If you come to Salento for the sea and the beaches you cannot miss a visit to Lecce, the Baroque capital of the Salento. Alternative program for a gloomy day or the last stop before leaving or a cultural and food and wine destination, Lecce is always worth a stop. It will take you 24 hours and this little guide to admire its beauties.
If you pass through the square at noon, you will be greeted by the notes of the famous tenor from Lecce Tito Schipa that Palazzo Carafa, seat of the Municipality, plays every day as a sign of homage. The square is framed by buildings from the 1920s and historic cafes, where you can enjoy pasticciotto and caffè in ghiaccio con latte di mandorla. The square is dominated by the Column of Sant’Oronzo: erected in 1660 and surmounted by the bronze statue of the patron saint. In the square you can also visit the Sedile from 1592 has Gothic ogival arches and a Renaissance loggia; the magnificent Amphitheater with a double order of tiers supported by arches.
Coming from Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, a promenade full of shops and craft shops, Piazza Duomo opens up in a semi-hidden position, the “living room of the citizens of Lecce“, which houses the Palazzo del Seminario from the end of the 17th century and the Diocesan Museum of Art Sacra, the loggia del Vescovado, the soaring 5-storey bell tower and the Cathedral. The cathedral of Maria SS. Assunta has 3 naves and is embellished with a wooden coffered ceiling and golden studs, sumptuous altars, huge canvases by Tiso on the presbytery and in the Crypt of S. Maria della Scala with 92 columns and capitals all different.
The Basilica, together with the adjoining Palazzo dei Celestini, is the symbol of the Lecce Baroque. The facade, the work of the architects Riccardi, Zimbalo, Penna from 1549 to 1646, is divided into three parts and decorated with hundreds of symbols, mythological and zoomorphic figures, flowers, fruits, fantastic animals, dancing cherubs. In the center stands the largest baroque rose window in the world. Inside, the plant is a Greek cross.
The aforementioned monuments are the symbols of Lecce, but in reality all the churches in the old town will enchant you with their facades rich in Baroque decorations. Do not miss the Church of San Matteo in via dei Perroni, with the convex façade at the bottom and concave at the top.
THE SECRET CITY
Lecce is much more than what a visit “on the surface” can offer: under the baroque city there is in fact a medieval city, whose visit starts from the Castle of Charles V, with its basements and prisons with walls covered with graffiti and continues with the Jewish Museum Lecce in Palazzo Taurino, in the ancient Jewish quarter inhabited in the Middle Ages, which hides in the hypogeum the places for ritual ablution and the remains of the former synagogue. More than 2000 years of history flow underground in the Faggiano Museum near Porta S. Biagio, while Palazzo Vernazza houses the temple of Isis and a pagan baptistery in its bowels.
The S. Castromediano is the oldest museum in Puglia (1868) and houses artifacts from the Roman and Greek periods and beyond. In the Convitto Palmieri, home to the Bernardini Library and the Fabbrica delle Parole, you can visit the permanent path on the art of printing, while in the former Monastery of Santa Chiara the MUST tells the history of the city and offers workshops, exhibitions and events.
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