Friday, 24 November 2017

Lecce City Guide: Italy's Baroque Beauty

The beautiful Baroque architecture in Piazza del Dumomo in Lecce, Italy

Located on the 'heel' of Italy in the Puglia region, Lecce is a lovely alternative to Rome or Naples for a historical sightseeing adventure.

Historical archway into the city of Lecce
Colourful houses in Lecce

A BRIEF HISTORY | Lecce City Guide
Lecce's Roman origins began in the 3rd Century BC just before Emperor Hadrian fortified the town and constructed a large amphitheatre. It was transformed in the 17th Century during the Baroque period when local architects began to adorn buildings with sculptures and cherubs and construct ambitious new churches that are still open today.

Lecce Cathedral exterior designed in the 17th century Baroque style
Beautiful carved stone architecture in Lecce
Church buildings in Lecce

TRAVELLING TO LECCE
Flights operate year round to Brindisi or Bari (just north of the city) via London and transfers are cheap using public transportation. I hopped on the airport shuttle bus from Brindisi Airport (€1 per person) to the city centre and caught the Bari train to Lecce for around €5.

Saint Oronzo's Statue in Lecce
The Roman Amphitheatre in Lecce

TOP PLACES TO VISIT | Lecce City Guide
  • Piazza del Dumomo, experience Baroque architecture at its finest
  • The Castle of Charles V, the 16th century Emperor's fortress 
  • Sant'Oronzo Square, dine al fresco by the Ancient Roman Amphitheatre  
  • The Roman Theatre and Museum

Vintage Market inside a beautiful square in Lecce
Interior of a church in Lecce with stunning sculptures and paintings
Inside Lecce Cathedral

WHERE TO EAT IN LECCE
  • Colonial Cafe Drinks, popular music bar for cocktails
  • Pizza&Co for authentic Italian pizza
  • Baldo Gelato for the ice cream lovers

Caffé Alvino in Lecce
Pasticciotto Custard Pies from Alvino in Lecce

Sant'Oronzo square is a hub of cafes and restaurants such as 'Alvino' which was recommended to me by the owners of an Italian coffee shop in Wales - thanks Bar Piazza! The 'pasticciotto' custard pies were as good as I hoped, the pudding-like hot chocolate probably made this lunch way too indulgent, fortunately I had an arancini (filled with bolognese sauce) to tuck into as well.

Hot chocolate from Café Alvino in Lecce

HOW TO GET AROUND | Lecce City Guide
Lecce is a very walkable city with most of centre being pedestrianised. The top sights are within minutes of each other and the train station is 1km from the Amphitheatre. If you base yourself in Lecce it may be worth hiring a car and exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Alberobello or taking the train to the coast to see Puglia's best beaches.

Rickshaw and bicycle hire in Lecce Italy is a fun way to explore the city
The historical centre of Lecce in Puglia
Restaurants and cafes in Lecce

To get around the city centre I purchased my own Rickshaw from 'Lecce In Tour' located in Sant'Oronzo Square. This was a fun and inexpensive way to see more of Lecce's beautiful Baroque buildings, but there's also bicycle and walking tours available if you'd prefer to be shown around by an expert.

Places to eat in Lecce, Pizza&Co
Historical sightseeing and things to do in Lecce Puglia

THE LOCAL LIFESTYLE
After a quiet afternoon exploring Lecce the city came to life at dusk with families young and old meeting up or heading to church. It's wonderful to see daily traditions like this going strong in the age of the internet that keeps a lot of people (including me) indoors more frequently.
Lecce is perfect for a weekend city break, particularly if you're planning a longer stay elsewhere in Italy or have been to major cities like Rome and Venice before. My visit was off-peak in late October and it was pleasantly warm and not too busy.

The historical Lecce city centre at night

Further reading: Tips for a cheap city break to Rome and Inspiring photos of Rome at night
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© Explore With Ed | Wales based Food, Travel and Cruise Blog

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