Leece is known as the 'Florence of the South' in Italy. The city is located at the Southern tip of the Puglia Region, in an area known as Salento. Leece is a city located inland away from the coast and is most famous for its Baroque architecture.
It is one of the biggest cities in Puglia, yet it is easily walkable, retaining its ornate charm. Lecce is filled with beautiful churches, ancient palaces and squares, vibrant cafes and restaurants, amazing shops and all-around beautiful vibes.
If you are craving that classic, romantic and alluring atmosphere that is synonymous with Italy but in a truly authentic way, then Lecce is for you! On top of all of that, Leccians are incredibly friendly, happy and helpful. Most of them don’t speak much English but it really doesn’t matter.
Lecce is simply a remarkable city and is still relatively untouched by mass tourism. Continue reading to learn the best things to do in Lecce and plan a trip there (before everyone else!).
1. Wander around the Piazza del Duomo
Lecce’s Piazza del Duomo is one of the most impressive Baroque squares in Salento and is certainly one of the best things to do in Lecce. To be honest it would be hard to miss!
This is a large square that is enclosed on three sides with one entrance from Vittorio Emanuele II.
When you stumble across this square on a stroll, you’ll know you’ve landed somewhere special.
Inside this square, you will find several important sites including the Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption, Lecce’s Duomo, The Bishop’s Palace, The Seminary Palace and The Bell Tower.
2. Visit Lecce’s Baroque Churches
Lecce has a vast number of breathtaking churches to visit (22 to be exact). They’re simply stunning from the outside, but also incredibly special when you take the time to see the inside as well.
Lecce’s churches are decorated in the same baroque architectural style. This is a very opulent and flamboyant style of architecture that become very popular in Florence and Rome in the 17th and 18th centuries.
PRO TIP: Visit Lecce instead of Florence to soak in all the beautiful architecture minus the intense crowds!
There are a handful of churches that you simply MUST visit when you are in Lecce. Visit them all and get familiar with this stunning style of architecture while soaking up all the ancient energy instilled in every stone.
Top must-see church in Lecce: Basilica di Santa Croce
This is the most famous and aesthetically grand baroque church to visit in Lecce and cannot be missed. When you turn the corner towards Via Umberto I and see the majesty of the architecture of this grand structure you will be blown away.
Take the time to visit the church during the day but also be sure to return in the evening when the street becomes a vibrant scene with bars and restaurants. You’ll find people hanging out on the stairs of the church enjoying their well-deserved gelato!
Other must-see churches in Lecce
- Chiesa di Santa Chiara
- Chiesa di San Mateo
- The Duomo and its crypt
Best way to visit all of the churches and monuments
The best way to visit all of the most important churches listed above is to buy a bundle ticket, known as the Church Path for just €11.
The ticket includes access to:
- Basilica di Santa Croce
- Chiesa di Santa Chiara
- Chiesa di San Mateo
- The Duomo and its crypt
- The Seminary Museum
- The Museum of Sacred Art
For an extra €10 you will also get access to the Bell Tower in Duomo Square mentioned in number 1.
You can buy the ticket online here or in person at the Seminary Museum on the right of the Piazza del Duomo.
3. Wander around the Piazza Sant’Oronzo
The Piazza Sant’Oronzo is a bustling square in Lecce, making it the focal point of the historical centre.
Here you will find incredible shops, cafes, restaurants, amazing gelato (try Martinucci Laboratory), Gallerias and of course people watching.
The biggest features of the square are the Colonna di Sant’Oronzo statue and the Roman Amphitheatre.
4. Visit the Roman Amphitheatre & Roman Theatre
The Roman Amphitheatre as mentioned above is located in the Piazza Sant’Oronzo square, although you would be forgiven for missing it! It can be viewed from the street (Via Vito Fazzi) and looks out on the square. Only one of the tiers still stands but it is thought to have once held up to 15,000 people and was discovered by chance in 1901.
There is also a second, lesser-known Roman ruin in Lecce called The Roman Theatre (Teatro Romano on Google Maps). This amphitheatre is hidden among the side streets that were built on top of it. This theatre was rediscovered less than 100 years ago in 1929.
Both ruins date back to the 2nd century.
5. Explore the alleyways of the Historical Centre in the morning
One of the most serene times to get lost in the alleyways of the Historical Centre (locally known as centro storico) is early in the morning before the world wakes up.
Explore all of the churches, buildings, ruins, and houses in peace (and get some great photos in the process!). In summer the sun rises at 5.30 am so you have plenty of hours of daylight very early in the morning.
Try not to have a plan or a route of where you want to go and just start walking around, taking turns down the different streets you stumble upon and see what treasures you have to find. Grab your fully charged camera and start at Piazza del Duomo or the Piazza Sant’Oronzo.
After you’re done exploring take a seat at a cafe and sip on a coffee (this is not Italian style by the way - they shot their espresso while standing at a bar!), and watch everyone else wake it.
6. Visit Lecce’s Palaces
Lecce is also famous for its lavish palaces which used to be homes of nobility. These days some of these impressive buildings are open to visitors while others have turned into luxury hotels (how awesome would it be to stay in one!). Here are a few Palaces to stumble across in Lecce:
- Palazzo dei Celestini: This is a local government house but you can still walk into the inner courtyard.
- Palazzo Vernazza: This is the most famous palace in Lecce and it is open to visitors. You can buy a ticket for €10 here.
- Palazzo Luce
- Palazzo Bernardini
- These two are now luxury hotels that you can peak into
7. Visit Museo Faggiano
This is one of the most fascinating museums to visit in Lecce due to the story of how it came about. In 2001 when the owner (Faggiano) broke into his floor to fix a sewage issue to renovate his house to open a restaurant, he discovered extensive Roman remains which are 2,500 years old.
Instead of opening a restaurant, Faggiano excavated the site and turned it into a private museum. It took 7 years to excavate the site which can now be visited today. Here you’ll find cisterns, secret passageways, frescos, tombs and many layers and hidden treasures.
8. Walk by the Lecce Portas or City Gates
There are three prominent and impressive ‘gates’ that mark the beginning of the historical centre. These three remaining gates date back to the 16th century and once would have been linked by city walls.
The three gates are:
- Porta Napoli: This is the main city gate dating back to 1548
- Porta Rudiae: This is the oldest and most elaborate gate
- Porta San Biagio: This gate is located in the south and is close to many attractions in Lecce. There is also a really nice cafe just outside this gate called Pasticceria Pinti. Chow down on excellent cornettos (croissants), amazing coffee and other delights while marvelling at the surround (and doing some great people watching too!).
9. Visit Lecce’s Cemetery
In the northwest of the city, you will find an impressive cemetery to explore. Here you will find a war memorial, a church and beautiful mausoleums where prominent local families were laid to rest.
This is an interesting place to visit outside of the historical centre
10. Wander the Historic Centre at night & indulge in Italian cuisine
Leece is a must-visit for lovers of Italian cuisine.
Wandering the streets and alleyways of the Centro Storico during summer evenings and eyeing up what restaurant to go to in itself is one of the best things to do in Lecce. The city comes alive as the sun goes down. Expect a romantic atmosphere, well-dressed people and beautiful outdoor seating tucked around every corner. Lecce comes alive in all the best ways around dinner time.
The food in Lecce is amazing and so it is likely that any restaurant you choose will give you a mind-blowing gastronomical experience. You can’t really go on, just follow your nose. Be sure to get a taste of locally grown wine, which you can always order by the glass, olive oil and local Italian dishes.
For life-changing pizza in a casual setting (it's sold by the slice) you must go to Pizza & Co. Do not leave Lecce without trying the Scarpariello pizza! They also shockingly have a vegan option!
On hot sunny afternoons, nothing beats an Aperol Spritz followed by Italian Gelato. All of which is in abundance in Lecce! The gelato at Martinucci Laboratory is particularly exceptional.
The most well-known dish is the rustico leccese which is a savoury street food pastry snack with mozzarella and tomato. Another dish unique to the Lecce region is Frise which is like a toasted bread topped with tomatoes, rocket and olive oil.
11. Take beautiful photos
Your camera battery will be seriously drained while you are in Lecce. Around every corner, you will find beautiful photo opportunities.
Once you share your photos, you will certainly inspire people to want to visit Lecce too (maybe just don’t show everyone!!). Photos look incredible in the historical centre at any hour of the day or night.
Even photos with lots of people in them look great at the busier times of the day because you will discover that Italians LOVE to dress up and always look incredible. This just adds to the atmosphere and the nice photos.
12. Explore other parts of Puglia on day trips
Lecce is a great base to explore other parts of Puglia. Many places can be visited in one day! Get up early and head to one of these spots so you are back in time for a beautiful evening in Lecce.
Here are some amazing places you can take day trips to from Lecce:
- Oranto - Southern seaside town
- Gallipoli - A western seaside town
- Nardo - If you head to Gallipoli or the surrounding beaches for the day, stop at Nardo on the way back to Lecce. Beautiful town, similar to Lecce but smaller. Head to the main square for dinner one night instead of staying in Lecce. The food at Caffè Parisi is outstanding.
- Itria Valley - Iconic towns of Martina Franca, Cisternino, Ostuni and Arabello
- Explore the best beaches in Puglia: Read this post for our breakdown of the best ones! The ones located inside the Lecce Provence include:
- Torre dell'Orso
- Tricase Porto
- Santa Maria di Leuca
- Spiaggia di Santa Maria Al Bagno
- Spiaggia della Purità
- Cala dell’Acquaviva
How to get around
The northern part of Puglia above Lecce can be travelled to via a pretty great train network.
The Salento Peninsula is well-connected to Lecce via bus routes during the summer months.
You can use Google Maps to get information on public transport routes to take
The fastest and easiest way to get around Puglia is by rental car. However, this isn’t an option for everyone so it is good to know that you can still get to all of the main places in Puglia with public transport!
How to get to Lecce
The easiest way to get to Lecce is to fly into Bari or Brindisi.
From Bari, you need to catch two trains. One short ride to the Centrale and then another train to Lecce Centrale. Tickets can be purchased from the train station. The trains are easy to navigate, organised and not too crowded so is a good option with luggage
From Brindisi, you can get a bus directly from the airport to Lecce Centrale.
From Lecce Centrale, you will most likely be able to take a short walk to your accommodation. Taxis are expensive!
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Puglia is between May and October. July and August are the hottest, busiest and most expensive months as the rest of Italy descends on Puglia for a holiday. This does add to the great vibes though!
Therefore to get the best of everything, the most ideal months to visit are May - June and September - October.
During the winter months, Lecce turns into a bit of a ghost town with many shops and restaurants closed. It definitely wouldn’t have the same vibrant atmosphere if you visit during these months.