Lecce and Salento

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La città

Lecce, the town of Baroque architectue, of squares, churches, streets with “columned corners” and of flowered balconies, sumptuously covered with an image of rare beauty in a triumph of shapes and chiaroscuro contrasts, of dense shadow and sparkling light in the dazzling white “pietra leccese” (Lecce stone). The typical local stone makes for the wealth of the Baroque architecture: easy to sculpt, it perfectly renders the sixteenth century taste for Wonder. The glimmer of this stone excites enchantment especially when it is made even brighter by the sun, and so creates a contrast to the intensely blue summer sky. “Old Lecce”, as its original inhabitants called it, seems suspended between the past and the present in a striking atmosphere, which has attracted in the past learned travellers from the most distant parts of Europe. Piazza Sant’Oronzo, heart of the town, the hub of a series of narrow, tortuous streets, which even today are striking in their beauty. The antique settlement is enclosed by the old fifteenth century walls, of which we can still see today the gates of San Biagio to the south-east, Rudiae, to the west, and Napoli to the north-west. A short distance from the main square soars the famous majestic Chiesa di Santa Croce (and the adjoining Monastic palace of the Celestini), supreme form of Baroque architecture, outstanding monument, amazing wonder and glorious symbol of the “gold” of Lecce. Santa Croce, although not the Cathedral, that is the Duomo set in the central square of the same name, outstrips it in the undisputed splendour of its ornamentation and its sheer size. In the old part of town there are also numerous other sacred edifices to admire such as Church of St. John the Baptist (more commonly known as the “Chiesa del Rosario”- Church of the Rosary), Saint Anna’s Church, Saint Theresa’s Church and the even more famous churches of Saint Irene, Saint Claire and “Santa Maria delle Grazie”…. The splendid architecture of the sacred monuments and that of the antique and palatial “palazzotti leccesi” (stately homes) is in harmony with the strategic position of the town, only a few kilometres from both the Adriatic and the Ionic coasts. The geographical position is favourable for easily reaching some of the most evocative seaside resorts in the Salento area: in less than an hour you can visit Otranto,let yourself be enchanted by the Grecìa Salentina culture, arrive at Santa Maria di Leuca, swim in the splendid sea at Gallipoli.