Featuring only three groups of rural houses in its early years,San Cesario still holds traces of the ancient Greek, Albanian and Balkan communities living in the area, as testified by the town’s low terraced houses and all those dwellings overlooking the main square centre. In the 1600s, the square became the fulcrum around which the three original rural communities lived, as the two main symbols of the spiritual and temporal power lie here.
The Mother Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie houses in its interior some valued altars belonging to Lecce Baroque style.
The statue of the Vergine del Carro on the main altar reminds us of the previous building, once replacing the modern one, which was replaced and rebuilt between 1623 and 1678, since it housed a chapel dedicated to the Vergine del Carro herself. Its exterior façade is horizontally divided in two orders and decorated with two side volutes, and vertically defined by pilaster strips, all surmounted by a triangular tympanum.
Opposite the Church, you can admire the fancy Ducal Palace, which traces back to at least the 1550s, located in a marginal area which only years later became part of the main square. This elegant aristocratic manor will blow you away with its lively façade, attributed to Francesco Antonio Zimbalo and featuring statues and busts of roman emperors and heores of the Classical mythology, and its internal halls, where paintings depicting classical themes and characters from the 18th and 19th centuries are hung.You can’t really pass up the chance to visit the ancient and modern works of art and some of the local cultural property shown at the Civic Museum of Contemporary Art, located at the attic of the Baronial Palace, a one-of-a-kind instance in the entire province of Lecce.
Other memorable buildings in San Cesario include the thirteenth-century Church of San Giovanni Evangelista, with its astounding frescos which date back to the byzantine period; the seventeenth-century Church of Sant’Elia, once the town’s Mother Church, featuring highly valued altars; and the eighteenth-century Church of the Immacolata, whose façade features a statue of the Virgin Mary made out of stone.
If you are curious about San Cesario’s traditional distilled liquors, you might want to visit the museum dedicated to the distillation process, soon to be opening in the former De Giorgi distillery, one of San Cesario’s three original distilleries.
Finally, the culinary stop you will make here features the two quintessentially Salentine products: the salty rustico - a little "sandwich” made of two puff pastry disks and filled with bechamel sauce, chopped tomatoes and mozzarella cheese – and the sweet pasticciotto pastry – whose crust is made of pasta frolla, a shortbread crust, and lard, filled with pastry cream.