Lecce: wonderful city famous for its Baroque style
Lecce is the capital of the homonymous province. Beautiful city with a unique historic centre.
The southern Florence is called, because of its baroque, the Lecce baroque.
Spectacular, the color of Lecce stone, tuff and carp, the cobblestones, the beautiful churches, the small papier-mâché shops, restaurants and hotels. An architecture made incredibly uniform by the hand of man, where the delicacy of Baroque and the grandeur of Fascist architecture coexist.
Before proceeding with the description, to sum up, of the monuments, we give you a few useful information for those who want to arrive in this beautiful city.
- Lecce: wonderful city famous for its Baroque style
- How to get to Lecce: by train, by plane, by car
- The Map of Lecce: getting lost among the beauties of the city has never been easier
- Lecce’s coat of arms: a she-wolf and an holm oak, symbolic elements that gave the name to the capital of Salento
- Lecce: a bit of history, from the origins to recent times
- Mythological origins: Troy and Idomeneo, the founding father
- Lecce and the Paleolithic: the demonstration of ancient origins
- The city of Lecce rises on Messapic settlements
- Roman epoch: Lupiae, so it was named Lecce
- Middle Ages: with the Norman domination, Lecce came back to life again. With the Swabian one you reach the apex of the splendor
- Charles V and the Salento Renaissance
- Lecce Baroque and Spanish Age
- Lecce cradle of enlightenment: schools of mathematics and law arise
- Lecce, the Carbonari revolts and the unification of Italy
- What to see in Lecce: the Lecce Baroque, so beautiful to take your breath away.
- Stone from Lecce: an unparalleled stone, sold worldwide
- The exponents of Salento Baroque: from Zimbalo to Penna, with chisel strokes
- What to see in Lecce: the gates of the city
- Porta Napoli: a triumphal arch for Charles V
- Porta San Biagio: the last of the doors of the city walls
- Porta Rusce or Porta Rudiae (as well as is known today)
- Porta S. Martino: it no longer exists but is worthy of mention
- Aheading through Porta Napoli: unique experience
- Passing from Porta San Biagio: exceptional monuments in the heart of movida
- The church of Saint Matteo welcomes you in the nightlife of Lecce
- The church of S. Chiara, in the heart of Lecce and Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II
- The MUST: the contemporary history museum
- Roman theatre: discovered in 1929
- The castle of Charles V: imposing and Aragonese
- Chiesa del Gesù: dedicated to Our Lady of Good Council
- The basilica of Santa Croce, the triumph of Lecce baroque
- Palazzo dei Celestini: in the past convent and basilica of Santa Croce were a unique body
- The Greek church or Church of St. Nicholas of the Greeks: place of prayer for the Greek-Byzantine Christian community
- The church of S. Angelo, also known as Santa Maria di Costantinopoli
- The church of St. John the Evangelist;
- The church of S. Maria degli Angeli
- Passing through Porta Rudiae: stop under the column of S. Oronzo, in the homonymous square.
- The Church of St. John the Baptist (or the Rosary): last work of Zimbalo
- The church of St. Anne
- The Church of Saint Teresa
- The Cathedral of Lecce, the Bell Tower and the Seminary in pills
- The Church of Saint Irene (or the Theatines)
- The Column of St. Oronzo: the most loved saint in the city of Lecce
- The Chapel of San Marco: built by the Venetian colony
- Roman amphitheatre: today also open to concerts and open-air theatre festivals
- Il sedile (The Seat)
- The church of Santa Maria della Grazie
- Lecce, baroque city and seaside town: the Lecce marinas a stone’s throw from the capital of Salento
- Where to eat in Lecce: Restaurants, Street Food, Breweries & Bistros
- Bros: a team of young chefs in the international limelight, with local cuisine
- Alex Restaurant: Alessandra Civilla, the landlady chef
- The tower of Merlin: an institution in Lecce, a few steps from piazzetta Santa Chiara
- La vecchia osteria da Toto: the kitchen of the past, the kitchen of grandmother
- La negra tomasa: cosy restaurant, where you can eat really well
- Road 66: a risto-pub where meat is excellent and beer flows in rivers
- Tabisca: the Sicilian chopping board of Ian Franco and Danila
- La locanda del macellaio (The butcher’s inn): two butchers’ shops ready to satisfy your desire for meat
- Where to sleep in Lecce: useful tips to make your stay in the capital of Salento comfortable
- Hotel Patria: a short walk from the Basilica of Santa Croce
- Risorgimento Resort: in the heart of piazzetta Santa Chiara
- Suite Hotel Santa Chiara: quiet rooms with nightlife view
- Santa Marta suites and apartments: just a short walk from the centre, the heart of hospitality
- Hotel Aloisi: a comfortable 3 star hotel for your stay in Salento
- Logo Foodismo
How to get to Lecce: by train, by plane, by car
First of all, we remind you that we are in Apulia, in the heel of Italy, Lecce and Salento cover the most eastern territory of Italy.
We have made this little clarification because very often the city of Lecce is confused with “Lecce nei Marsi”, a charming town in the province of L’ Aquila, in Abruzzo.
Reaching Lecce and, of course, Salento is very easy. Follow our advice and you will not regret it.
By train: convenient to reach in the heart of Lecce
To reach the capital of Salento, you can take a train from any station.
Lecce Centrale awaits you with open arms. Once you arrive at the station, you can continue with the South East Railways trains to Otranto, Gallipoli, Maglie and other small towns in Salento.
By Airplane: Brindisi Papola Casale is the nearest airport
You can fly to Bari or Brindisi: we recommend the second one because it is closer to the beating heart of Salento. Once you have landed, you can take:
- a taxi, reach Brindisi station and take a train to Lecce;
- a provincial bus, next to the exit arrivals, and arrive at the entrance to Lecce at the height of the Grand Hotel Tiziano;
- a direct taxi to Lecce but we do not recommend it unless you want to spend a little more than 80 €;
- Rent a car directly at the airport with Hertz, Avis, Maggiore and enjoy the panorama and the comfortable provincial roads that connect Brindisi with Lecce and the rest of Salento, covering about 40 km.
By car only if you love to drive and if you are loaded with luggage for your long holiday in Salento
If you plan to come by car to Salento and stay in Lecce, we recommend these two routes:
- by car from north/central Italy: follow the A14 or A16 highway to Bari Nord, take the Brindisi-Lecce exit along the entire motorway. Arrived at the entrance to Lecce we do not recommend you take tangenziale if you do not know the correct output. Set the navigator for your destination and the game is done.
- by car from southern Italy (Calabria and Sicily): take the SS 16 to Taranto, arrived in the city, continue your march towards Brindisi along the SS 7. Continue towards Lecce and follow the directions as expressed above.
In GT Coach: comfortable if you want to miss a night or a whole day for the trip
By bus from all over Italy, you can easily reach Lecce. Don’t forget, however, that the journey is as long as Puglia is long.
We suggest different routes to travel by coach GT.
Here are the different companies: from Central Italy with the autolinee Traim or Marozzi; from the North of Italy with Autolinee Marino; from Sicily and Calabria with Autolinee Scoppio.
The Map of Lecce: getting lost among the beauties of the city has never been easier
We attach, for your convenience, the map of the city of Lecce, the capital of Salento.
Lecce’s coat of arms: a she-wolf and an holm oak, symbolic elements that gave the name to the capital of Salento
The city of Lecce is represented graphically by a she-wolf and an holm-oak, under a crown of five towers. These are the symbols that have given the name to the city that from Lupiae (Loupe) and Ilex (Leccio), has become Lecce.
Lecce: a bit of history, from the origins to recent times
The city of Lecce, the capital of Salento, boasts a fascinating and at the same time incredible history.
Mythological origins: Troy and Idomeneo, the founding father
It is said that even before the birth of Christ, during the splendor of Troy, there was Mallenius, then occupied and refounded by Idomeneo, who introduced her to uses, traditions and customs purely Greek.
Lecce and the Paleolithic: the demonstration of ancient origins
Beyond what we could today point out as pure fantasy, already in the Paleolithic period, Lecce was inhabited by rural settlements, as evidenced by the numerous finds found.
It speaks of the Iron Age (VI century BC), whose findings were found during the works of rebuilding water and electricity networks, as well as various Messapic necropolis.
The city of Lecce rises on Messapic settlements
The present city stands on a Messapian settlement of which have come to light many tombs and stretches of imposing walls. This is at least what has been found in Cavallino, a small town near Lecce.
It is believed to have been a small village, built as a suburb of Rudiae, home of Quinto Ennio I.
Roman epoch: Lupiae, so it was named Lecce
Towards the second century AD Lupiae, as Lecce was named, was first statio militum Roman, later becoming municipium and then colony.
During the Empire of Hadrian (117-138) the great Amphitheatre and the Theatre were built; in addition, the city was equipped with a connection to the Hadrian port, today’s S. Cataldo, one of the most popular Adriatic sea ports.
Lecce under Marco Aurelio, of Salento origins, achieved economic prosperity and a great extension of the building.
Conquered by Totila, except for a short period of Greek domination, the city of Lupiae remained under the control of the Eastern Roman Empire for about five centuries.
Under the Norman domination, Apulia and Lecce returned to live again.
Roberto il Guiscardo founded the County of Lecce, which in the Middle Ages became a true cradle of chivalric culture.
Tancredi, the natural son of Ruggero di Puglia and nephew of Roger II (1105-1154), was Count of Lecce and King of the two Sicily; he had the church of St. Nicholas and Cataldo built, an example of splendour throughout the Middle Ages in Southern Italy.
The Normans were succeeded by Swabians, Angevins, Brienne and Del Balzo Orsini.
In the fifteenth century, Lecce reached the peak of success in commercial activities and was the fulcrum of cultural richness that, in general, characterized the entire Salento.
Charles V and the Salento Renaissance
With Charles V, a new era began: the Salento Renaissance.
Lecce was equipped with a beautiful castle, a city walls, a large triumphal arch, now known as Porta Napoli because it was connected in line with the capital of the Kingdom.
Lecce Baroque and Spanish Age
In the Spanish age, Lecce became an artistic and cultural centre and, for its importance, it was behind only in Naples.
In this precise historical moment, the city of Lecce was embellished with monuments, magnificent palaces and splendid churches.
The Lecce Baroque was manifested as follows:”a harmonious celebration of chiaroscuro forms and games”[F. Congedo, 1996].
The urban furniture is embellished with beauty and richness in shapes. The main example is the Basilica of S. Croce, but also other monuments such as S. Maria della Grazie and S. Irene can be cited as examples of the Lecce Baroque, also known as “lil’ baroque”.
The 17th century was the period of maximum artistic expression: the apex was the rebuilding of Piazza Duomo and, despite anti-spanish disturbances, other churches were built, among which we remember S. Chiara, S. Angelo and S. Teresa, the Government Palace and, as mentioned earlier, Piazza Duomo, with its bell tower, the bishopric and the seminary, although built in different times, are equally harmonious.
Piazza S. Oronzo, which from 1592 was already home to the seat (or commonly called Sedile), is enriched with the famous column of St. Oronzo (rememorised in recent meme), whose construction began in 1660 by Giuseppe Zimbalo, a prominent exponenate of the Lecce baroque.
Lecce cradle of enlightenment: schools of mathematics and law arise
During the 18th century, Lecce participated in the Enlightenment culture with numerous schools of mathematics and law. After a very short period of Austrian domination in 1734, Lecce resisted the burgons and the Spanish restoration: the Salento nobility rose vigorously to power and imposed itself not without bloodshed.
Lecce, the Carbonari revolts and the unification of Italy
In 1821, Lecce participated in the Carbonari revolts, sending a small army of resistance to Austrian troops.
In 1848, a provisional government was formed and the first liberal party was formed, thus participating in the liberal movement of the South.
After the unification of Italy (March 17,1861), Lecce had a twenty years of splendour and development (between 1895 and 1915): numerous public works were developed and the city experienced the first urban expansion outside the walls.
In 1927 the Province of Lecce was detached from the Province of Taranto and Brindisi.
What to see in Lecce: the Lecce Baroque, so beautiful to take your breath away.
We have already talked about baroque in Italy, Puglia and Salento. However, we believe it is appropriate to digress, as far as possible, to speak to you specifically about the Baroque, that is, the Baroque of Lecce which has in its raw material, the stone from Lecce, and in its exponents, the masters Gabriele Riccardi, Giuseppe Zimbalo, Giuseppe Cino and Cesare Penna, the key elements of our narration.
Stone from Lecce: an unparalleled stone, sold worldwide
Salento is dotted with an incredible number of quarries in Lecce stone.
It is a limestone rock, which is extracted from the subsoil in special open-air quarries, spread throughout the inland Salento, mainly in the areas of Maglie, Cursi, Melpignano and Corigliano d’ Otranto.
The morphological characteristics of this limestone vary with the passage of time: in fact, the more time it spends, exposed to atmospheric agents, the harder the rock becomes. Moreover, the exposure to the air, once extracted, makes different the color of Lecce stone from white, changes to a hue of amber yellow.
Despite the fact that the weather makes it hard and resistant, the main characteristic of this stone is its workability: its clay core, makes it extremely moldable at the lathe and manually.
Widely used throughout the centuries, for the creation of dolmens and menhirs in prehistoric times, today this stone has become internationally famous because it is a raw material of Lecce Baroque.
The exponents of Salento Baroque: from Zimbalo to Penna, with chisel strokes
Several master architects contributed to the greatness of Salento’s baroque architecture.
Let’s see the main traits together.
Gabriele Riccardi: the forerunner of Salento and Lecce Baroque
Few sources are available to us. What we can say, however, is this: he was the most authoritative exponent of Salento baroque because he was the most eminent sculptor.
The only work dated and signed is in Otranto: the four stone columns of the ciborium for the relics of the SS Martyrs of Otranto, bearing the epigraphs of the artist.
Another work, taken as an example by artists of the time in some writings, is the crib in stone set up in the Cathedral of Lecce, still in situ but with another location.
The Riccardi was the author of other symbols and sacred statues: St. Nicholas in the church of St. Nicholas and Cataldo, St. Anthony of Padua and St. Rocco in the church of St. Joseph, and David who wrote the Psalms in the Provincial Museum.
Giuseppe Zimbalo: the most creative exponent of Lecce baroque
Born in 1620 and died almost a century later in 1710, he left his splendid and luxuriant artistic heritage to posterity.
Nicknamed in an affectionate way “zimbarieddhru” (lil gipsy, by Zimbarello, in order not to confuse him with his father and artist), together with Riccardi, elected as the “father” of Baroque in Salento, he was influenced by the mastery of Cesare Penna, a prominent exponent of the baroque of Maglie, author of important architectural works in Lecce and Salento. Let us remember among these:
- the construction of the Cathedral (he takes over from a project already begun) and the column on which stands the statue of St. Oronzo;
- the Church of St. John the Baptist or the Rosary;
- the Basilica of Santa Croce, together with Gabriele Riccardo;
- the entrance portal of the Palazzo dei Celestini, seat of the Province of Lecce
- the Church of St. Anna and the completion of the façade of St. Matthew;
- the church of the Dominicans, finished after his death.
His speech and his work, around Salento, in Gallipoli for the church of S. Agata, in Maglie for the bell tower of the Collegiate Church, in Melpignano for the church of Agostiniani, in Galatone for the facade of the church of Crocefisso and finally for the church of S. Teresa in Brindisi.
Giuseppe Cino: the artist of noble family
In addition to being a great architect and artist, he wrote “Memorie”, a collection of events that took place in Lecce between 1656 and 1719.
His most significant works were:
- the façade of Santa Chiara, in the square of the same name, today a meeting place for the nightlife of Lecce and Salento;
- the church of Alcantarine and the church of Carmine;
- the Celestini palace (success to Zimbalo) and the Seminary.
Cesare Penna: versatile artist of leccese stone
Cesare Penna is one of the greatest exponents of Salento baroque, in general, and Lecce baroque in particular.
His works are present in the wide and wide in Salento, up to Taranto province, to Martina Franca.
His most important masterpieces include:
- the church of St. Teresa in Lecce;
- the altars of S. Carlo Borromeo and S. Andrea Apostolo, in the Cathedral of Lecce;
- two altars in the basilica of S. Croce
- the entrance portal of the church of Our Lady of Graces at Jerseys;
- The Christ of the Column, a wooden statue in the church of S. Francesco di Paola, Martina Franca.
What to see in Lecce: the gates of the city
To enter the heart of the historic centre of Lecce, the capital of Salento, you have to pass through three gates: Porta Rudiae (or Porta Rusce), Porta Napoli, Porta San Biagio, Porta San Martino.
Let us know them together.
Porta Napoli: a triumphal arch for Charles V
Isolated from the rest of Lecce’s walls, Porta Napoli, or the gate of S. Giusto, was erected in 1548, designed by Giangiacomo dell’ Acaya, as indicated on the architrave.
This door, or rather a real arch of triumph, was erected in honor of Charles V, it is called the Naples gate because it was oriented towards the capital of the kingdom.
Monumental, beautiful, it is built following splendid architectural canons: a large triangular tympanum, supported by two columns per side. The capitals of the columns are composite.
In the frame, there is a rich symbolism: a two-headed eagle, symbol of the power of the Austro-Hungarian empire and, at the bottom, a colonnade with the emblematic cannons of the Spanish empire at the top.
Porta San Biagio: the last of the doors of the city walls
Built in 1700, the door is dedicated to Saint Blaise, an Armenian bishop venerated by both the Catholic and Orthodox people, who died tortured and beheaded by the Romans. He refused to deny his faith and, after a long period of imprisonment, was tortured with blood.
The statue of the saint, accompanied by friezes, dominates the entrance into the walls. Above the arch there are two coats of arms: one of Lecce and the other is the coat of arms of Ferdinand IV of Bourbon.
Porta Rusce or Porta Rudiae (as well as is known today)
This door rises on the oldest part of Lecce’s walls.
Its southwest direction indicates that this was the gate from which you passed to reach the destroyed city of Rudiae.
The saint to whom it is dedicated is Oronzo, the patron saint of the city. On its sides S. Irene and S. Domenico, co-protectors of the city of Lecce. Perhaps, perhaps, you are not sure of this, this imposing door was built on the design of Giuseppe Cino.
Porta S. Martino: it no longer exists but is worthy of mention
From the numerous documents of the past, it has come to light about the existence of a fourth door of the city of Lecce: Porta San Martino.
This gate indicated the road to the San Cataldo marinas in Lecce and to the farms.
Lecce will leave you breathless, for the beauty of its palaces and churches.
For your convenience, we suggest these itineraries, designed by our professional guides, linked to the entrance doors through which you will pass.
Aheading through Porta Napoli: unique experience
Passing through Porta Napoli, we recommend you to admire carefully:
- the church of Santa Maria della Provvidenza (or the church of Alcantarine);
- the church of Carmine;
- the Provincial Museum Sigismondo Castromediano.
Church of St. Mary of Providence or church of the Alcantarine: simply unique
Along Via Principe di Savoia, the profile of S. Maria della Provvidenza rises: a beautiful baroque church.
The entrance portal is elegant, not excessive, linear. Truly beautiful.
On the elevation 4 niches of saints in the first order, in the second order two more knuckles and, a classic tympanum, in the third order.
Single nave plan with three small altars per side, really essential.
Pay attention to the exuberance of the holy water fonts: their lush style stands out from the formal minimalism of the side altars.
Inside you can admire interesting eighteenth-century paintings.
The Church of Carmine: the beautiful scaled dome and the luxuriant interiors with a “human foot” plan.
From the tree-lined avenue of the station, you can easily see the beautiful dome of the church of Carmine, which is scaled in white and green.
The architect of this church was the master Giuseppe Cino, to whom Mauro Manieri took over.
The façade has three orders: in the first, the Saints Carmelites (S. Angelo and S. Alberto) and the prophets (Elia and Eliseo); in the second, the imposing window is flanked by S. Teresa d’ Avila and Maddalena dei Pazzi; the third order, through lines and geometric shapes, is the summation of the other two.
The plan of the interior is not a Latin cross but a central plan that, according to biblical masonry traditions, reproduces the silhouette of the human foot.
Provincial Museum “Sigismondo di Castromediano”: named after the Duke, in the former College Argento of Jesuits
The Collegio Argento, bought by the Province in the’ 60s, is today a provincial museum that, over the years, has become a real “collector” of unique pieces of great value and historical interest.
The Sigismondo Castromediano Museum has several thematic areas:
- Didactic area: a Salento model tells of its evolution over the centuries, through very specific colour codes, representative of certain historical moments, and information panels
- Antiquarium: VI, V Century B. C., Messapi, Indigenous ceramics, terracotta pots, works in bronze and Greek coins. In a nutshell, the beginnings of Salento’s history
- Topography: topographic documents are collected with the relevant archaeological stages of Salento. The material is well organized and arranged according to the places of origin of each excavation.
- Pinacoteca: in two rooms are collected centuries of art and history. Paintings, paintings, canvases, plates and artefacts in Murano glass
- Sale exhibitions room: large premises that house mosques of Salento artists lived between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Passing from Porta San Biagio: exceptional monuments in the heart of movida
The itinerary we offer you is incredible, a concentration of beauty.
Obviously, for reasons of synthesis, we will not describe in detail all the monuments, squares and churches that will find ample narration in our blog.
Here are our suggestions to you:
- the church of St. Matthew;
- the church of St.Chiara;
- Must, the contemporary history museum;
- Roman theatre;
- the castle of Charles V
- the Church of Jesus;
- the Holy Cross Basilica;
- Palazzo dei Celestini;
- the Greek church
- the church of St. Angel
- the church of St. John the Evangelist;
- The church of S. Maria degli Angeli
The church of Saint Matteo welcomes you in the nightlife of Lecce
The church of San Matteo in Lecce is the result of the skilful hands of the architect Salò Giovanni Andrea Larducci, and has a splendid, linear façade. Concave top, convex bottom. In the first order you will observe the grandeur of the Franciscan coat of arms while in the second order a great triphor.
This church was completed by the Zimbalo, upon the death of the Larducci brothers.
The plant is elliptical, its interior bright. On the sides, rich baroque altars, attributed to the school of Giuseppe Cino.
On the main altar stands the statue of San Matteo, by Gaetano Patalano da Napoli, from the end of 1600.
The church of S. Chiara, in the heart of Lecce and Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II
The church of Santa Chiara is one of the most beautiful monuments of Lecce’s Baroque of the 17th century.
A small staircase ramp separates the road from the entrance portal, beautiful and imposing.
The project, probably ascribed to the architect of Salò, Larducci, was originally thought to be the work of Giuseppe Cino.
Outside, two orders that enliven the façade: four niches in the lower order, two in the upper one, all without statues.
A single octagonal nave inside, with four golden altars attributed to the Cino. Six chapels, three on each side, the main altar is dedicated to Saint Chaira.
Prticolarity: above the arches of each chapel, there are trellises through which the cloistered nuns could listen to Holy Mass.
The MUST: the contemporary history museum
In the former monastery of Santa Chiara, today there is the Museum of Contemporary History (MUST).
A museum and location for exclusive events, the Must is a beautiful and interesting museum that we recommend you visit.
Obviously, to know what are the current exhibitions, we suggest you to visit their Internet site.
The former convent underwent massive renovation and restoration work. Of the 29 cells of the cloistered nuns, there is no shadow.
Today, on the first floor of the historical museum in Lecce, you can admire finds and testimonies from various periods of Lecce’s history, from the Messapic and Roman ages to the sixteenth and twentieth centuries. On the ground floor, however, all that is contemporary history and temporary exhibitions.
Roman theatre: discovered in 1929
Immediately after St. Clare and the Must, you will find the Roman theatre, discovered in 1929 during excavations.
With great probability of Augustan age, it has a cavea of 19 meters in diameter, divided into 6 sections. The statues found, dating back to the age of Antonini, have been transferred almost all of them to the Provincial Museum, while some of them have been left in their place of origin.
The castle of Charles V: imposing and Aragonese
Leaving Piazza S. Oronzo behind you and heading towards Viale XXV luglio, the imposing walls of the castle and its towers will stand out in your eyes.
Built on the orders of Charles V in 1537, it was built around the ancient castle built by the Count of Lecce Riccardo Normanno.
Charles V isolated the castle with a large moat and had two entrances created: one on the square where you can now see the post offices and the other on Charles V square.
Beautiful and imposing, a small fortress. We recommend you visit it.
Chiesa del Gesù: dedicated to Our Lady of Good Council
Built in 1574, it is one of the obvious examples of the union between Lecce Baroque and Catholic Counter-Reformation.
On the entrance portal, the coat of arms of the Society of Jesus stands out in beautiful view.
The plan is a Latin cross and its interior is really bright: four chapels and a spectacular high altar for the artistic beauty expressed by Giuseppe Cino; with great probability the artist realized the projects of Andrea Pozzo, the artist of the company of Jesus, to whom the church belonged.
The basilica of Santa Croce, the triumph of Lecce baroque
When one imagines the Lecce baroque, the first thought is dedicated to the basilica of Santa Croce. In fact, together with Palazzo dei Celestini, we are talking about the true triumph of Baroque in Salento.
Recently, and for a long time, the facade of the church has been gagged by scaffolding and roofing, because the church is about to be restored to new splendour with the work of cleaning the facade and restoring the church.
In a traffic-free area, not far from the Patria Hotel, this beautiful basilica is an explosion of baroque ornaments and fine baroque decorations that are incredibly fascinating.
The construction of this Baroque masterpiece in Salento has been carried out during several phases. According to some historians, the first phase of construction that involved the facade (which was completed between 1549 and 1582) and the dome (which was completed and “donated” to the view of the citizens in 1590) was the work of Gabriele Riccardi; in the second phase the entrance portals (from 1606) were completed and decorated by Zimbalo; in the third and final phase, the completion of the basilica saw works by Cesare P.
The interior has a Latin cross divided into five naves, two of which were incorporated into the side chapels in 1700.
Along the aisles, there are beautiful altars. Small curious note: the current high altar of the basilica, comes from the church of St. Nicholas and Cataldo; it was transferred from that church to the basilica of S. Croce during the Eucharistic Congress in 1956.
Palazzo dei Celestini: in the past convent and basilica of Santa Croce were a unique body
To the left of the Basilica of Santa Croce is the Palazzo dei Celestini, the former convent of the celestine fathers, by Riccarci.
The façade of the lower floor (dated 1659) is the work of the architect Giuseppe Zimbalo from Lecce, while the upper façade is the work of Giuseppe Cino (born in 1695).
The atrium of the palace is splendid: 24 arches supported by 48 columns.
As always Lecce amazes also for the esoteric meaning of his architectural works: in the 21 capitals have been imprinted with shirts and chisels of letters with a dark meaning.
Currently the palace houses offices of the Prefecture and the Province.
The Greek church dates back to the 18th century and was built on drawings by Francesco Palma, Lazzaro Lombardo Vincenzo Carrozzo, Lazzaro Marsione.
The Christian community of the Byzantine Greek rite gathered here and still meets. Truly tiny, slim and linear outside. We recommend you visit it inside because there are numerous paintings on board with Greek inscriptions.
The church of S. Angelo, also known as Santa Maria di Costantinopoli
The seventeenth-century church and Marian sanctuary, its facade is the work of Giuseppe Zimbalo, luxuriant and pompous, and the entrance door to the church is a triumph of bronze foils, all in relief, at the center of which stands a large eagle, the pivotal symbol of the Augustinian order, to which the church belonged.
The entrance door is perhaps a unique example of beauty in Apulia and Salento: it was built in 1750 by Emanuele Manieri, the master craftsman Michele Pinto and the brothers Leonardo and Celestino Murra.
The interior is a Latin cross, with only one nave and 4 chapels per side.
We suggest you to dwell on the canvases of the side chapels: they are real artistic masterpieces.
The church of St. John the Evangelist;
Its elevation is austere and simple: passing through the entrance to the gate leads to the church and monastery. The statue of St. Benedict and the tower of the bell tower stand out above.
If the exterior is linear and austere, almost minimalist, the interior is sumptuous. Baroque.
The wooden ceiling houses the canvases, the flooring is tiled.
On the main altar there is a statue of St. John the Evangelist, attributed, with many questions, to the Neapolitan sculptor Nicola Fumo.
The cloistered convent is perhaps the only one that has not been suppressed and, within it, it preserves a unique cultural heritage: books and documents from past centuries.
A curiosity linked to taste and food is this: the Lecce cloistered nuns are famous for their almond pastry cakes, prepared according to an ancient tradition.
The waiting lists for one are really very long.
The church of S. Maria degli Angeli
Masterpiece of the 16th century, this church has been renovated in several stages and enriched with a statue of St. Michael the Archangel, placed on top of the façade.
On the entrance portal, finely decorated, is proposed the coronation of the Virgin and Child by the angels.
The interior has three naves, and in the 18th century the floor was rebuilt, the walls and columns were plastered and other altars added. The different canvases inside will leave you open-mouthed.
Passing through Porta Rudiae: stop under the column of S. Oronzo, in the homonymous square.
This is the third suggestion to visit Lecce and admire the Lecce Baroque.
Following this small path, get ready to look at the monuments with the nose up there, the Saint Patron of the city awaits you.
You will have the opportunity to see the following monuments:
- Church of St. John the Baptist (or the Rosary);
- Church of St. Anne
- Church of S. Teresa
- Piazza del Duomo, the Duomo and the bell tower
- The Church of Saint Irene (or the Theatines)
- Column of St. Oronzo
- Chapel of St. Mark
- Roman Amphitheatre
- St. Marry of the Sorrow
The Church of St. John the Baptist (or the Rosary): last work of Zimbalo
This church, commonly called the Rosary Church, is the last work of Zimbalo. In this work, the father of the Lecce Baroque, participated in its construction not only with oestrus and creativity, but also financially.
This masterpiece, represents the maturity of the artist and you can easily recognize his hand through the architectural rigor followed during the construction of this magnificent church.
Brochure divided into two orders, with at the base two statues placed on high pedestals, these represent the prophetic visions of Ezekiel.
In the centre, the statue of St. Dominic of Guzman stands out on the portal.
A finely decorated balustrade separates the first from the second order, in the centre of which is a statue of the Virgin Mary. On either side of the statue, a triumph of flowers and statues of other saints. To complete the whole, the large tympanum.
The plan is a Greek cross with altars finely decorated along the perimeter.
Small curiosities about the church. The roof is made of wooden trusses. Initially there was to be a dome, then, with the death of Zimbalo during construction, it was decided to opt for this type of cover.
Inside the church you will find a pulpit in Lecce stone. This is a particularity of this church, not to be found in all the other Baroque churches of Salento.
The church of St. Anne
Also in Via Libertini, a few steps from Porta Rudiae, is the church of St. Anne.
Two orders for its magnificent facade: the first houses the portal and the window while the second houses two niches of saints framed by smooth and smooth pilasters.
Before the triangular gable, a beautiful frieze of garlands.
Inside, you will find a single nave, with four short chapels housing eighteenth-century paintings.
The ceiling is wooden and, on the high altar, the epigraphs of the people who wanted this church: Teresa Paladini and Bernardino Verardi.
The Church of Saint Teresa
Also in Via Libertini, in this small piece of land, is the church of Santa Teresa.
Its prospectus is incomplete. The facade has two orders.
The interior has a single nave with a small transept.
Interesting are the paintings of the 16th century of the Dormitio and the Coronation of the Virgin, positioned in the altar of the Crucifix.
The church was begun by Cersare Penna in 1620 and was continued by Giuseppe Zimbalo, who signed the altar of St. Teresa.
The Cathedral of Lecce, the Bell Tower and the Seminary in pills
The Cathedral of Lecce, the Bell Tower and the Seminary in pills
To talk about one of the most beautiful “closed” squares in Italy, an entire portal of experiential tours in Salento would not be enough. We give you some tips to better orient yourself during the visit in this precise area of Lecce.
Along Corso Vittorio Emanuele opens a masterpiece scenario on the courtyard of the Bishopric, where you will find the Cathedral of Lecce, the Bell Tower and the Seminary.
Years ago, in this precise place, a commercial was shot for a famous Italian pasta.
The Duomo: rebuilt in several stages and completed by Giuseppe Zimbalo
The cathedral was built for the first time in 1144, at the behest of Bishop Formoso. Subsequently, in 1230 it was entirely rebuilt by Bishop Volturio and, between 1659 and 1671, Giuseppe Zimbalo, together with the adjacent bell tower, handed it over to the view of the Salento, on the order of Bishop Pappacoda.
The façade has statues of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Saint Gennaro and Saint Louis of Toulouse.
On the side elevation is the statue of St. Oronzo, the protector of the city, this part of the elevation is very rich in Baroque ornaments and there are two small niches with the SS. Giusto and Fortunato, co-patronages of Lecce. This stylistic characteristic was strongly desired by Zimbalo because, who entered the square, had to see immediately the SS. Patroni of the capital city of Salento.
The interior is a Latin cross, with naves marked by columns leaning against each other. The nave and transept have a wooden ceiling with golden gaps. Here are assembled several canvases, attributed to Joseph from Brindisi.
At the back of the high altar there are paintings by Giuseppe Tiso, a great artist from Salento.
Then, as in all the other churches in Salento, there is the wooden pulpit made by Emanuele Manieri. For a more detailed description, please refer to the article on the Duomo, which is found below.
Next to the church, on the right side of the square, is the seminary.
It was begun in 1694 by Giuseppe Cino, developing an idea that had previously had G. Zimbalo for the facade of the convent of Celestini.
This architectural work, which was inaugurated in 1709, was defined as “the eighth wonder of the world”.
Inside, you can admire the beautiful well, by G. Cino, now a destination for many visitors.
The bell tower
Almost 70 metres high, it stands out imposingly and majestically on the square. Seeing it lit up at night, together with the square, makes this context romantic, welcoming.
The bell tower is rich in terraces, balustrades and decorations. Rebuilt between 1661 and 1682 by G. Zimbalo, it is one of the largest and tallest bell towers in Europe.
The Church of Saint Irene (or the Theatines)
Exactly in front of Piazza S. Oronzo, there is the church of Santa Irene (or the Theatines), realized on a design by Francesco Grimaldi.
It looks very rich and sumptuous because St. Irene was venerated as the patron saint of the city, before the devotion passed to St. Oronzo in 1656.
The façade, divided into two orders, features the city’s coat of arms in a central position.
Perfectly aligned with the columns and the balance of the portal, the statue of the saint, by Manieri (1717).
In the lower order, we have five spaces containing empty niches. The upper one, divided into three, is completed by a triangular frontispiece, interspersed with pillars on which you can see small candelabra.
The Latin inscription “Irene Virgini et Martiri” is very beautiful.
Entering the interior, you can immediately realize that you are inside a church with a Latin cross plan, a single nave, with three chapels deep on each side. Each chapel and each altar is dedicated to a specific saint.
The altar, of 1651, was wanted by the bishop of Otranto, So, who was a theatine also him.
The high altar, dedicated to the Cross, has in the background a masterpiece by Oronzo Tiso: “The transport of the Holy Ark”.
Inside, you will find sculptures and works of high historical value.
The Column of St. Oronzo: the most loved saint in the city of Lecce
The column, about 30 meters high, elevates the saints who, in the statue dedicated to him, is intent on blessing with his right hand.
The column is the work of G. Zimbalo was built from 1660 and completed in 1686, as thanks for the escape of the plague that had decimated the whole Kingdom.
The Chapel of San Marco: built by the Venetian colony
In Piazza S. Oronzo, next to the Sedile, there is the chapel of San Marco.
Strongly desired by a Venetian colony and attributed to Ricciardi, the church is presented as sober and elegant and represents the good relations between the Venetian Republic and the Lecce people.
On the front portal the lion and a small rose window, while on the side portal, you can admire more refined motifs, the result of Renaissance decorations.
Today it is deconsecrated because it is the seat of the National Association of Fighters and Reducians.
Roman amphitheatre: today also open to concerts and open-air theatre festivals
In Piazza S. Oronzo you can see the remains of this beautiful Roman amphitheatre. Access is only possible from the small square in front of the National Insurance Institute.
On the upper part, a stele raised in memory of Quinto Ennio with bronze friezes, in Trani stone. This is because it is said that Quinto Ennio was born in Rudiae, an ancient city near Lecce.
The amphitheatre dates back to the second century AD and was brought to light with the works of 1901 on the insistence and personal commitment of Cosimo De Giorgi.
Il sedile (The Seat)
A two-storey building, a cube, consisting of four pillars: the lower floor with ogival arches, the upper floor consisting of three arches per side.
It was built on the site of the ancient seat between 1580 and 1592: here the Mayor was entertained to give dispositions to those who administered the justice of the city.
The church of Santa Maria della Grazie
In the area in front of the amphitheatre, stands the prospect of S. Maria della Grazie.
Prospect, as the baroque of Lecce wants, two orders, with a beautiful entrance portal with four niches at the sides: those at the bottom with statues of saints, those at the top, empty.
The plant is a Latin cross. We recommend you admire the beautiful Lignean Crucifix made by master sculptor Vespasiano Genuino.
Lecce, baroque city and seaside town: the Lecce marinas a stone’s throw from the capital of Salento
Lecce, besides being a beautiful city because of the baroque Lecce, is also a seaside resort.
There are five marinas in Lecce, a few kilometres from the city. They are:
- San Cataldo, with its lighthouse and its port;
- Torre Chianca;
- Torre Rinalda.
San Cataldo: Emperor Hadrian had his important port built here
Known as the “sea of the Lecce people” with its marina that can contain 200 boats and a lighthouse.
Hadrian in the second century AD built the port that became the center of maritime exchange, a port that was then, centuries later, destroyed by the evil Ottomans, when they invaded Otranto and Salento.
Between the port and Lecce, the beautiful Nature Reserve Le Cesine.
Fine sandy beach and sandy coast, wide beaches, we are 15 k from Lecce and the water is crystal clear.
During the first ten days of July we recommend you to visit Frigole because it is famous for the Fish Festival.
The name is a whole program: the water is very clean and the beaches are wide. Located between Torre Chianca and Torre Rinalda, this marina is famous for the Regional Natural Park, Woods and Swamps of Rauccio.
It takes its name from the watchtower built by the Spanish to defend the territory from Saracen raids, today ruined, Torre Chianca is also famous for the islet The Rock (Lu squeju in Lecce dialect) and, not far from the shore, at a depth of about ten meters, you can see the fantastic Roman remains: a series of marble columns dating from the 2nd century a.C.
In addition, of particular naturalistic interest, the two natural water basins Idume and Fetida.
Named after a Spanish watchtower to counter Ottoman pirate attacks, the marina of Torre Rinalda is located about 15 km from Lecce.
The water is green and crystal clear and the sand is very fine.
During the recent local elections that saw Salvemini elected as the new mayor of Lecce, the various political groups presented programmes for the requalification of the Lecce marinas. We hope that politics will move in this direction for the promotion of the territory because the places we have just spoken about deserve to be seen and experienced.
Where to eat in Lecce: Restaurants, Street Food, Breweries & Bistros
In Lecce you eat really well. We give you a couple of tips for spending your evening, romantic or with friends, in the best restaurants in town.
Bros: a team of young chefs in the international limelight, with local cuisine
We are in the heart of Lecce nightlife, a few steps from Piazza S. Oronzo, where you can find Bros restaurant
Raw materials are fundamental and the earth (the territory) must be the main protagonist. This is the summa synthesis of Bros. cuisine.
Once they were in three brothers, today Floriano Pellegrino (born 1990) and his companion, Isabella Potì (born 1995), lead a young brigade of cooks.
Great satisfaction and numerous awards at national and international level.
The dishes on offer are innovative: respect for raw materials, love for the territory, discovery of new ways to explore. Every day.
We recommend booking because there are very few places to stay.
If you’re curious, take a look at our story and video telling “It’s a family business“.
Alex Restaurant: Alessandra Civilla, the landlady chef
Spectacular location because we are immersed in greenery in the heart of Lecce, near Porta Napoli.
In the kitchen Alessandra Civilla, a real guarantee. The menu includes ingredients from the sea and land, fresh: vegetables with organic farming and fresh fish, as if it were just caught.
We recommend a tasting of raw and an excellent first of the sea, to be matched with a white served at the right temperature.
If there is a pinch of indecision, follow the advice of the room staff.
The tower of Merlin: an institution in Lecce, a few steps from piazzetta Santa Chiara
Antonio Torre is the patron of this beautiful restaurant: welcoming in winter, amazing in summer with a few tables outside.
All very good, the dishes are finely balanced and presented.
The staff is very courteous. We recommend booking because it is a very well frequented restaurant.
PS: we forgot to tell you that you can order gourmet Neapolitan pizzas.
La vecchia osteria da Toto: the kitchen of the past, the kitchen of grandmother
A man is cooking, Toto, a chef who is really very nice.
A welcoming, familiar place, rich starters, exceptional first and second courses. Without spending a fortune, you will have the opportunity to taste and taste all the recipes of Salento’s past. Without compromise.
If in doubt, ask the friendly and prepared staff to advise you.
The ancient Toto tavern is located near Naples gate, in the heart of the old Lecce.
La negra tomasa: cosy restaurant, where you can eat really well
Giovanni Casalino and his close-knit staff are ready to welcome you with a smile.
Large interior spaces, Spartan decor but really good food. From pizzas to meat is everything really delicious. You can easily order anything on the menu because it is really great to eat. Butcher’s corner to visit absolutely because the meat offered are of the highest quality: from Chianina to bowler, you will lick the mustache.
Road 66: a risto-pub where meat is excellent and beer flows in rivers
The Road is now an institution in Lecce. A very welcoming place, the staff knows how to make you feel at home. American pub-style decor and, during the week, the bands perform spectacular liveshows. We recommend meat, from soft t-bone steak to asado de beef, through to delicious burgers. If you like music and good company, this is the right place for you.
Tabisca: the Sicilian chopping board of Ian Franco and Danila
Tabisca is the new concept for the Lecce restaurant industry, skilfully managed by gourmand Ian Franco Pier Paolo Bauzulli and Danila Do. Well furnished, each table and chair is part of a correct architectural project. The seats and tables are high, the food very good.
We recommend a tabisca of cold cuts, delicious bruschetta or a bean of beef. Water everything with some excellent wine. The Tabisca cellar is very well stocked.
If you are curious to know the place before you go there, you can safely see our storytellyng by clicking here
A butcher’s counter is ready to welcome you at the entrance: very well stocked, the best meats are in view to be chosen by you and weighed by the butcher at the time.
Once the order has been placed, the meat will be weighed and will go straight on the grill or into the pan. This depends on your taste.
You can choose between the classic bowler with the Martina Franca capocollo or the revisited bowler, passing by the meat strips with or without breading, the fillet and the medallion of beef, the black angus or the horse meat. All very good for those who are carnivorous. Not recommended for vegans and vegetarians.
Where to sleep in Lecce: useful tips to make your stay in the capital of Salento comfortable
There are several luxury hotels and all-pocket hotels, countless charming bed & breakfasts in old palaces and room rentals. In Lecce, the accommodation offer is really of quality.
Hotel Patria: a short walk from the Basilica of Santa Croce
67 rooms, in the heart of the historic center of Lecce, the south Florence for the Lecce Baroque.
A 5 star luxury, exclusive, a charming structure in an incredibly unique location.
You are just a short walk from Palazzo dei Celestini and the Basilica of Santa Croce and you can admire its magnificent rose window, having breakfast on the terrace. A terrace with baroque views.
An eighteenth-century building dedicated to the cult of hospitality. From room service to airport shuttle service, passing through the gourmet restaurant inside the hotel. Nothing is left to chance. Try to think about it!
Risorgimento Resort: in the heart of piazzetta Santa Chiara
Between piazzetta Santa Chiara and piazza S. Oronzo, Risorgimento Resort is ready to satisfy your desire for holiday, business, relaxation.
Two gourmet restaurants, one on the roof garden, the other on the ground floor, modern but not obvious furniture, large terraces for some of the rooms proposed, such as suites.
The Spa is the flagship of the structure. You can relax at the end of the evening to be able to start off again the next day with your day at sea or for business.
Suite Hotel Santa Chiara: quiet rooms with nightlife view
This suite hotel is a charming property. 21 apartments, 4 stars. Unmatched comfort.
A roof garden that opens onto the baroque Lecce.
In a nutshell: highly recommended.
Santa Marta suites and apartments: just a short walk from the centre, the heart of hospitality
A small luxury gem, in the heart of Lecce. An ancient palace, refurbished, elegant in its simplicity and welcoming for hospitality. The staff is courteous, the accommodation has different types of hospitality and breakfast incredibly good.
From grandmother’s cakes to pastries! Everything is strictly done to the highest standards.
We recommend booking in good time if you do not want to give up your comfort even on holiday.
Hotel Aloisi: a comfortable 3 star hotel for your stay in Salento
Hotel Aloisi, in a road junction position for those arriving from afar, is comfortable and really quiet. Comfortable for those who do not want to spend much and have the opportunity to visit the entire Salento, without being bottled in traffic. A short walk from the hotel, which is 20 minutes walk from Naples gate, there are the most important roads that connect Lecce with the rest of Salento: 20 minutes drive from Gallipoli, a quarter of an hour from Maglie and Galatina, 30 minutes from Otranto.
This hotel is recommended for those visiting Salento for a long holiday with family or a group of friends.
We suggest you to take these virtual routes on our website, real by buying an experiential tour of Salento on Lecce. All our experiences combine the flavours of the table with the knowledge of the land that will host you.
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