18 Things to Do in Lecce: Hidden Temples & Baroque Buildings

A city square with a tower in the background.

Ready to visit hidden temples, uncover mysteries, and admire the gorgeous architecture? Then hop on and check out this carefully curated guide that has some best things to do in Lecce, plus a bunch of useful information on where to stay in Lecce, how to get there, and which tours to take!

I recently came back from a trip there, and I’m more than ready to share all my travel tips with you! So let’s start already!

Quick Picks for Your Stay

Don’t worry if you can’t read the whole post. I’ve listed the main things to book in advance when visiting Lecce: 

And here are the best hotels: Pollicastro Boutique Hotel (luxury), Arryvo Hotel (mid-range), Palazzo Porcari (budget)

1. Marvel at Basilica di Santa Croce’s facade

An ornate building with a cloudy sky.

By far one of my favorite places in Puglia! I could’ve spent hours admiring this Baroque jewel set near Palazzo dei Celestini, the current location of the local government.

Apparently, it took almost 2 centuries for the Basilica di Santa Croce to be built. I’m not surprised since there are so many small intricate details, different symbols, and mythical creatures on its facade!

Once you arrive here, make sure you spend a few minutes or even more admiring all the sculptures, the bell tower and just looking at the entire building. It’s such a work of art!

Then you can head inside where you’ll probably remain even more in awe of the gorgeous columns that create such an incredible atmosphere (I got the chills when I was here)!

I love how every church in Italy has different altars, and they’re all so beautifully embellished with flowers and candles! Here, at the Santa Croce Basilica, there are 17 chapels, each so unique and special!

Finally, as you make your way to the next attraction, take a final look at the wooden ceiling of the basilica, which is dotted with golden points.

PRICE: €8 per person

2. Learn more about this historic city on a walking tour

the ruins of a roman city under a blue sky

Lecce has such a rich history that it’s hard to keep up with everything that has happened here, even for very informed connoisseurs!

If you want to dive into local legends, I recommend joining a guided tour of the city! I found this really amazing tour on GetYourGuide, which lasts around 2h and costs €45 (US$49).

During the tour, you’ll get to explore the Baroque architecture in the historic center, visit places like the Roman Amphitheater and Sant’Oronzo Square, and even watch the papier-mâché artisans in their workshop and learn all about this art! Walk along the city’s Baroque buildings

Your super-informed tour guide will tell you all about the city’s Baroque style in the Centro Storico (the historic center), while you walk along the city’s Baroque buildings, the story of some of the beautiful historical buildings, and lots of other cool facts about Lecce!

TOUR PRICE: from €45 per person

Join a walking tour of Lecce

3. Wander through Piazza del Duomo

people walking in a square in a city

Although small, this charming square is perfect for a quick espresso and a pasticciotto, Puglia’s traditional dessert!

One of my favorite activities, wherever I go, is to grab a bite to go and enjoy it somewhere on the stairs of a church or monument while I just enjoy the views and watch people go about their day!

I definitely recommend getting your stash of sweets and drinks from Caffe Alvino! This place is absolutely packed with delicious desserts, savory ones, and so many yummy things that you won’t even know where to start.

Once you reach Piazza del Duomo, which is home to the Cattedrale Maria Santissima Assunta (also known as the Lecce Cathedral), the Seminary Museum, and some palazzos, you can rest on the cathedral’s stairs while enjoying your yummy treat!

4. Enjoy the silence at Cattedrale Maria Santissima Assunta

A church with a tower in the middle of a square.

While Basilica di Santa Croce is pretty spectacular, the atmosphere in the cathedral felt a bit more special (for me, at least).

Enjoy a moment before you head in to admire its gorgeous Baroque style and intricate sculptures! Once in, you can spend so much time admiring all the altars, the columns, and the artwork! There are so many gorgeous paintings in every corner and in true Italian style, also on the ceiling!

Check the other facade of the cathedral when you’re here! So the one you’ll first see when you enter the Piazza is the main one, and then as you stand in the front, go to the western side of the building to see the other one.

PRICE: €9 per person

5. Step through Porta Napoli

A stone archway with trees in front of it.

Gotta love those incredibly old monuments and their architecture!

Luckily, Lecce is filled with unique sites, just like Porta Napoli, which resembles a Roman triumphal arch with a Baroque twist. It gained this name because it faces a road that people used to go and come back from Naples!

This is actually the main city gate out of the three remaining city gates (the Lecce portas), and it was built in the 1500s in honor of Charles V!

While here, you can photograph the Porta Napoli gateway to capture its gorgeous Baroque style!

6. Catch a break & enjoy the nightlife in Piazza Sant’Oronzo

A square with people walking around in front of a building.

All the walking and visiting can get pretty exhausting, right?

I don’t like being on the run, especially when I’m in a place like Italy! So if you’re looking for a place to sit and just take a breath, head over to Piazza Sant’Oronzo!

Piazza Sant’Oronzo is pretty busy during the day, but I particularly loved the vibe around sunset time when everyone goes out to grab a bite or just to enjoy a passeggiata!

If you’re lucky, you may even catch one of the street performers that usually come in Piazza Sant’Oronzo!

PRO TIP: Caffe Alvino (the one I mentioned earlier) is set within walking distance of the Piazza, so you can grab some local specialties or a drink and come here to enjoy it.

7. Admire the beautiful Santa Chiara Church

A church in the middle of a city.

Lecce is known for its many, many churches! And to be fair, each and everyone is so special and has such a pleasant allure that you’ll catch yourself spending even more time than anticipated (even if you’re not a religious person).

I feel that this happens because they’re such a big work of art that’s impossible not to remain in awe of it!

Another lovely site that you should check out is Santa Chiara Church (Chiesa di Santa Chiara), set in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, which, although it isn’t so popular with tourists, it’s considered one of the most important churches in the city.

Located near the Roman Theater, Chiesa di Santa Chiara has 6 chapels on the sides and a beautiful altar that is adorned with flowers! While inside, take a moment to admire all the art and the windows!

8. Visit the ancient Roman Amphitheatre & Theater

An amphitheatre in the middle of a city.

These 2 attractions that date back to the Roman Empire era are such treasures for history enthusiasts and not only!

Make sure you don’t get confused and think it’s just one place (I actually did that).

The Roman Amphitheatre is set in Piazza Sant’Oronzo, and it dates back to the Augustan Age! Discovered by chance back in the 1900s when doing excavations for the Banco di Napoli, the amphitheater has most of its columns, seats, and external walls still in good shape!

The attraction is not always open to the public, but you can see most of it from the pedestrian street near it! Sometimes they organize concerts or events as well, so you can enjoy open-air concerts in summer or attend a live theater performance.

After you’ve admired the amphitheater, you can walk towards the Roman Theater, which is set near Santa Chiara Church. It’s part of the Roman Theatre Museum, which you can visit as it has lots of cool things that were discovered by archaeologists.

Visiting the Roman Amphitheatre and other ancient ruins in Lecce is such a fun activity! For a bit, you feel like a little archeologist on a quest to find all these hidden sites!

PRICE: €3 (Roman Theatre Museum)

9. Take a day trip to other towns in Puglia

A woman in hat is standing on a balcony overlooking the sea.

There are so many places to visit in Puglia that you won’t even know where to start!

By the way, if you want to visit more spots in the region, check out our post with the best things to do in Puglia, as I’ve included some unmissable attractions from my trip there!

However, if you’re in town for a short period of time but still want to see some of the prettiest Puglia beaches and unique sites, then I recommend joining some day trips from Lecce!

I found this really amazing tour from Lecce, which lasts around 8h and costs €129(US$140) that will take you to Ostuni, Alberobello, and Polignano a Mare! The tour includes pickup from your hotel or certain areas in Lecce as well! 

These villages are absolutely magical, and during the tour, you’ll get to taste the local life in each of these places, even if it’s just for a while!

So enjoy exploring the Trulli houses in Alberobello, admiring the views in Polignano a Mare, a beautiful seaside town on the Adriatic Coast, and exploring Ostuni’s historic center (one of my favorite spots in Puglia)!

TOUR PRICE: from €130 per person

Go on a day trip from Lecce

10. Discover hidden secrets at Museo Faggiano

We’re back in the Baroque city now and headed to an even more enigmatic spot!

That’s what I loved most about Lecce when I was there! This city is filled with hidden spots and uncovered secrets, and I feel like in a few years, even more will be discovered!

You can really dive into the history of the town at Museo Faggiano, which has such a fascinating story!

The family who owned it (before it was a museum) had to do some renovations. Once they started they discovered medieval stones, hidden tunnels, a knight’s templar fresco, and many other archeological treasures!

After that, years of excavations transformed the normal house into the museum you see today!

Apparently, the building dates back to pre-Roman times, and it was used as a Knights Templar House and afterwards a convent for the Franciscan nuns!

What a place!

PRICE: €5 per person

11. Spot some locals at Chiesa Di San Matteo

A church in the city

Visit Lecce, and you’ll see more churches than ever before!

I told you there were many in this town, and I wanted to include at least the main ones! Don’t worry, though; this is the last one!

The Church of San Matteo is set near Porta San Biagio, and it’s pretty small compared to the other ones but just as magical!

What I liked about this church is that it felt a bit less touristy than the rest, and you have a pretty high chance of meeting some of the locals here!

So definitely visit the Church of San Matteo for a taste of the authentic side of Lecce!

PRICE: free

12. See an ancient Isis temple at Palazzo Vernazza

This was probably one of the most unexpected attractions that I stumbled across when I visited Lecce, Italy!

I didn’t even hear about it before we came to the city, and then we went to MUST (Museo Storico Città di Lecce, which you could also visit as it has a small collection of modern and contemporary art) we learned about it and decided to go!

At first sight, the Palazzo Vernazza looks just like your regular architectural wonder that you could admire for hours! It’s one of the oldest buildings in town, and it was named after the family who owned it!

Once you step inside the historic building, you’ll discover a whole other world! After a series of excavations, archeologists discovered a temple dedicated to Goddess Isis!

You can see a part of the Purgatorium, a ritual basin in which devotees would submerge themselves and be purified by the “waters of the Nile” before engaging in other rituals!

I got the chills while we were here, and I definitely recommend visiting this attraction!

PRICE: €10 per person

13. Learn how to cook Pugliese dishes

A person kneading dough on a wooden table.

Enjoy a local cooking class in Lecce, Italy and find out tips on how to cook like a real Italian from Southern Italy!

During this fun cooking class in a beautiful, old courtyard from the 1400s, you’ll learn how to make typical Apulian pasta from scratch!

The class lasts around 2h, costs €39 (US$42), and is taught by a professional cook!

Orecchiette is a type of pasta specific to this region, and once you finish the class, you’ll know how to make some for yourself and your loved ones at home!

TOUR PRICE: from €40 per person

Join a cooking class

14. Visit the Museo Ebraico di Lecce

The jewish museum sign

The Jewish Museum offers a beautiful insight into the life of the Jewish community in Lecce before and after they were forced to leave the city in the 16th century.

Your entrance ticket to the museum includes a guided tour during which you’ll learn all sorts of facts about Jewish people and their time in Lecce!

Definitely a great place for history and culture enthusiasts!

PRICE: €9 per person

15. Take a stroll in Giardini Pubblici, a beautiful public garden

A construction in the middle of a park with trees in the background.

There’s nothing like a nice walk in the park to help you ground while traveling! I love discovering parks in all the cities I go to, and fortunately, there was one in Lecce as well!

Giardini Pubblici Giuseppe Garibaldi (also known as Villa Comunale Park) is set right outside the historic center, and offers a lovely break from all the history and Baroque churches!

You’ll mostly see locals with their little ones, and you’ll get to take a breath of fresh air while you relax in the city’s public gardens before you jump onto the next attraction on your list!

16. Explore Castello Carlo V

A courtyard with arches and pillars in a stone building.

Since the churches and palazzos take the main-center stage on the Lecce attractions list, tourists tend to overlook this place!

Castello Carlo V was built in the Middle Ages and, just like most buildings of its type, was used for many purposes, including a royal home, a defensive fortress, and now it’s the headquarters of Lecce’s Council of Cultural Affairs.

You can tour the Lecce Castle (Castello Carlo V) by yourself and discover all the underground chambers, staircases, ornate columns, and gardens!

Although there’s not much left in terms of furniture, there are still some small exhibits and things that you can see inside the castle!

PRICE: €10 per person

17. Try Pugliese-delicacies

Lecce was the first city I visited in Puglia! So this is where I tried for the first time all the incredible pastries, orecchiette pasta, and other yummy dishes!

There’s nothing like indulging in pasticciotti, a local pastry that is super sweet and filled with different toppings, or tasting traditional Salento cuisine at the local restaurants! I enjoyed doing this so much, and I definitely encourage you to do the same!

If you’re looking for some hot spots, here are my favorite ones in town that always left me coming back for more:

  • Caffe Alvino – serves the most delicious pasticciotti and other mouth-watering sweets at one of the oldest cafés in Lecce.
  • La Cucina di Mamma Elvira – try some yummy dishes from the local cuisine, including the famous orecchiette pasta at this amazing restaurant.
  • Osteria Degli Spiriti – end a day of exploring Lecce’s Centro Storico with a mouth-watering dinner and a glass of local wine at this restaurant.

18. Buy unique handmade souvenirs

A man is working on a figurine in a workshop.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to go a little nuts when I stumble across hand-made souvenirs and local artisans in the new places I visit!

One of my favorite things in Lecce was shopping for handicrafts in the local boutiques. There are so many locals who produce amazing things, like jewelry made out of the famous Lecce stone, small pots and other accessories, clothes, leather notebooks, and many others!

It’s so much fun to discover these shops as you explore the city! But if you have a short time in Lecce and want to see some of the best ones, here are my favorites:

  • Manufactus (map) – an incredible store for anyone who loves leather notebooks, fancy pens, and other stationary extravaganzas.
  • Bijondo (map) – this really cool store sells some fabulous jewelry and clothes.
  • Mi – La Pietra Prende Forma (map) – I got the most amazing necklace made with the Lecce stone from this store.
🏰 Top attraction with a view:Roman Amphiteatre
⛪ Unique attraction:Basilica di Santa Croce
🚶 Must-take tour:walking tour of the Old Town
😋 Must-try food:orecchiette

Practical information about Lecce

A fountain in front of a building surrounded by plants

Now that we’ve seen all these amazing things to do in Lecce, I think it’s time to jump to the next section of this post where I’ll include a lot of useful and practical information that will help you plan your trip to Lecce, in Italy’s Salento area.

So let’s get started:

Where to stay in Lecce

Below I’ve included 3 of the best places to stay in the city for each price range. But if you’d like to see more options, check out our post with the best places to stay in Lecce!

collage of 3 images with: bedroom, lounge area and hotel entrance
  • LuxuryPollicastro Boutique Hotel – located in the historic centre, this gorgeous hotel has such an amazing style that includes modern rooms with stone walls, vaulted ceilings, and a rooftop terrace!
  • Mid-RangeArryvo Hotel – enjoy your stay in Lecce at this amazing hotel in the historic centre with a terrace, a bar, and a restaurant.
  • BudgetPalazzo Porcari – a super affordable accommodation that offers well-equipped family rooms, breakfast, and free Wi-Fi.

How to get to Lecce

As always, this depends on where you’re coming from! But here are the main ways to get to Lecce:

A red and white train at a train station.
  • By train – go over to the Trenitalia and check out your routes! Lecce has a train station with connections to many of the major cities in the region.
  • By car – lots of people who visit Puglia decide to rent a car as it’s a super easy way to explore most of the towns, including Lecce.
  • By plane – there’s no airport in Lecce but the closest airports to the town are Brindisi Airport and Bari Airport and from each, you can take a train to reach Lecce.

How to get around Lecce

Easy: on foot! Yep, Lecce is that town you can easily explore by walking up to all the places! Plus most of the attractions are set in the city center so you won’t really need trains or other forms of public transport!

FAQs about things to do in Lecce

A woman wearing a hat and a straw hat.

🤩 Is Lecce worth visiting?

Yes! Lecce is one of the best cities in Salento, between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. I highly recommend visiting it as you’ll fall in love with the architecture, food and everything else!

🍷 How do you spend a day in Lecce, Italy?

Start with an espresso and pasticciotto from Caffe Alvino (map), then head to Piazza Duomo to visit some attractions and see the city walls, continue with a shopping spree for souvenirs, and end the day savoring local dishes with a glass of wine at a trattoria.

📅 How long do you need in Lecce, Italy?

I would recommend spending 3 to 4 days in Lecce, that way you can visit all the attractions, indulge in the local food and even have time for a day trip from Lecce to a seaside town in the Salento region!

🏛️ What is Lecce, Italy, famous for?

Also known as “Florence of the South,” Lecce is famous for its beautiful Baroque architecture and for the Lecce stone, a type of limestone suitable for sculptures and other things!

Conclusion

A city at night with a tower in the background.

Now that I wrote this post, I feel like going back there! Lecce has this effect on people!

I do hope that this post helped you decide which are the best things to do in Lecce! I made sure to add lots of practical information as well on how to get to Lecce, the best hotels there, and lots of other things! Just don’t forget to book your favorites in advance!

I hope you had as much fun reading this post as I had writing it! Don’t forget that I’m still around if you’ve got any questions about Lecce, Italy!

Safe travels,

Victoria


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view from Giardini Pubblici Giuseppe Garibaldi - Villa Comunale

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colllage of 2 images with: various buildings from the city

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