logical no?
The Cathedral or Duomo Santa Maria Assunta is considered one of the most important churches in southern Italy, thanks in particular to its architectural richness. One of the typical examples of “Baroque Lecce”.
Built at the end of the 17th century, the Dome presents, on its northern facade, magnificent sculptures and statues. Do not hesitate to approach to admire all the finesse of the details allowed by the stone construction of Lecce.
Inside, you can admire the 12 chapels. Each of them being dedicated to a Saint in particular.
If you want to get more information about the Duomo di Lecce, check out the official website (in Italian).
4. The Basilica Santa Croce
In the list of “what to see in Lecce”, I urge you to add a passage through the Basilica Santa Croce. Historical monument of the city, you will find it on every tourist guide of Apulia and many postcards!
Certainly the most beautiful baroque church in Lecce, it is renowned for its magnificent, ornately decorated upper façade. Everywhere fruit, flowers, mythological figures and men carved delicately.
Admiring its 3 portals, its balcony, its hundreds of symbols and its famous rose window, we understand better why it took more than a century and 3 different architects to build it!
Just like inside the cathedral of Lecce, the Santa Croce Basilica contains 17 superbly decorated and decorated altars. These are, along with the facade, the most extravagant elements of the church.
Do not miss this unmissable attraction of Lecce, especially as the tour is free!
5. The MUST
Visiting the MUST is one of the activities to do in Lecce.
The MUST is the historical museum of the city, a complex of 3,000 square meters located in the former Monastery of Santa Chiara. It houses a permanent exhibition of sculptures and regularly organizes temporary exhibitions.
The ground floor has a contemporary art gallery. The first floor is dedicated to the history of Lecce, from the period of Messapians to the Roman period to the present day.
During your visit to the museum, you can enjoy a nice view of the Roman Theater opposite and watch a 3D movie about the history of several historical monuments in Lecce.
If you have a few days to visit Lecce or in case of bad weather, it’s a good idea to visit.
Current exhibitions can be found on the MUST official website.
6. The palaces of Lecce
Then I suggest you continue your stay in Lecce by going to admire the many palaces of the city.
Formerly inhabited by the most important families of Lecce and the region of Salento, they are worth seeing for their facades and the decorations that are there. Since there are more than 90 located only in the historic center, it is best to walk through the streets to find them.
Some are still inhabited or used for administration, others have been totally rehabilitated in hotels or splendid guest rooms.
The palaces to see in Lecce:
- The Vernazza Palace, one of the oldest and most imposing in the city
- The Rococo Guarini palace with portal and carved windows
- The Paisielle Palace built in just 45 days
- Celestini Palace, today headquarters of the prefecture
- The Marrese Palace and its 2 spiral columns
7. The churches of Lecce
Just like the palaces, you will find a multitude of churches (around thirty) to visit in Lecce.
The churches not to miss in Lecce:
- The church of Saint Nicolas and Saint Cataldo, founded by the Normans, it mixes the Romanesque style and the Renaissance style
- The church of San Giovanni Battista
- Santa Chiara Church
- The church of San Matteo
- Sant Irene Church
- The church of Carmine
- The church of Gesu
8. The Faggiano Museum
Another museum to visit in Lecce, if you are interested in the history of the city, the museum Faggiano.
This private museum is located in an old house in Lecce and owes its opening to a total chance. Its history is indeed quite original : during work undertaken to change the pipes of their house, the Faggiano family discovers ancient ruins and objects of everyday life. The house will be more than 2000 years old : messapes (inhabitants of the region of Salento in antiquity), Romans, Templars, monks, all this little world has succeeded until These days !
It was the family itself who took over all the work of the release and organized the current museum. So it’s very small and you will only have a paper sheet with some comments in French to explain the objects on display but you will find yourself immersed in centuries of history of the city of Lecce.
A fascinating and original visit to Lecce.
The entrance to the Faggiano Museum costs 3 euros, it is open every day from 9:30 to 20h. More information on the official website.
9. The castle of Charles V
It is Charles V who, in 1539, decides to build the castle of Lecce on the bases of an old Norman fortification. Roman Emperor and King of Spain , he has just inherited land in Europe and throughout the South East of Italy. Fearing an attack from the Ottoman Empire, he undertook a vast reorganization of the defense of the region by building towers and fortifications all along the coast of Puglia.
The castle of Lecce is part of this logic with monumental walls, 4 bastions, curtain walls and a deep moatcompleting the ensemble. Main defensive element of Lecce, it is today considered one of the finest examples of Puglia’s military architecture.
During your trip to Lecce, you will see that everything is extremely well preserved.
You can visit the interior of the castle but unfortunately most of the rooms are empty and the castle could be put much more in value.
Charles V Castle is also home to the Cartova Museum, or papier mâché museum, a typical Lecce activity.Thanks to a little water, straw, paper, plaster and glue, craftsmen give life to real works of art. A hundred of them, made by the most famous artists of Lecce are grouped in the castle.
10. The cemetery of Lecce
Last activity to do during your holidays in Lecce, go to the cemetery! And yes, no need to wait for Halloween for that.
A little in the same style as the monumental cemetery of Milan known for its extravagant tombs, the cemetery of Lecce (Cimitero monumentale di Lecce in Italian) houses vaults with rather impressive architecture! Here too, you will meet the famous Baroque of Lecce present everywhere on the magnificent chapels.
I did not find the place creepy or heavy, it feels more like a walk in a park among cypresses.
What to do around Lecce?
If you went around Lecce and want to visit the area during your tour in Puglia, I recommend you to visit Otranto and / or to do some lazing or swimming (depending on the season) on the most beautiful beaches of Salento.
Located 35 minutes in the vicinity of Lecce, I recommend a walk in the city of Otranto.
Bordered by the sea, a stroll in Otranto is very pleasant to discover the castle, the ramparts and the cathedral. The historic center is not very big but charming.
You can then enjoy lunch at one of the seafood restaurants.
In Otranto you will also find a beautiful sandy beach with clear water for a dip if the season allows it.
It’s a perfect day trip from Lecce.
Not being a fan of fish and other seafood, we ate at Martunecci, a restaurant chain that we found throughout our stay in Puglia. They offer a wide choice of sandwiches or pizzas for cheap and especially very good ice cream or cakes for dessert!
12. The beaches of Salento
The eastern side and the west coast around Lecce, in the Salento region, are famous for having some of the most beautiful beaches in Puglia. It would be a shame not to enjoy!
Overview of the most places to go to the beach in Puglia:
- Torre dell Orso, to the east, and its very large sandy beach with the Due Sorelle, 2 faraglioni very photogenic
- Baia dei Turchi, quite narrow but located in a superb setting
- Alimini beach , a huge beach with warm and transparent water
- Porto Badisco and its small cove
- Baia Verde, another great sandy beach west of Lecce, but a bit overgrown with beach cafes and private plots
- Punta della Suina and its blue and transparent sea
- Natural park of Porto Selvaggio and its pebble cove surrounded by pines
How many days to visit Lecce?
To visit Lecce, 2 days seem to me to be the right duration knowing that everything is visited on foot and that there is an impressive number of historical monuments to see.
If you also want to visit the surroundings of Lecce, I suggest you plan a stay of 3 days.
Do not hesitate to buy the Lecce City Card. Valid for 3 days and at a price of 12 €, it gives you free access to all the museums, including the Faggiano or the cartapesta, as well as discounts and reductions on tourist activities or in some restaurants in Lecce. In addition, it is also valid in Otranto or Gallipoli.
The purchase is done at the tourist office, or you can order it in advance but only by email or phone, no possibility of buying on the internet.
Visit Lecce in 1 day
To visit Lecce in 1 day, follow our itinerary of the main places of interest to see:
- Start your tour of the city by Piazza Sant’Oronzo and the Roman amphitheater
- Then head towards Piazza Del Duomo to admire the cathedral and the other historical monuments of the square
- Finish the morning by visiting the Basilica of Santa Croce
- Lunch break
- Visit the Faggiano museum where 2000 years of history is watching you
- Quiet afternoon walk in the historic center to discover the Baroque palaces and churches of Lecce
Visit Lecce in 2 days
To visit Lecce in 2 days, I advise you to resume the itinerary of 1 day and to add:
- MUST visit to learn more about the history of the city
- Passage through Charles V Castle
- Discovery of the Baroque tombs of the Lecce Cemetery
- Lunch break
- Afternoon around Lecce, for example in the beautiful city of Otranto, just 35 minutes by car
Visit Lecce in 3 days
To visit Lecce in 3 days, resume our journey of the first 2 days and for the third day:
- Tour around Lecce to discover the most beautiful beaches of Salento. To Otranto, to the east of Lecce or to Gallipolli, to the west, you will find your account in a beach of fine sand and transparent water.
Where to sleep in Lecce
- Casa Balmes: Located just 100 meters from Santa Croce Basilica and 400 meters from the Duomo. Spacious and comfortable double room from 65 € per night but possible that you find cheaper. In March, we only paid 100 € for 3 nights in deluxe suite (breakfast included)! Most: the quiet, the location in the heart of the historic center, the comfort of the rooms, the excellent breakfast with fresh pastry in the morning and still hot! We highly recommend it for a cheap stay in Lecce.
- VicodellaCavallerizza: This B & B is located in an ancient palace in Lecce, just 200 meters from Piazza del Duomo. Double room completely renovated and melant old and modern from 140 € per night, breakfast included. The most: the exceptional setting, the friendliness of the staff, the delicious breakfast. This is our favorite for its benefit / price ratio.
- Risorgimento Resort – Vestas Hotels & Resorts: 5 * hotel located in the historic center of Lecce. Modern and comfortable double room from 180 € per night, breakfast included. Pros: the great location, a rooftop terrace with a view of the cathedral, the attentive staff.
Where to eat in Lecce
- Il Pizzicotto: Located right next to the entrance to the MUST. Not a restaurant strictly speaking but you can still sit there to eat. Large selection of pizzas taglio, that is to say that you can choose your portions and taste a little of all. The pizzas are delicious and for some pretty original. And besides, it’s really cheap, we paid 6.90 € for 2! Ideal for eating on the go.
- A’Roma L’Osteria: Located via Cesare Battisti, next to the garden of Villa Comunale. Typical Italian restaurant with a good choice of pasta. Dishes and homemade desserts, everything is delicious, the hard part is to choose! The boss is very nice as the staff. Excellent value.
- Tabisca Il Vico dei Tagliati: Located in a street next to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. The specialty of the restaurant is the meat cooked on a plate! Black Angus, Kobe, bison, only quality meats and ultra tasty melt in the mouth. Add to that a good glass of wine and a homemade tiramisu, and you will get one of the best meals in Lecce!
Tourist map of Lecce
The tourist map of Lecce is available at the tourist office, located Piazza Sant’Oronzo.
And you ? Have you planned to visit Lecce during your stay in Puglia?