With three days in Lecce, you’ll be able to savor this baroque jewel at leisure, delve into the highlights of the surrounding Salento Peninsula, and strike out as far as the port city of Bari or the Sassi di Matera UNESCO World Heritage Site in neighboring Basilicata. Here are your best options for three days in and around Puglia.
Day 1: Sumptuous Lecce
Delve into the ornate Barocco Leccese—Lecce’s unique style of baroque architecture marked by facades intricately carved with flora and fauna—on a guided walking, bike, or rickshaw tour through the historic center. Admire blockbusters such as the cathedral, Church of Santa Chiara, and Basilica of Santa Croce, as well as the Roman amphitheater in Piazza Sant'Oronzo. Afterwards, visit the historic workshops where local artisans have been hand-crafting papier-mâché and limestone sculptures for centuries; perhaps join a hands-on handicrafts workshop yourself. Finally, sample traditional cuisine with a food-and-wine tour through the city center or a cooking class with a local chef.
Day 2: Hilltop and Coastal Villages
Leave the city behind and head to the UNESCO-listed round stone trulli cottages in Alberobello—as well as Polignano a Mare and Cisternino—for a day of village hopping. A popular option for wine aficionados is a wine-and-food tour in the Salento countryside surrounding Lecce. Enjoy tastings of Negroamaro and Primitivo in a few of the area’s small wineries; generally wine tours include a stop for lunch featuring local specialties. Alternatively, set your sights on the coast with a day trip to the charming fishing village of Otranto to visit its cathedral, Church of San Pietro, and Aragonese Castle before spending a few hours on the beach.
Day 3: Bari or Matera
On your final day, strike out even farther afield to the bustling port city of Bari, the largest metropolis in Puglia and home to a charming historic center known as Bari Vecchia. Take a walking tour through its narrow lanes lined with churches and pretty squares, and stroll its seaside promenade. Alternatively, visit one of the most striking destinations in southern Italy, the Sassi of Matera. Located on a cliffside in the neighboring region of Basilicata, this rupestrian city is built above a network of ancient caves and grottoes, used as dwellings and churches for centuries. Today Matera’s historic caves house trendy hotels, restaurants, and art galleries; join a guided tour to learn about the city’s history and visit the caves and churches along its steep lanes.