3 Nights in Lecce Italy The Florence of the South
Where is Puglia?
The province of Puglia (Apulia in Italian) is inhabited by appropriately 4M people and found in the south-eastern tip of Italy that is bordered by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Puglia is not very well-known to international tourists however with the access to the internet this travel destination is attracting more and more visitors annually.
Lecce Italy | Charming Puglia
Lecce Italy is one of the best cities to visit in the charming Puglia region with its magnificent architecture, sweeping sea views and charming narrow streets. And did I mention the abundance of exceptional Puglia wines, local produce including delicious Italian virgin olive oil!
Where To Stay? | Palazzo Bignami
For those who have a few days to explore this area, Lecce is the perfect place to set up a base. Palazzo Bignami on Via Lombardia is a beautiful and stylish B&B offering all the home comforts to make your short stay in Lecce special.
Each room is tastefully decorated with luxurious furnishings, attractive wall hangings and pretty trinkets. The large comfortable breakfast room is breathtaking, and it is obvious from the moment you walk through the foyer that the owners have great attention to detail.
This alluring accommodation is situated 10 minutes’ walk from the Old Town. In addition to elegance, beauty and home comforts, guests are treated to a mouth-watering hearty Italian breakfast and warm hospitality. Rooms and shared areas are inviting, immaculate and attractively appointed.
Things to Do and See in Lecce Puglia
Lecce Baroque Architecture
The 2,000-year-old city is sometimes referred to as ‘The Florence of the South’ because of the rich Baroque architectural monuments found throughout the city.
There are four imposing portae to welcome you into Lecce’s old town. Porta Napoli also known as ‘The Arch of Triumph’ was built in 1548 and stands 20 metres high. Once through the impressive gates, the city unfolds and intertwines down little back streets to hidden surprises.
Piazza Duomo is a large public square and is the heart of the city. The Piazza incorporates a soaring 17th century bell tower, bishop’s residence, seminary and Lecce’s city Cathedral. Lecce Cathedral was originally erected in 1144 and dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
Between 1659-1689, the baroque style cathedral with twelve side chapels, each with their own alter was rebuilt. The interior of the cathedral includes a wooden ceiling, marble main altar and a number of artworks by Giuseppe da Brindisi.
Shaping a City
Lecce stone, a soft malleable limestone, perfect for craving, decorates the city’s buildings, monuments, churches and homes. The pale-yellow coloured stone is a feature of Lecce and every town in the Salento area. It is not just the Lecce stone that makes this city beautiful. Lecce is a city filled with little treasures from stylish door furniture to smiling chubby cherubs’ statues.
The partly excavated Roman amphitheatre in the centre of Piazza Sant’ Oronzo is one of the wonderful surprises in Lecce’s old town. The below ground level amphitheatre remained completely unknown until workers digging footings for a bank unearthed it in 1901. The amphitheatre that once seated over 10,000 spectators can be views from the road however, the inside is not always open to the public. Throughout the year, the venue is used for special events and performances.
Art of Cartapesta | Papier Mache
Visitors to Salento and Lecco must visit a ‘Cartapesta’ workshop and see how the papier mache figurines and ornaments are crafted. From piggy banks to Christmas baubles these papier mache pieces of art make for interesting souvenirs. Although, Cartapesta is believed to have originated in ancient Egypt, Italians discovered the Cartapesta technique in the 15th century.
Cartapesta was seen as a cheaper alternative to carved wood, plaster and ceramics. The technique was used to decorate places of worship, religious statues, doll making, ornamental door and furniture features. Mauro Manieri (1687 – 1744), an architect and sculptor was the first master of the technique in Lecce. Hundreds of apprentices over the following decades earned the trade and set up workshops in Lecce. Places of worship and convents throughout Puglia were decorated with Cartapesta figures in flowing robes characteristic of the baroque style.
Lecce Restaurants and Wine Bars
Eating traditional Apulian Italian cuisine and sipping quality Italian wines is part of the Lecce Italy experience. The old town has a good selection of Lecce restaurants and charming wine bars. Stefano Spagnolo from Leece’s Solento Wine Shop has a great selection of quality wines by the bottle or glass, which pair well with traditional antipasto platters and other foods on the menu.
Puglia Food and Wine Tours
Talk to Stefano if you are interested in taking a wine and food tour of the region. He is very knowledgeable about the grape varietals and can introduce you to the best winemakers of Puglia. For other Lecce tour ideas visit Viator Tours and see what other travellers have to say about Lecce Italy on TripAdvisor, a global review site.
Day Trips from Lecce | Places Worth Exploring Nearby
There are many cities and villages worth visiting very close to Lecce. Day Trips to Gallipoli, Brindisi, Otranto and Castro are only short drives and accessible by bus or private coach. Brindisi is a larger city with lots to see and do. I enjoyed wandering the old town and learning about the historic monuments that decorate the city. The short 5 minute ferry ride from Brindisi Port to the Italian Monument is the ideal place to see views back to the city. For more information on the Best 9 Things to See and Do in Brindisi check out my travel blog here.
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