Lecce is an underappreciated tourist destination in Italy’s far south, but its architecture provides plenty of good reasons to visit.
Known as the “Florence of the South,” Lecce is chock full of beautiful Baroque churches and palaces. It is also home to buildings and fortifications that tell the history of a city that has been ruled by the Romans, Byzantines, Normans and Hapsburgs.
The city also played an important role in the Hapsburg wars against the Turks, with significant defense systems built in the town center and on the nearby coast. Lecce’s prominence continued as it was named capital of the Puglia region, attracting new residents thanks to the presence of government institutions.
This rich history combines with local mineral wealth to make for some truly outstanding architecture. The soft limestone known as “Lecce stone” is particularly sought after thanks to its softness and malleability, which makes it easy to work with. However the stone hardens over time, aiding durability.
Perhaps the most important time for Lecce’s architectural development was the 17th century, when an ornate style of façade was developed in the city. Look out for the Santa Croce church, one the best examples that survives to this day.
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