In my travels of Italy, I have no idea why I’d never been to Lecce! What a jewel of Baroque architecture! The city is compact enough to walk in one day and there is beauty around each and every corner! I’m officially in love with Lecce!
Once I arrived in Lecce, I managed to find a hotel that would hold my bags for me while I explored. I had found a couch for a couple of nights but it was on the Ionian Sea in Santa Caterina di Nardo, about 30 minutes from Lecce.
If you intend to visit the heel of Italy’s boot, Lecce is the perfect home base as it’s between the Adriatic and the Ionian Seas and offers easy access to surrounding medieval towns and beaches. Why didn’t anyone tell me this before?! As a bonus, it’s the mecca of paper mache art!
The craft of paper mache isn’t something I’ve ever thought about. I think we all were subjected to it in school but I’ve never seen anything like the craftsmanship you’ll find exclusively in Lecce. I had the privilege of watching a master at work and it is truly an art!
Every corner of Lecce offers up jaw dropping architectural delights! I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my wanderings! I’d just be walking down a beautiful cobblestone alley and it would suddenly open up to a grand piazza with an array of buildings or churches in the Baroque style.
Piazza del Duomo is breathtaking! It’s enclosed on three sides and contains the Lecce Cathedral, the Bell tower, the Bishop’s Palace and the Seminary Palace.
Winding my way through each alley, I came upon gorgeous buildings that I couldn’t identify and haven’t been able to find a name for online. Some I was allowed to enter but others were closed. A lovely art gallery that I entered had once been a church and still contains murals in the alcoves.
Popping out of an alleyway, I found myself on the main drag, Via Vittorio Emanuele. The street is lined with shops and cafes and is where you’ll find Sedile Palace (now the tourist information center), the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Church of San Marco, and the statue of Saint Oronzo, the patron saint of Lecce.
The Piazza Sant’Oronzo is directly behind all of that and is where I was amazed to find the Roman Amphitheatre! I first noticed an archeological site and then noticed the amphitheatre. I spoke with a local and found out that they hold concerts in the center of it nightly during the summer. It’s pretty incredible the layers of history that lie underground all over Italy!
I didn’t spend near enough time in the “Florence of the South”, as it’s sometimes called. Far too soon, my couchsurfing host arrived to drive myself and another couchsurfer to his place by the sea. Hopefully, as I always return to Italy, I’ll one day make it back to Lecce!