Lecce, refined and aristocratic, is the capital of the Salento peninsula that extends out between the Adriatic
and Ionian Seas. It has been called "the Athens of Apulia" and "the Florence of the South" because of its splendid,
beautiful monuments and buildings and its faithfulness to tradition; the Leccese baroque architecture and sculpture
are quite particular and characterized by a combination of the elegant balance of Renaissance forms and rich
decorative elements. The city's architectural and sculptural masterpieces were created using a homogenous, compact
local limestone (pietra leccese) that has the advantage of being easy to work on with chisel and hatchet.
The original four city gates were Arco di Trionfo (Porta Napoli), Porta Rudiae,
Porta San Biagio, and Porta San Martino,
but the latter fell in the 19th century. The city center, inside the traces and remains of the ancient
walls, presents a marked baroque style, and the focal point is the elegant
Piazza Sant'Oronzo, which includes
the 1st-2nd century A.D. Roman amphitheater. Also in the piazza
stands the column with the statue of Sant'Oronzo,
the patron saint (celebrated August 24-26) and the well proportioned
Sedile. However, the
Basilica di Santa Croce, built in 1549, is the monument that best
represents Leccese baroque style. The baroque
style dominates also in the central Piazza Duomo, in the Cathedral
and the adjoining Palazzo del Seminario.
The presence in the city of numerous religious orders led to the construction of many churches, with sumptuous
façades that are practically open-air altars, true windows into a life and society of times past: the most
important are Santa Chiara, the church of
Saints Niccolò e Cataldo, and the
Chiesa dei Teatini. Also worth
a visit, the Quartiere Mazzini, the
Greek Amphitheater, the Obelisk, Palazzo
Celestini, Palazzo Carafa, the Chiesa
di San Matteo, and the Castello di Carlo V.
Lecce has a rich offering of cultural events, in particular theatrical, with both prose at the
and concert music and opera at the Teatro Politeama Greco.
There is also an experimental theater company, Cantieri
Teatrali Koreja, that goes beyond the confines of traditional theater with innovative creations
that further enrich
the city's cultural life. Finally, every April Lecce hosts a
European Cinema Festival.