Lecce is an enchanting city located in the southern Italian region of Puglia which occupies the heel of the boot. Often referred to as the "Florence of the South," the city boasts a rich history, stunning architecture, and mouth-watering cuisine.
While tourists flock to Venice, Florence, and Rome almost year round, Puglia remains relatively tourist free during the low season. This makes Lecce an ideal destination for those looking to avoid the crowds.
While technically a city, it feels like a small town and is full of surprises. You never know what you'll stumble upon around the next corner. Here's how to visit the city and get the most our of your time there.
Related: Where to Eat and Sleep in Lecce
When to Visit
The best time of year to visit Lecce is in spring and fall, or shoulder season. March, April, and May are great months as long as you don't have any plans on venturing to the sea for a swim.
While southern Italy has relatively mild winters, the weather in March and April can be quite unpredictable. Some years it's nice and warm, while others it's slightly rainy. Also, if you like warm water, you might find it too cold.
Visiting in the spring doesn't guarantee that you'll get in some beach time, however, you will definitely beat the chaotic summer crowds. If you're set on catching some sunshine and visiting the beaches of Salento then definitely visit in June or September.
June is still relatively calm, however, there are quite a few tourists because June marks the beginning of intense summer travel in southern Italy.
September is definitely more calm, most of the summer travelers have left the area and the locals get to catch their breath and enjoy some slightly cooler weather.
When Not to Visit
Do not visit Lecce in July or August. Not only is the heat unbearable in the small streets, it's crowded making the small city feel like it's caving in on you. This advice goes for all of Italy, don't visit in July or August if at all possible.
What Lecce is Known For
Lecce has a fascinating history that dates back thousands of years. The city was originally founded by the Greeks in the 5th century BC and has been influenced by various civilizations throughout the centuries.
The historical center is filled with stunning Baroque buildings, including the Basilica di Santa Croce, which is considered one of the most beautiful Baroque churches in Italy.
Lecce is also known for its unique architecture, which is made of a local stone called pietra leccese. The stone is soft and easy to carve, which allowed artisans to create intricate designs and details on buildings. The result is a city full of stunning architecture that's sure to leave you in awe.
The food in Lecce is without a doubt some of the best in Italy. The city has many famous local dishes and it doesn't stop at pasta. Here are some of the things you should try if you're visiting Lecce:
- Orecchiette con le cime di rapa (pasta with turnip greens)
- Ciceri e tria (pasta with chickpeas)
- Pezzeti al sugo (chunks of horsemeat in stewed tomato sauce)
- Pasta con Cozze (pasta with mussels)
- Anything seafood
- Rustico leccese (a puff pastry filled with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and besciamella)
- Pasticciotto (a pastry usually filled with almond cream)
There are so many more incredible things to taste and try, the city is truly a food mecca.
The region of Puglia is very flat and narrow. So while Lecce is technically an inland city it's very easy to get to the coast. This means the seafood is incredibly fresh and doesn't travel very far!
Lecce and the surrounding area, called Salento, is also known for its wine. You'll want to try the local varietals of Primitivo and Negroamaro.
What to See and Do in Lecce
While there's certainly no shortage of things to do in the city, our favorite activities include walking, eating at great restaurants, and walking some more to keep up with all the eating!
Here are a few sites that are easy to visit and you definitely shouldn't miss...
Piazza del Duomo
The Piazza del Duomo is the heart of the city and is surrounded by stunning Baroque buildings. The square is home to the Duomo di Lecce, a stunning cathedral that's not to be missed.
Basilica di Santa Croce
As mentioned earlier, the Basilica di Santa Croce is one of the most beautiful Baroque churches in Italy. The church is located in the historical center and is adorned with intricate carvings and details.
Castello di Lecce
The Castello di Lecce is a medieval castle that was built in the 15th century. The castle is now home to a museum that showcases the history of Lecce and the surrounding region.
Lecce's Roman Amphitheatre
The Amphitheatre is located in Piazza Sant’Oronzo and is a fascinating piece of history. It was built in the 2nd century AD and could seat up to 25,000 people. However, it's currently under intense restoration which is expected to last until July 2023.
Until then, the amphitheater can only be fully viewed from one side making it challenging to get any epic photos, but it sounds like the work will be worth it!
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