Lecce

Lecce

Lecce, the provincial capital, boasts an artistic and monumental heritage of great prestige. It has so ancient origins, they are considered as “unknown” from a historical point of view. The first settlements date back to the Messapic era, but the first certain information dates back only to the Roman era. At that time the town took the name of Lupiae and its rise to power was so important that caused the decline of the nearby city Rudiae. Numerous monuments and works of art date back to the Roman period, evidence of a rather rich artistic heritage. These include: The Roman amphitheatre in Piazza Sant 'Oronzo and the Roman theater, both from the second century after Christ; the Colonna di Sant 'Oronzo, brought in 1666 from Brindisi, which represents one of the two terminal columns of the Via Appia; the Charles V Castle surrounded by walls and ramparts; the Church of S. Niccolò and Cataldo from 1180, completely frescoed and with an annexed abbey, in which two magnificent cloisters can be admired. Other historical and artistic evidences identified in the town date back to the medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods. The most famous monumental works belong to the latter, pride of the area and famous throughout Italy. Lecce is almost entirely decorated in Baroque style which has taken on singular features here that can be identified as peculiar elements of a style called Barocco Leccese. With the crumbly local stone, the so-called Lecce stone, easily workable and with warm colors, architectures have been created with very fine decorations of a unique and rare beauty and elegance. Among the symbols that par excellence represent the Baroque art of Lecce are:  the Basilica of Santa Croce, with the ex-Celestine Convent attached by the wonderful façade, now the seat of the Prefecture; the church of Sant 'Irene; the church of San Matteo with a lower concave and upper convex façade, with an almost Borromini style; the Church of the Gesù with its beautiful altars; St. John Baptist; Santa Chiara; Sant 'Angelo and Santa Maria delle Grazie located in Piazza Sant' Oronzo. Other splendid examples of working with Lecce stone, the result of the skill of the master stonemasons, have been preserved not only in the main churches and monuments but throughout the whole historic centre: the balconies and terraces of private homes are decorated with splendid ornaments that are still visible today in their totality. The monumental complex of Piazza del Duomo – that houses, in addition to the Cathedral, the 70-meter high bell tower, the seventeenth-century Bishopric with Renaissance forms and the former Seminary - is surrounded by beautiful Baroque buildings. By walking through ancient Lecce in a completely free way and not bound to the visit of the most famous monuments, it will be possible to discover small and large wonders of architecture and fantasy, from churches and palaces, to small citizens' houses. Noteworthy buildings include: Palazzo Carafa, seat of the municipality of Lecce, the buildings in Piazza Falconieri and the Provincial Museum, full of remarkable archaeological finds. In addition to the historic centre of Lecce, even the modern part of the city could rightly be included in a visit itinerary. It will be pleasant, in the coolness of the late afternoon or evening, to stroll the town among artistic beauties and elegant shops.