Unspoilt and understated beauty sits with cultural diversity

Lecce is located in the Puglia region of Italy, easily recognized on a map as the "heel" of the Italian "boot." While many look to central Italian cities such as Siena or Urbino as unspoiled examples of renaissance architecture, few realize that there exists such a worthy baroque counterpart as Lecce.

The malleability of Lecce's native stone allowed for the most ornate and delicate artistic style in European history to flourish in the city's walled center. To this day, natural erosion has done little to disturb the grandeur of Lecce's old city.

Long considered to be the cultural and artistic hub of the Salentine peninsula, Lecce is still a center of great beauty and learning. The modern city complements the old quarter and visitors to Lecce's main piazza will marvel at the mix of ancient, baroque, neo-classical and even fascist architecture. That balance of old and new is reflected in the dynamic social character of the city as well, blending the exuberance of the city's many students with the tradition and gentility of the native leccesi.

Because of its proximity to the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas, Lecce was once part of the Magna Grecia (Greek Empire). That influence still remains in a region where Greek dialects are still spoken and Hellenic dishes are served at festivals and holidays.

Puglia's dry climate makes it fine country for olive production and some of the world's finest oil is exported from the peninsula. Agricultural traditions carry on as they have for hundreds of years. You can expect to see innumerable cone-shaped stone buildings (called trulli in Italian) dotting the landscape. These simple, enigmatic and mortar-free huts, originally designed to store tools, animals and crops, often belie their ancient age.

The rocky Salentine coastline that borders the Adriatic and Ionian Seas frequently gives way to beautiful soft-sand beaches that attract bathers nearly nine months out of the year. As a students in Lecce you will find easy access to these beaches by bus from several stops in the city.