Planning a one day in Lecce itinerary is an excellent way to see one of Southern Italy’s most lovely cities. Nestled in the heart of Italy’s beloved Puglia region, Lecce stands as a Baroque masterpiece, welcoming visitors to discover its understated yet captivating charm.
This historic city, often overshadowed by its more renowned counterparts like the quirky Alberobello and the picturesque Polignano al Mare, is a hidden gem waiting to be explored.
As the proud capital of the province of Lecce, Lecce seamlessly blends elegance, delectable cuisine, and a rich tapestry of history, offering a unique and immersive experience for those seeking to delve deeper into the cultural treasures of Italy.
Beyond the frequented tourist paths, Lecce unveils an unparalleled world of culinary delights and a distinct ambiance that sets it apart as a must-visit destination on your Italian journey.
How Many Days in Lecce?
When deciding how many days to spend in Lecce, it’s important to be aware that there is the province of Lecce and the city of Lecce that we’re referring to in this itinerary.
The province of Lecce comprises the Salento Peninsula — otherwise known as “the heel of Italy” — and is worth spending at least a week in, discovering the towns and villages of the province. On the other hand, you can explore the highlights of the city of Lecce within the confines of just one day.
If you prefer to take your travels slow without rushing, 2 days in Lecce would be ideal, giving you enough time to get to know the city on a more intimate level without rushing around.
Additionally, the city of Lecce is also an ideal base to explore the province of Lecce, giving you the benefits of a larger city where you stay, while spending your in the towns and villages of coastal and rural Lecce.
Getting To & Around Lecce
Luckily, Lecce is easily reached by train or plane with a central station and two airports.
If you’re planning on arriving by train, you can easily reach Lecce by direct train from major cities such as Brindisi, Bari, Rome & Bologna. The quickest route is from Brindisi which will take around half an hour and the longest from Bologna in around 7 hours. You can view schedules here.
For those already in the province of Lecce, the city is connected to regional train lines, connecting the smaller villages and towns to the city of Lecce. Lecce’s Central Station is located just a short distance from the historic center, making for a pretty smooth and effortless journey by train.
Brindisi (Salento) Airport offers quite a few seasonal summer routes from various European countries, making it quite easy to reach Lecce for an off-the-beaten-path Italian, summer holiday.
Once you arrive at the airport, you’ll find car rental options as well as a shuttle bus to Lecce city center. Although a further distance away, Bari Airport is much larger than Brindisi Airport, with a large number of seasonal routes as well as a fair amount of year-round routes as well.
If you fly into Bari, the best option is to take a direct train to Lecce from Bari Central Station in around an hour and 45 minutes.
The best way to get around Lecce is by foot, allowing yourself to stroll through the city’s magnificent Baroque architecture and marveling at the glimmering, ochre gold-hued stone buildings.
The subdued elegance and impressive buildings are a sightseeing attraction in their own right, and slowly taking in the city at your own pace is nothing short of a joy.
Furthermore, Lecce isn’t a small city by any means, but its smaller size compared to other cities makes it pretty easy to get around by walking without relying on public transport or taxis for transportation.
If for whatever reason, you’re unable to walk around Lecce or need to get around the city by alternative means, Lecce does have a pretty efficient public transportation system.
As the city’s urban area is quite small compared to larger Italian cities, the only method of public transportation is the bus, by the company SGM. The bus network is pretty expansive throughout the city, making it convenient to get around without having to worry if you’re staying outside of the historic center.
In the case that you’re visiting Lecce as part of a wider trip in provincial Lecce and Puglia, you may wish to rent a car for more flexibility during your travels. If you fall under this category, I would suggest either renting a car after leaving Lecce or leaving Lecce as the last stop of your trip.
Lecce is known for having little to no parking available in the historic center, and when parking is available, it’s usually quite expensive and likely far from your accommodation. Because of this, it’s much more convenient and cost-efficient to not rent a car in Lecce.
1-Day Lecce Itinerary
From delicious and renowned local delicacies and fascinating historical monuments to unique regional experiences and stunning scenery, Lecce truly is a jewel of the south.
With one day in Lecce, you’ll experience the captivating charm of the capital of the “heel of Italy”, where Baroque architecture and rich history converge. You can either explore independently or join a city walking tour to learn more about the history.
Begin your day at the city’s main square, Piazza Sant’Oronzo, directly in the center of the city. Named after the city’s patron saint, the square is a unique fusion of Roman, Baroque, and Renaissance influences.
At its center stands a Roman column, with an ornate facade of the Baroque-style Church of Santa Irene providing a picturesque backdrop. Cafés and boutiques line the square, making it the perfect stop to grab a cafe Leccese or local delicacies.
While the square is in most ways similar to other central squares in Italy, the defining feature of this piazza is the Roman Amphitheater.
This ancient amphitheater, dating back to the 2nd century CE, was discovered in 1901 by workers during construction. Impressively, it unveiled a flawless horseshoe design that extends beneath the adjacent square, originally accommodating an audience of over 15,000.
This square is also where Lecce’s main pedestrian street, the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, begins. Not far from this square, you can also take in the smaller Piazza Giuseppe Libertini.
Pasticiotto (Natale Pasticceria)
Lecce is a city dear to foodies, and breakfast is the perfect opportunity to take a bite into Lecce’s food scene. When in Lecce, it’s best to do as the locals do and enjoy a pasticiotto for a sweet start to your morning.
Pasticiotto is essentially a small pastry filled with either a sweet ricotta cheese mixture or an egg custard. These delicious pastries pair perfectly with a fresh coffee and are the quintessential taste of Lecce!
For the next stop of your day, make your way to Natale Pasticceria, a pastry shop in the center of the city, to pick up what’s known as one of the best pasticotto in Lecce.
Gate of Saint Blaise
Located in Piazza d’Italia, you’ll come across one of the three entrance gates to the old town of Lecce in the southern city walls, the Gate of Saint Blaise – or, in Italian, the Porta San Biagio. The other two gates are the Porta Napoli and the Porta Rudiae.
In traditional Baroque style, the Gate of Saint Blaise was built in 1773 and dedicated to Saint Blaise (St. Biagio), a once bishop with roots in Lecce who was martyred in Armenia around 1,700 years ago. Today you can find an intricate statue of Saint Blaise on top of the gate, along with dominant columns and impressive carvings.
Basilica di Santa Croce
Next, discover the exquisitely detailed Basilica di Santa Croce, a Baroque marvel. With an intricate, lavish facade and an exquisite interior embellished with sophisticated sculptures, Basilica di Santa Croce is a must-visit when seeing Lecce in one day.
Dating back to the 17th century, this architectural gem was built by local architects Gabriele Riccardi, Francesco Antonio Zimbalo, and Cesare Penna and with 17 richly decorated altars, is considered an architectural masterpiece of both the city of Lecce and the region of Puglia.
Hours to the church vary depending on the time of year as well as the day of the week, so check opening hours in advance. There is an entry fee to the Basilica di Santa Croce, with discounted tickets available if you qualify.
Besides the 2nd century CE Roman Ampitheater at Piazza Sant’Oronzo, there’s another Roman Theatre tucked away in the quaint, Baroque alleys of Lecce, that was only discovered in 1929.
Although a bit harder to find than the first Roman Amphitheater, this one is typically visited by fewer people, giving a more unique experience while visiting.
Nearby to the theatre, you can also take in the Chiesa di Santa Chiara, another gorgeous Baroque Catholic church that is adorned with beautiful paintings.
Cattedrale Maria Santissima Assunta e S.Oronzo
Of course, no visit to an Italian city is complete without taking in the town’s main cathedral, and the Lecce Cathedral doesn’t disappoint. Located only a stone’s throw from the Roman Theatre, the cathedral overlooks like Piazza del Duomo and it’s very much worth visiting.
The church itself consists of a variety of chapels and some interesting subterranean crypts that are fun to explore. However, the real highlight is to climb the bell tower, where you can get beautiful panoramic views over the city.
There is no doubt visiting here is one of the best things to do in Lecce and a there is a lot of history and beautiful artwork to take in here.
Pasta Making Class
Few things are more synonymous with Italy than pasta, and Lecce — and Puglia in particular — are no exception, with a few unique types of pasta hailing from the “heel of Italy”.
One of the best activities in Lecce is to enjoy a pasta-making class with locals, learning local recipes and the craft of regional pasta shapes.
From orecchiette to cavatelli, the pasta shapes originating from this area are as diverse as the landscapes that surround them.
In the heart of Puglia, a pasta-making class goes beyond the ordinary travel experience, offering an authentic and immersive experience that will stay with you, even when you’ve left Italy. You can book a group class here or a private tour here.
To round out your day exploring Lecce, I highly suggest a visit to the Museo Faggiano, a unique look, and a step back into Lecce and Italy’s past.
Not always having been a museum, the underground chambers of the Faggiano family’s noble home were discovered by a resident attempting to fix his toilet, but in the process uncovered over 5,000 artifacts dating back over 2,000 years.
In the only independent museum in Lecce, you are transported through layers of history, starting from Messapian tombs dating back to the 5th century CE, revealing Lecce’s ancient origins. As you explore the underground chambers, remnants of Roman, medieval, and Renaissance eras are revealed.
The Faggiano family’s private palace, now the museum, showcases an impressive array of archaeological finds, including pottery, frescoes, and well preserved everyday objects.
After touring the museum, perhaps end your day of exploration in a cosy wine bar, enjoying a glass of a locally-made vintage.
Have 2 Days in Lecce?
If you have 2 days in the city and are keen to explore the city and area further, there’s much more to enjoy in this unique corner of Italy.
In the case that you’re yearning to explore outside of the city and embark on a day trip, Lecce is surrounded by ideal day trips, no matter your interests.
If a whitewashed hilltop, countryside town with dreamy views of the Adriatic Sea is what you’re searching for, the medieval walled town of Ostuni is just an hour away by train.
Alternatively, if you prefer to spend the day in a postcard-worthy seaside town with white pebbles, turquoise waters, and a rich history, Polignano al Mare is a stunning seaside town in Puglia well worth the visit.
Other popular places to visit within easy reach of Lecce include the gorgeous seaside town of Otranto located to the south of the city. If you’re short on time, consider booking a group tour to visit some of these nearby places.
For those who prefer to stay in Lecce and dig deeper into the city, I recommend taking part in a walking tour with a knowledgeable local to further enhance your time in Lecce if you didn’t get to on your first day.
Whether it’s a food tour, offering a tasty adventure into Lecce and Puglia’s rich food history, or an architecture tour, where you’ll learn more about Lecce’s most famous feature’s origins, the city’s stunning Baroque architecture, a walking tour is incredibly beneficial.
Where to Stay in Lecce
Arryvo Hotel – This comfortable hotel is a good mid-range option in Lecce. It’s located within a few hundred metres from the Lecce Cathedral and they offer a fab breakfast and on-rise restaurant/bar.
Pollicastro Boutique Hotel – A great luxe option in Lecce’s centre. They are within walking distance of the top historic sites and there are amenities like room service, great breakfast, private parking and much more.
Urban Oasis Hostel – Great for backpackers and solo travelers, this hostel is well-located for exploring Lecce. They have a range of rooms and excellent common areas and a friendly staff.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Lecce hotels!
Although Lecce is a lesser-known Italian city, it’s undeniably a magical destination rich in over 2,500 years of history and a unique ambiance only possible in this off-the-beaten-path corner of Italy.
Are you visiting Lecce? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!