Dubbed the Florence of the South, Lecce, a beautiful city in the Puglia region of Italy, can easily steal your heart. Visiting the city can be organised as part of our private tours of Italy. However, don’t expect to see Renaissance gems here: it is famous for opulent Baroque style architecture, which is so distinctive that it was given its own name: “barocco leccese”. Constructed in the 16th-17th century by the church and nobles as an ostentatious display of the might and riches, religious buildings and palaces of the old center still remain intact.
The city was built with a soft Lecce stone hardened using an ancient process: stone blocks were soaked in a liquid containing milk, which made them more compact and resistant to humidity. You can spend hours gazing at the ornate honey-colored façades filled with carved blossoms, dragons, birds, lions and caryatids. The exterior of the Basilica di Santa Croce is crowded with hundreds of elaborate carvings. Hundreds of talented local artisans and generations of the most prominent Baroque architects worked on it for more than 100 years.
Via Giuseppe Libertini is a real feast for the eyes: dozens of palaces scream Baroque splendor. The early 18th century Basilica di San Giovanni Battista that you will find here looks like an elegant wedding cake with its carved cherubs and wreaths. If you continue down the street you will come to Piazza del Duomo with the city’s main Cathedral, il Duomo, which has two facades: one plain and somber and the other lavish Baroque.
While immersing yourself in the beauty of “barocco leccese”, don’t forget about another top attraction of the city: its hearty delicious food. Orecchiette pasta, fresh fish, a delicious savoury cake with mozzarella, tomatoes, pepper called “rustico leccese”, a Lecce pastry “pasticciotto” filled with custard cream, the options are endless. Trattoria di Nonna Tetti (Piazzetta Regina Maria, 28) is famous for its broad-bean puree with wild chicory and other typical simple dishes. In La Vecchia Osteria (via Basumno, 3) fantastic seafood pasta dishes are served in a spartan interior. Restaurant Le Quattro Spezierie (via Augusto Imperatore, 19) is famous for its imaginative desserts based on local ingredients.
Photos by Anna Lebedeva.