"Nowhere else have I ever seen a comparable richness in their manner of decorating the facades," wrote Ferdinand Gregorovius in 1874, visiting the Apulian town of Lecce. Noted for its Baroque decorative exuberance, Lecce's roots in antiquity are attested to by archaeological finds of ancient Messapian origin, as well as important structures such as the amphitheatre and the ancient theatre dating from the Roman period.
Not far from the central Santo Oronzo square, emerging from the sunken areas of the Roman Forum and the amphitheater, the most representative buildings were arrayed over the course of centuries: the Castle of Charles V; the intricate Duomo square with its Cathedral, bell tower, bishop's palace and seminary; and countless churches commissioned by fraternities or monastic orders, including the church of Santa Croce, the very symbol of Baroque Lecce. A university town, Lecce has also become economically vibrant over the years: on the streets of the old town ateliers and trendy shops alternate with the traditional restaurants and night clubs that make up the city's night life.
Not to be missed: a walk through the narrow, winding streets of the city centre, to admire elaborate balconies and majestic portals, or a tour of the many papier-mâché workshops. Along Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Via Giuseppe Libertini (the streets that lead from Piazza Sant'Oronzo to Porta Rudiae) there are many opportunities to stop for an aperitif, a glass of wine, an ice cream, or maybe something more typical: a pasticciotto (sweet pastry filled with custard), a rustico (a puff pastry filled with mozzarella, béchamel sauce and tomato, seasoned with pepper and nutmeg), or a frisa (a twice-baked bread made from wheat or barley, moistened and topped with tomatoes, olive oil, and basil).