40km (25 miles) SE of Brindisi, 87km (54 miles) E of Taranto, 905km (561 miles) SE of Rome
Often called "the Florence of the South," Lecce lies in the heart of the Salento Peninsula, the "heel" of the Italian boot. The town was founded before the time of the ancient Greeks, but it's best known for the barocco leccese (Lecce baroque) architecture of many of its buildings. Dating from Lecce's heyday in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, these structures are made mostly of fine-grained yellow limestone. Masons delighted in working with the golden material; their efforts turned the city into what one architectural critic called a "gigantic bowl of overripe fruit." Alas, recent restorations have taken away much of the color as workers have whitewashed the buildings.
For centuries, Lecce has been neglected by tourists. Perhaps it's for this reason that many of the baroque-style buildings have remained intact -- progress hasn't overrun the city with modern development. Lecce's charm lies in these displays of the lighter baroque (although many buildings are now in dire need of repair).