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The ‘Florence of the South’ is one of Puglia’s undeniable gems, offering more than 2,000 years of history and an array of architectural delights. Lecce gained its name under Roman rule and has occupied the same setting ever since, resulting in an outstanding mix of ancient sights throughout the city. Today, this energetic university town is an impressive blend of culture and commerce, with upmarket shopping right alongside baroque monuments. Right at the heart of Lecce is the centro storico, which features an enormous Roman amphitheatre, a towering cathedral and an angular fortress. The true star of the show, though, is the Church of Santa Croce, which is perhaps even more elaborately designed than its namesake in Florence. What makes this district even more impressive is the sheer number of creamy stone buildings – all built using the town’s very own Lecce stone.
If you prefer to spend time shopping, you can find artisan craft shops brushing shoulders with modern clothing outlets and designer jewellers. On the dining front, there are hundreds of restaurants and bars, with many serving authentic fare inspired by the surrounding landscape. You'll also find independent cookery schools and cosmopolitan cocktail bars, which lend the city a refreshingly modern streak in the face of its revered ancient history.