Lecce is known for its 17th-century Baroque beauty, but the city’s history stretches back to the Roman empire. Nowhere is this legacy more evident than in Lecce’s Piazza Sant’Oronzo, where an amphitheater from the second century BC is still used today for performances.
Discovered in the early 1900s and excavated in 1938, Lecce’s Roman amphitheater was once five stories high. It seated 25,000 spectators and hosted gladiator bouts to entertain the legions of Roman soldiers billeted in what is now the region of Puglia. Beneath the arena, the pens that once housed animals, prisoners, and slaves can be seen among the ruins. Under the watchful eye of the statue of Sant’Oronzo—the patron saint of Lecce—which sits atop a Roman column, the amphitheater is currently used for more peaceful pursuits, including a summer series of concerts and plays.
Because of its archaeological importance, it's best to visit Lecce’s Roman amphitheater with a walking or bike tour led by a knowledgeable guide. Many tours also include visits to Lecce’s famous Baroque Duomo, Basilica di Santa Croce, and Chiesa di Santa Chiara.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Roman amphitheater in Lecce is outdoors, so wear a hat and sunscreen.
- Though the amphitheater is not accessible to wheelchairs and strollers, it is easy to view the archaeological site from the piazza above without entering.
- The amphitheater hosts musical and theatrical performances in the summer, and may be partially covered by stage structures.
- A tour of the theater is particularly interesting for archaeology buffs.
How to Get There
The amphitheater is located in Lecce’s main Piazza Sant’Oronzo, the heart of the city’s historic center and an easy walk from the train station and other important sights and attractions.
When to Get There
The city of Lecce can get uncomfortably hot in the summer, so plan to visit first thing in the morning or in the late afternoon from June to September. Lecce celebrates its three patron saints each year August 23–25, with light displays, music, and festivities, making it is an especially memorable time to visit.
The Baroque Center of Lecce
Lecce is famous for its sumptuous architecture, including magnificently carved and decorated churches and palaces made of Leccese-stone and dating from the 17th-century. These structures are considered masterpieces of the Baroque style. The most famous examples include the Cathedral (Duomo), the Basilica of Santa Croce, and the Church of Santa Chiara.