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Lecce & Baroque, "Florence of South"

An open-air museum of palaces and churches set in the heart of the Salento region and the heel of Italy's boot, Lecce was rebuilt from local limestone in Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo styles. Known globally as the "Florence of Southern Italy", the city will impress you with the lavish decorations on its buildings (fanciful cherubs, monsters, flowers, fruit, beauties and beasts). The local sandstone, tinged warm pink, is so easy to work with that it fostered the rise of a remarkable local style known as Leccese Baroque, as ornate and intricate as any the world has seen.

A nice drive on the Adriatic highway will bring you to Lecce. Your guide will walk you through Napoli gate to one of the finest and most impressive squares in southern Italy - Piazza Duomo. The main façade, facing both the Archbishop's and the Seminary's Palaces, is less ornate, while the side façade facing the square is an explosion of Baroque architecture with Lecce's patron saint, Saint Oronzo, in a triumphal arch.

Narrow streets full of palaces will lead you to Lecce's highlights, such as the Basilica of Santa Croce, which is sumptuously decorated and represents the triumph of Baroque art in Lecce; a variety of statues and ornaments which will capture your eyes and curiosity and invite you to discover the smallest detail; and the impressive façade of the Governor's Palace which is the former monastery of the Celestine monks.

Continuing along little alleys, you will be in the heart of the town, Saint Oronzo Square, where stands the 2nd century Roman amphitheater that once held up to 20,000 spectators. In the same piazza is a column that originally stood in Brindisi to mark the end of the Appian Way.

Some free time will allow you to walk at leisure along the narrow streets of the town center before rejoining your vehicle for the return home. Explore the elegant streets of Lecce adjacent to the square and you will discover that the typical local crafts of the town, such as papier-mâché or Leccese stone items, are traditional art forms here. The objects created in the artisans' workshops are crafted according to ancient traditions handed down from generation to generation.

Combine a tour of Lecce with another town such as Ostuni, Otranto, Alberobello or Brindisi...

Notes: Modest attire is required in churches; knees, shoulders and midriffs must be covered.

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