Puglia - Places to visit - Lecce
Lecce stands at a height of 49 m. above sea level on the Salentino peninsula, roughly 10 km. from the Adriatic coast.
The historical centre is typically Baroque, with picturesque twisting lanes, and lies within what was once the perimeter of the 16th century walls, later replaced by wide tree-lined avenues. Once a Messapico settlement, it became an important Roman municipium, known as Licea.
After the end of the Western Empire, the town was dominated by the Goths and then the Byzantines, till roughly the middle of the 11th century, when the whole of Puglia was conquered by the Normans. Later the fief of various overlords, it shared the vicissitudes of the Kingdom of Sicily (later known as the Kingdom of Naples and the Two Sicilies) until the unification of Italy in 1860.
The monuments include: the Roman amphitheatre (2nd century AD.), the Roman theatre of the same period, the church of SS. Niccol e Cataldo (originally 12th century, with Baroque faade), and adjacent 16th century cloisters; the Duomo (originally 12th century, rebuilt in Baroque style) at the base of the towering campanile (17th century), with the nearby seminary (17th-18th century); the church of S. Croce (16th-17th century), one of the most important examples of Lecce Baroque; other churches also are Baroque (S. Angelo, S. Chiara, S. Matteo, del Carmine, etc.) as are a number of civil buildings particularly the Palazzo del Governo, with an ornamental 17th century faade. Two kilometres away lie the excavations at Rudiae (a Messapica and Roman town).
The town's economy is still based partly on agriculture and related activities, including the transformation sector (viticulture-winemaking, pasta, oil and tobacco manufacture). The other industries (engineering, furniture, construction materials) are of less importance. However, in the service sector, Lecce is a prominent cultural and administrative centre (university).
Events: Festa di S. Oronzo (26th August), with the Palio (horse race); Shepherds' Nativity Exhibition and Market (December).
Famous People: Gabriele Riccardi (architect and sculptor, d. 1586), Giuseppe Zimbalo, called `Zingarello' (architect and sculptor, 1620-1710), Cesare Penna (sculptor, 1607-1697), Tito Schipa (tenor, 1888-1965).
Cultural Institutions: Academy of Fine Arts, State Archives, Centro di Studi Salentini, `T. Schipa' Conservatory, University, Provincial Library, Provincial Museum (archeological collections, Pugliese culture).
In the Province: Otranto, Gallipoli, S. Cesarea Terme, Leuca, Castro Marina, Galatina.