Lecce is an Apulian treasure located in the Salento area; it is called the 'Florence of South Italy' due to an impressively high number of churches and palaces built in the Baroque style from the local sandstone that is quarried only in the environs of the city.
After meeting your guide at Porta Napoli, the first stop on this tour is the Basilica of Santa Croce, whose sumptuous decorations represent the triumph of Baroque art in Lecce. When the 18th century traveler Marchese Grimaldi beheld this architectural wonder, he remarked that the facade made him think that a lunatic was having a nightmare! This might not be far from your reaction as you stand before the building's extravagant exterior, decked in sculpted stone flowers, shells, elaborate garlands, undersea creatures, turbaned Turks, fruits, vegetables and animals.
From Santa Croce you will head to Piazza Sant'Oronzo by way of Via Umberto I and Via Templari. This spacious piazza is the most important in Lecce and contains the ancient Roman amphitheater, overseen by a tall Corinthian column supporting a statue of St. Orontius. Patron saint and protector of Lecce, Sant'Oronzo is thought to have saved the city from a devastating plague in 1652. Today the piazza is also known for its lunchtime tradition during which you will hear the sound of opera music alerting the locals to get out to the piazza and drink; it is time for an aperitivo!
Next stop is Piazza Duomo, site of the cathedral with its two facades; the principal facade on the north side of the church is sober and elegant, while the second portal is a masterpiece of Baroque art. A soaring, five-story bell tower, the Bishop's Palace and the Seminary round out the piazza's monuments.
At this point, you are in the very heart of the Old Town of Lecce and will continue your walk through tiny streets enlivened with prime examples of Baroque architecture: palaces with decorated balconies, beautiful courtyards full of flowers and dozens of ornate churches.
The tour includes a half-day private guided walking tour of the Lecce city center. Transportation to/from the meeting point is NOT included in the total price. Select Italy will be happy to arrange a private transfer for a supplemental fee.
Sites Included: Porta Napoli, Basilica of Santa Croce, Roman Amphitheater, Piazza Duomo
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