15 Best things to do in Lecce (Italy)

Lecce is often referred to as the Florence of the South because of its abundance of beautiful historic buildings and its location in Italy’s “dogleg”. Tucked away in the southernmost region of Italy, just across the Adriatic from Albania, the city has a current population of around 94,000. Lecce stone is one of the city’s main exports, and due to its soft and machinable nature, this stone has actually been used in the construction of most of the city’s monuments.

Lecce has a long history and has been inhabited since the days of Emperor Hadrian and the Roman Empire. In subsequent history, the city was conquered by numerous empires, including Saracens, Lombards, Slavs and Ostrogoths. Today, Lecce is a popular tourist destination, and its popularity has skyrocketed as people realize its great potential.

Lecce is known for its beautiful historic buildings such as the Basilica of Santa Croce, Porta Naples and the Cathedral. Plus, Lecce is ideally located just a stone’s throw from some fascinating and interesting coastal destinations like Gallipoli. If you’re looking for something different and want to experience a lesser-known part of Italy, the Lecce and Puglia regions are a great place to visit.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Lecce:

1. Church of the Holy Cross

Holy Cross Church

This is one of the most beautiful churches in Lecce, known for its stunning architecture and stunning baroque façade.

Built in the 17th century, the church is constructed from the unique Lecce stone that gives the structure a pale cream colour.

The front façade is truly breathtaking and the amount of decoration and artwork is quite amazing.

The walls are covered with intricate sculptures, ornate rose windows and interesting stone figures.

In contrast, the interior is less ornate, but still has some beautiful stonework and religious decorations.

2. Cattedrale dell’Assunzione della Virgine

Cattedrale Dell'Assunzione Della Vergine

Lecce Cathedral is located in the Cathedral Square, as famous as the Basilica of the Holy Cross, and is the most important religious building in the city.

Built in the late 17th century, the cathedral also features a cathedral-like Baroque design, with a palatial north facade and a beautiful bell tower.

The north façade, containing some magnificent stone figures and sculptures, faces the charming Piazza del Duomo.

Compared to the Basilica of the Holy Cross, the interior of the cathedral is highly decorative, with countless golden artworks, ornate arches, and ceilings that contain some ornate historical artwork.

In addition, there are twelve chapels within the church, each dedicated to a different saint or religious figure.

3. Cathedral Square

Cathedral Square

Lecce has several beautiful squares with some ornate buildings, and Piazza del Duomo is one of the most charming.

Located in the heart of the historic old town of Lecce, this square has some ornate monuments and religious buildings.

Two notable buildings include the Baroque Cathedral of Lecce with its intricate north facade and the ornate library building that looks more like a palace.

Most of the structures are made of Lecce stone, and it is indeed an impressive square.

In addition, the surrounding streets feature a range of shops and restaurants for those looking to enjoy fine dining or retail therapy.

4. Piazza San Auronzo

Piazza San Auronzo

Not far to the east from the cathedral is Piazza San Auronzo. This is another beautiful open square with some interesting architecture and wonderful sights.

Notable buildings include the Chiesa di Santa maria delle Graize, the Roman Amphitheatre and the ornate Palazzo del Sedile.

Il Sedile is probably the most striking structure, with a huge glass door framed by some intricate stonework.

The entire area around the square is a great place for a stroll, and the adjacent streets are perfect to explore in the beautiful Italian weather.

5. Roman Amphitheatre

Roman Amphitheatre

You can find this old building in the south of Piazza San Auronzo.

The amphitheater wasn’t unearthed until 1929, but it was built in the second century AD and could seat 25,000 people. Visit the theatre today to see the remains of this once impressive building.

Most of the stairs, seats, façades and columns are still intact and you can really feel the magnificence of this arena.

For those who love ancient history, there is no better place to visit in Lecce.

6. Lecce Castle

Lecce Castle

The castle of Charles V is the city’s main fortification and has stood for hundreds of years since the 16th century.

During the reign of Charles V, the castle was fortified and fortified and shaped into the design and style you can see today.

A typical four-cornered defense structure uses diagonal guard towers and high walls.

Today, the castle is in very good condition, with most of the walls and towers intact.

In addition to walking through the grounds, there is an interesting paper machine museum and seasonal exhibits containing fine art or historical displays.

7. Faggiano Museum

Faggiano Museum

Another fantastic museum in the centre of Lecce, the Faggiano Museum is a private building that has been excavated over 7 years – and under the foundations of this building there are some fantastic archaeological finds dating back 2000 years.

During excavations, it was discovered that the house had served as a Templar residence, granary and cemetery.

You can now explore excavations and find various artifacts and structural remains of these ancient sites.

With over 5000 archaeological finds housed in this extremely interesting museum, Luciano and his sons have turned the Faggiano Museum into a truly special place.

8. Porta Naples

Gate of Naples, Lecce

Like many historic cities in Italy, Lecce once had an impressive network of defenses and surrounding walls.

The Porte de Naples is a remnant of this defensive network and is one of the three remaining city gates.

Originally built in 1548 in honor of King Charles V, the portal has a baroque design and is made of white Lecce stone.

The arch has four ornate columns at the center, and is topped by a triangular pediment with the coat of arms of Charles V and Lecce.

This monumental gateway is a wonderful piece of history and definitely worth visiting while strolling through the city center.

9. Lecce Town House

Villa Comunale di Lecce

This is Lecce’s most impressive public garden and a great place to stroll and relax on a sunny summer day.

Located in the center of Lecce, this open public space has four entrances and was built in the 19th century.

At the center of the park is a large bandstand surrounded by some ornate stone carvings.

Additionally, there is a series of gridded paths lined with fantastic trees, shrubs and flowers.

In addition, there are several delightful fountains and ponds, as well as statues and monuments of various important Italians.

10. Visit the town of Otranto

Otranto

Lecce is located on the dog’s lap of Italy, close to several pretty coastal towns.

Just a 40-minute drive southeast of Lecce, Otranto is a great day trip destination.

The main feature of this delightful coastal town is the Aragonese castle built in the 15th century.

The castle walls offer fantastic views of the town and sea and contain a great deal of history.

In addition, the picturesque harbour of Otranto is a great place to watch fishing boats.

Finally, there is a large stretch of stunning beach, perfect for sunbathing and paddling in the sea.

11. Visit the town of Gallipoli

Gallipoli, Salento, Apulia, Italy

Another beautiful seaside town accessible from Lecce is Gallipoli.

The town is divided into two main parts – the main part of the town on the coast, and the small island accessible from a single road that juts out into the sea.

This small island is a fascinating place as it contains countless charming side streets full of beautiful buildings.

Also, there is the stunning Baroque St. Peter’s Basilica.

Agata, Castello and old fishing ports are interesting sights in their own right.

12. San Mateo Church

Chiesa di San Mateo

Often underestimated and overshadowed by cathedrals and cathedrals, this church actually has one of the most interesting facades and a unique design.

Built in 1667, Chiesa di San Matteo is a Baroque building with a curved facade – the walls are actually curved and covered with fine sculptures and statues.

Also, the interior of this church has 9 spectacular altars depicting different religious figures and allegories such as the Nativity and Assumption.

Each altar has a great deal of detail and the surrounding stucco is very intricate.

13. Torre del Parco

torre del parco

This 15th-century castle hasn’t actually been converted into a boutique hotel, but it’s still possible to walk on the walls and admire the beautiful architecture and grounds.

The tower, located in Viale Torre del Parco, has stood for hundreds of years and was once an important structure in the defensive network of Lecce.

14. Cesine Nature Reserve

Riserva Naturale Le Cesine

The east coast of Italy is very beautiful and the Cesine Nature Reserve is an absolutely magnificent protected landscape.

Just 25 minutes east of Lecce, you can explore this beautiful natural area.

Covered mostly by wetlands, the reserve is one of the best-preserved in Italy, and boasts some stunning landscapes, bathed in lush greenery, low-lying pools and a wide variety of flora and fauna.

Throughout the reserve, you can find countless well-developed walkways leading to golden sands and the warm waters of the Adriatic Sea.

For those who love nature and the great outdoors, this is the perfect place to explore.

15. Eat at Il Gambero Rosso

Il Gambero Rosso

Lecce has many high-quality restaurants, and Il Gambero Rosso is a particularly good venue in the historic city center.

The restaurant has a relaxed and inviting atmosphere, with attentive and friendly staff, and dishes are prepared using fresh ingredients and traditional recipes.

If seafood is your thing, Il Gambero Rosso offers a variety of entrees, including prawns, prawns and muscle.

Plus, there’s an outdoor dining area for those who like to embrace the elements and eat in style.

Consider reserving a table as this restaurant is very popular and if you show up hopeful in the evening you may be disappointed.

Lecce recommended tours:

  • Lecce: Sightseeing Tour, Florence in Southern Italy
  • Explore Lecce 2-Hour Guided Walking Tour
  • Touring a bicycle rickshaw in Lecce

Where to stay: The best hotels in Lecce, Italy
Lowest price guaranteed.