According to Lonely Planet, “If Puglia were a movie, Lecce would be cast in the starring role”. This amazingly beautiful city offers an extravaganza of art and architectural treasures, many of which are great examples of the Barocco Leccese and is a must visit place in your Baroque tour of Puglia.
The ‘Barocco Leccese' developed in the framework of the Counter-Reformation and the foundation of reformed religious orders (Theatine and Jesuits) create in response to the Church's need to re-assert its authority, mainly through an ostentatious display of power. Its distinctive, autonomous style can be found in the particular, imaginative and suggestive combination of architectural elements on the façade: porticoes, windows, balconies, loggias, gargoyles, corbels, festoons, columns and cornices crowded with human figures, flowers and animals.
The distinctive character of the Salento peninsula comes from a series of architectural achievements associated to an artistic phenomenon known as Barocco Leccese, which developed in Lecce, Salento's historical and artistic centre, and in Terra d'Otranto between the second half of the 16th century and the end of the 17th century. The beautiful Façade of Santa Croce alone is breathtaking and a fine example of this period’s architecture.
Nardò, at the heart of the Salento peninsula, was an important centre in Roman times and increased its cultural, political and economic relevance during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; in the 18th century, the works of the celebrated Neapolitan architect, Ferdinando Sanfelice, gave it its distinctly Baroque characteristics.
Gallipoli is another interesting "laboratory" where, during the 17th and 18th centuries, the peculiarities of the ‘Barocco Leccese' were applied to several important monuments (namely, the Cathedral and the churches della Purità, delle Anime, del Crocifisso, di San Francesco di Paola), within the framework of an urban structure endowed with a particularly picturesque landscape: the town is built on a headland extending into the Ionian Sea, connected to the mainland by a narrow bridge.
Martina Franca is situated on the border between the Salento peninsula and the province of Bari, an area known as Valle d'Itria, important in itself for other, significant, environmental and cultural aspects (namely the civilisation that developed the particular stone dwellings known as trulli). Martina Franca shows the final evolution of the Baroque style; here Baroque merges with Rococo conferring uniform elegance and lightness to the whole city.
Ostuni features several significant churches; the more important Baroque ones are S. Maria Maddalena and San Vito Martire. The latter was built between 1750 and 1754 and its façade shows interesting cornices, niches, friezes and coats of arms. Noteworthy is also Palazzo Ducale.
Baroque art and its decorative criteria were soon followed in the whole of the Salento peninsula, even in the smaller cities where the main monuments are no less significant than those in Lecce. Today, every alley, every street, every square not only in Lecce but also in Nardò, Gallipoli, Martina Franca, Ostuni, Francavilla Fontana, Galatina, Galàtone and many others, testifies to the wide range of expressive feats achieved by the ‘Barocco leccese'.
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Arrive at Bari Airport (or Brindisi Airport) collect your hire car at the terminal and start driving to Relais Corte Altavilla for your first three nights stay. Check-in and relax. Depending on the arrival time of your flight enjoy your welcome dinner at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant excluding beverages. If your flight is arriving late we will plan your welcome dinner on Day 2.
On this day we recommend a quick walking tour of the Conversano where you are based before heading to the town of Ostuni to start enjoying the magnificent Baroque architecture. On your return to the hotel, we recommend a stop at Polignano a Mare. Dinner is at your leisure.
Full day tour of Martina Franca and possibly visiting the town of Alberobello to see the best examples of the Trulli houses in the city centre. Alberobello has the highest number of Trulli houses and is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Check out and drive towards your 2nd hotel which is located in the heart of Lecce opposite one of the most beautiful Baroque buildings in the south, Santa Croce. Check in
(Parking is available at a charge) and relax during the afternoon, enjoy a leisurely stroll through the streets of Lecce, as when the suns start setting it creates mesmerising colours on the magnificent baroque buildings in the city.
Spend the day visiting Gallipoli and Nardò discovering some beautiful architectural treasures. Please note that Salento is also well known for its' beautiful wines, whilst touring you can stop at a local winery for
a some tasting. We will be able to book the wine tasting sessions for you should you prefer to include it in your itinerary. You can pay these wineries locally once reserved through us.
Day of leisure. You can choose to relax by a local beach or continue your discoveries further south by visiting Otranto and other charming small towns located on the coast.
Depending on the departure time of your flight, return your hire car to the airport and check in for your flight home.
Please note that this itinerary is self-guided and does not include tours, lunches or dinners. It is given as guidance only, based on our experience of the town and cities.
Where you will stay:
• 3 nights at the charming boutique Hotel Relais Corte Altavilla in a Top Standard room
• 3 nights stay at Patria Palace in the heart of Lecce in a Deluxe room with a view of Santa Croce. Junior Suite also available at a supplement in both hotels.
• Economy hire car is included (excluding excess waiver protection)
• Flights are available from London Gatwick, Stansted & Manchester (on selected days only) and a supplement may apply to some departures depending on the price of the flights on the chosen date. Package price is based on London Gatwick Easyjet flights and given as guidance only. An up-to-date price will be given to you at the time of your enquiry.
• 20 kg check in luggage per person is included
• Extend your stay for additional nights at a hotel by the sea or in a typical Masseria for a real taste of Puglia
• Add cooking and wine tasting experiences in both hotels / areas
• Add private tours with an expert guide
• Add private transfers instead of car hire