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Lecce, Italy is quintessentially Italian. The historically preserved, walled city is situated in the Puglia region…better known as the Heel of Italy’s Boot. Buried in the twisting cobblestone lanes of the old city center are hidden gems – like Baroque churches, half-revealed Roman ruins, family-run restaurants and artist studios.
The city, rich in tradition, still abides by local customs; all the shops close mid-afternoon and re-open for the time-old tradition of the evening stroll. During our month-long stay, we navigated the maze of cobblestone lanes and discovered the best things to do in Lecce, Italy.
10 Things to Do in Lecce, Italy
Our list of what to do in Lecce is merely a guideline of how to spend time in the city. Lecce, Italy, however, is not a checklist city, but one to be experienced. While there are some must-see attractions, Lecce sightseeing should be highlighted by aimless rambles, delicious food and good wine.
In our list of Lecce things to do, we include a brief summary and links to more information. At the end of the post, we include helpful Lecce travel tips – including how to get there and where to stay.
Save, Pin or Bookmark our Lecce Travel Guide so that you can easily access it during your trip!
#1 Stand in the Main Square: Piazza del Duomo
Discovering the sights of Piazza del Duomo tops our list of things to do in Lecce. The opulent square is the epitome of the luxurious Baroque architectural style found throughout the city.
From the main street, Via G. Libertini, visitors could almost pass by Lecce’s most impressive piazza without even realizing it. The atypical, narrow entrance leads into the Piazza del Duomo, a massive square and the religious center of town.
The buildings – the Duomo di Lecce Cathedral, Bishop’s Palace, Seminary and soaring bell tower – dazzle with their ornate Baroque decor, both inside and out.
Top Tip: The Baroque architecture in Lecce is absolutely stunning. Let a guide show you through the city to learn more about the history of the buildings on a Lecce Baroque Walking Tour.
Use our Guide to the Sights of Piazza del Duomo in Lecce, Italy.
#2 Admire the Many Lecce Baroque Churches
The Lecce Cathedral is not the only church in town. In fact, Lecce is chockablock full of churches. From ornate Baroque designs to simple structures, there are 22 churches within the old town vicinity.
It would be nearly impossible to walk the streets of Lecce and NOT see a church. Most are open to the public and are well-worth a look around inside for the impeccable detail and centuries-old art.
Top Tip: Because churches are one of the top things to see in Lecce, we created a Lecce Churches Guide (including an easy-to-follow walking tour).
#3 Discover Ancient Roman Ruins
Beneath the surface lies an ancient past dating to Roman times. Preserved archaeological discoveries dot the Lecce city center.
Historic Column on Saint Oronzo Square
The largest square within the city walls, Piazza Sant’Oronzo, is a hub of activity in the center of Lecce, Italy – and the site of the Roman Amphitheater ruins.
The focal point of Sant’Oronzo Square is a rising column. Built in the year 110, the column once marked the end of the Via Appia – the road that connected Rome to Brindisi. The column was gifted to the city of Lecce in 1659. It is now topped by Oronzo – the Patron Saint of Lecce, who is credited for sparing the town from the plague in 1656.
The square is surrounded by a mishmash of architecturally styled buildings that are mostly occupied by cafes, tourist offices, a few shops and churches. The city’s coat of arms is proudly displayed in a large mosaic in the center of the pedestrian-only zone. Directly south of the mosaic is the partially excavated Lecce Roman Amphitheatre.
The entire southern half of Sant’Oronzo Square is comprised of the unearthed 2nd century AD Roman Amphitheater that sits below ground level. Discovered in 1901 by construction workers and excavated in the 1930s, only half of the ancient amphitheater has been uncovered.
Findings have revealed that when the amphitheater was built, it was located outside the city walls. It seated about 25,000 people and was used for a wide range of entertainment. There is recorded evidence that the amphitheater was still of great importance into the 12th century. Today, the ruins offer a glimpse into the city’s lengthy history.
In addition to the discovery of the Roman Amphitheater in Sant-Oronzo Square, a Roman Theater has also been recovered. It is thought to have been constructed during the Augustus period (between 27 B.C. and 14 A.D.).
The theater (which is missing the top two tiers) was excavated in the 1930s and can be viewed from the street that passes behind it. A visit into the Roman Teatro Museum (more on that in a minute!) grants visitors an all-access pass into the remaining seating area and stage.
Piazza Castromediano Sigismondo
On Piazza Castromediano Sigismondo, visitors can peer through the glass cases to view other unearthed treasures that were discovered in the early 2000s.
#4 Learn about the Past in Lecce Museums
Lecce has a number of museums that offer a better understanding of the city’s past. From the Lecce Castle to art museums to a treasure trove inside a home, we highly recommend visiting at least one of the intriguing Lecce museums.
The most enthralling museum is the Faggiano House. Previously a residence, the owner discovered hidden relics beneath the floorboards when he tried to fix a plumbing problem. More digging revealed a buried past too impressive not to share, so they transformed their home into a museum.
Other interesting museums include the Roman Theater Museum, Carlo V Castle, (which includes the Paper Mache Museum), Provincial Museum and MUST.
Tip: The Paper Mache artform is a Lecce specialty. Join an artist and create your own Paper Mache art in a Lecce Walking Tour and Paper Mache Workshop.
Read our guide to the best Museums in Lecce, Italy.
#5 Walk Through the City Gates
Three city gates remain standing as entry points to Lecce’s old town: Porta Rudiae, Porta San Biagio and Porta Napoli. The doorways into the city serve as a reminder of the one-time necessary fortifications. Walk through them and imagine the millions of footsteps that have passed beneath the same arches over the centuries.
It’s easy to see all three Lecce, Italy city gates on a simple stroll through town and it’s worth it to pass through the gates to the ‘outside’ of the city to get the view looking back in.
Sometimes called Porta Sant’Oronzo for his statue that graces the top, Porta Rudiae is the oldest city gate, but was rebuilt in 1703. It features a single arch with Sant’Dominic and Sant’Irene on either side of Sant’Oronzo. Below the saints, near the top of the pillars, are the sculptures of Lecce’s founders.
Porta San Biagio
The southern gate, Porta San Biagio, was built in 1774 and is dedicated to St. Blaise, who lived in Lecce and was a 4th century bishop. A statue of St. Blaise tops the archway. Ferdinand IV of Bourbon’s coat of arms is in the center with Lecce’s crest displayed on both sides.
Built in 1548, and named so because it leads to the road that goes to Naples, Porta Napoli was erected to honor the victories of Charles V. Decorated with sculptures of military trophies and symbols of power, it remains, still today, a main gate of entry into the historic center (even though it is no longer a completely walled city).
Built of Lecce stone in 1822, the Obelisk stands just outside the Porta Napoli gate. Decorated in bas reliefs, the column is lit in an artistic light show at night.
#6 Take a Walk in the Park
Being a historic walled city, the Lecce Old Town is densely built with stone dwellings and cobblestone lanes. Just outside of the city center, however, are two parks (and a cemetery!) where visitors can enjoy manicured gardens and green space.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Public Garden (Villa Comunale Park)
The planned garden sits just to the east of the city walls. Designed in the 1800s, the fenced Italian garden features trees, flower beds, fountains, statues and a center Gazebo.
Located to the west of the historic center, Belloluogo Park features spacious lawns that are perfect for a picnic lunch, an afternoon rest or throwing a frisbee.
Wander Through the City Cemetery
On the north side of Belloluogo is Chiesa dei Santi Niccolo e Cataldo, a medieval church founded in 1180. Next to the church is a beautiful cemetery that resembles a park as much as a burial ground.
#7 Join the Evening Stroll and Go Shopping in Lecce
Lecce still abides by the time-old tradition of the afternoon siesta. Shops and restaurants close between the hours of 2:00pm and 5:00pm, leaving the city center eerily quiet. However, in the early evening, everything re-opens and locals emerge back onto the streets.
The evening stroll – or La Passeggiata, as they call it in Italy – commences around 6:00pm. Groups of friends and multi-generational families venture together into the winding lanes of Old Town Lecce for a leisurely walk before dinner.
Lecce shopping takes place in the evening, too. Businesses re-open their doors for the evening crowds. Boutique shops, art galleries and the corner market all have evening hours for shopping in Lecce, Italy.
Browse Through a Bookstore
One of our favorite evening rituals was stopping at the bookstores. Lecce, Italy has an astounding number of shops selling books and music. From modern and bright with cafes to cozy and comfortable with records playing, there is a bookstore in Lecce for any mood.
#8 Go On A Day Trip to Nearby Lecce Beaches
As a landlocked city in the middle of the Puglia region, there are no beaches in Lecce, Italy. However, the coastline is easily accessible – and Lecce day trips are a perfect city escape!
Day Trips from Lecce
Nearby coastal cities include Gallipoli, Otranto and Porto Cesareo. Lecce is well-connected to the coastline cities; each one can be reached in about an hour via train.
We took a day trip from Lecce to Gallipoli on a sunny day (during the winter) and spent the day taking in the historic sights and basking in the sunshine. Read more about Things To Do in Gallipoli, Italy!
#9 Indulge in the Local Cuisine
There is so much more to the food in Lecce than the iconic Italian fare! Yes, they have pizza and pasta (which we highly recommend), but they excel in the traditional cuisine, La Cucina Povera.
Traditional Lecce Cuisine
In Puglia, the local cuisine features an original farm-to-table concept (out of necessity, not trendiness). The result is delectable fare that uses simple, high-quality ingredients that are combined to create mouthwatering, savory dishes. The feast is usually served in four courses.
Not in the mood for a four-course meal? Order the signature Italian aperitivo. The small plate appetizers are usually served alongside evening drinks as a pre-dinner nibble, but can be combined into a filling meal.
Top Tip: Want a unique cooking experience in Lecce? Learn the art of Pugliese cooking from locals in a Traditional Home Cooking Experince.
Read our guide to the Best Restaurants in Lecce!
#10 Drink Local
There’s no shortage of places to imbibe in Lecce, Italy. Being in the middle of a wine-growing region, local wine is available just about everywhere. For a more informative wine experience, try the Lecce wine bars near Santa Croce Basilica that boast lengthy lists from regional wineries.
But, it isn’t just about wine in Lecce; microbrews and craft cocktails have worked their way into the bar scene with dedicated and trendy bars for both.
Read our tips for the top 9 bars to visit in Lecce, Italy.
Tips for Your Trip to Lecce, Italy
Now that you know what to see in Lecce, Italy, start planning your trip!
Lecce, Italy Map
Use this link to Google Maps for our Lecce Sights Map. Find detailed Lecce maps for churches, restaurants and bars in our individual blog posts. Visitors can also purchase a Lecce tourist map (like this one on Amazon!) or pick one up at the Lecce tourist information office.
The weather in Lecce, Italy is a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. The Lecce temperature can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the height of summer. July is the hottest and driest month, while January is the coolest and November is the rainiest.
We visited Lecce in January and experienced cool days that were mostly sunny – but did endure a week of rain and stormy weather.
Lecce By Night
While there is some Lecce nightlife, the real reason to stay out late is to see the city after dark. Most notable is the Piazza del Duomo – that is especially beautiful bathed in spotlights.
Where To Stay in Lecce
During our visit to Lecce, we stayed in an Airbnb Apartment. (Not already a member of Airbnb? Use this link to create an account and save money on your first stay!) We have found that staying in apartments is often less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and, usually, more space.
Hotels in Lecce, Italy
However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are many Lecce, Italy hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center. Check out these top-rated Lecce hotels (based on guest reviews!) for your upcoming trip: Hilton Garden Inn, 8Piuhotel and Dimora Storica Torre Del Parco 1419. There are also resorts in the city that offer additional amenities: La Fiermontina Urban Resort and Risorgimento Resort.
Start your search for the best hotels in Lecce on Booking.com!
How To Get to Lecce, Italy
Lecce can be reached by train, bus or car. The closest airport near Lecce, Italy is Brindisi Airport, which is about 30 miles from Lecce.
Flight To Lecce
Our preferred method of getting anywhere is by flying (we are JetSetting Fools, after all!) and when we do need to purchase plane tickets, we start our search for the best deals on airline tickets on Skyscanner.
Lecce Railway Station
On our trip, we flew from Rome to Brindisi, then took the convenient train to Lecce. The train station in Lecce is located south of the city center, about a 10-minute walk from the Porta Rudiae Gate.
Before You Go
- Lecce is a walkable city…but only if you have the right shoes! Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes for your trip. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your visit to Italy. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
- We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
Spending time in Rome, too? Use our Rome Itinerary for a perfect 3 days in Rome, Italy!
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