Lecce: What to Do?
When you think of Italy, you might think of Rome, Florence, Venice or Milan. Whichever cities comes to mind, chances are it is not Lecce. However, Lecce is well worth a visit!
Located in the Puglia region of Italy, Lecce is one of several Pugliese provinces found on the Salento Peninsula, the “heel of Italy”. Due to the abundance of baroque architecture in the city, Lecce is known as the “Florence of the South”. It is also bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the east and the Ionian Sea on the west (Did someone say beach?!) and has a lot to offer visitors.
To get to Lecce, you can fly into the Brindisi or Bari airports followed by a 30-minute or 2-hour bus ride respectively to the city centre. If travelling from within Italy, the train and bus are other options.
Read about the three weeks I spent living there and if you do choose to visit Lecce, here are some things you could do:
- take a walking tour of the city or just walk around and admire the city’s baroque architecture
- enjoy gelato while people-watching and admiring the column of Sant’Oronzo in Piazza Sant’Oronzo
- visit the Piazza del Duomo and Lecce Cathedral. When I was there, a wedding ceremony was taking place in the cathedral so who knows 😉
- watch a show in the Roman Amphitheatre
- visit the Basilica di Santa Croce and admire its beautiful facade
- relax in the public gardens near Basilica di Santa Croce
- ensure to try pasticciotto, a cream-filled dessert from Lecce and taralli, which are like breadsticks but better. There are sweet and savory taralli so try both. You should also try their caffe in ghiaccio.
- enjoy a midnight crepe from one of the many crepe kiosks around the city
- if staying in a building with a (rooftop) terrace, enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine or meal
If you have more time here are some good day trips from the city of Lecce:
- Grotte di Castellana, Ostuni and Alberobello:
Grotte di Castellana is an underground cave system in Bari. It is breathtaking but ensure to bring a sweater because it can be chilly. Alberobello is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its conical-roofed houses known as trulli while Ostuni is popular for its whitewashed houses. For this trip, we left Lecce at about 9am and returned by approximately 8pm.
- Otranto is a port town about 1 hour away from the city of Lecce but still in the province of Lecce. It has great seafood and beaches. Be sure to check out Castello Aragonese. This was actually a shorter trip from 3pm to 10pm.
- I Sassi di Matera and Castel del Monte:
I Sassi di Matera is another UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for ancient cave dwellings. It is located in Basilicata, the region north of Puglia and about 2 hours away. You definitely need to stay hydrated during this trip, especially if you go on a really sunny day. Castel del Monte is a castle situated on a hill in the Puglia region. What makes this castle special is its octagonal shape with eight octagonal towers. Be careful not to get lost/confused while exploring the inside 😉 This trip lasted about 12 hours.
- Porto Selvaggio or the Wild Harbour provides a quick hike through a park with a beach as your reward. However, if going I suggest water shoes because one of my friends had an encounter with sea urchins. This was also a shorter trip from 2pm to 9pm.
- A boat ride to explore the sea grottoes of Leuca at the tip of the Salento Peninsula. This is likely the most expensive trip on this list but if you can, it’s a perfect opportunity to pull out the Go Pro (or other waterproof camera) and explore some caves. You might also be able to swim in both the Adriatic and Ionian Seas on the same day!
- Others suggestions: Galliopi, Porto Cesario, Torre dell’Orso
Have fun! Lecce was a great 3 weeks of my life and I’m excited for others to visit!
Disclaimer: Most of my trips while in Lecce were organized by my programme there so transportation was by chartered buses and I don’t know costs.