Just like every Italian region, Salento is not only sea and coasts. Its inland is rich of things to discover. The inland of Salento has environmental and cultural importance, besides its environmental system, which extends from the coast to the inland, together with its cultural one made up of archaeological sites and the rural civilization which together make up the beauty of Salento. The Inland of Salento is characterised by buildings in baroque style, the search for grandiousity and lavishness culminates in rich decorations, which especially in Lecce are to be found everywhere: in the countless churches and chapels, in the genteel residences as well as the tiny houses, in the courtyards, on the windows frames, on the balconies, on the niches with statues showing theatrical poses and attitudes, on the volutes, and coat of arms around the old town centre.
Lecce, provincial capital, has such ancient origins that they are actually unknown from an historical point of view. Lecce is well known for its numerous monuments, the majority of which are in the typical Lecce Baroque style.
Considerable are the friezes, the capitals, the pinacles & rose windows decorating many of the town palaces and churches. Many fine decorations of extraordinary beauty were carried out using the soft and malleable local stone, the so called ”Lecce Stone”, easily workable & with its warm sandy colors. Among the main symbols representing the Lecce Baroque art are the following: The Basilica of Santa Croce, with the annexed Celestines Convent, with its wonderful facade, currently the Prefecture’s office, St. Irene’s Church, St, Matteo’s Church, from the concavo-convex facade, almost in Borromini’s style. The Chiesa del Gesu’ (Church of Jesus) with its beautiful altars; St. John the Baptist, St Chiara, St Angelo, St Maria delle Grazie in St Oronzo’s Square. Other splendid examples of Lecce Stone masterpieces, created by the masters of sculpture, are found not only in the churches and main monuments but in all the city centre: the balconies and terraces of private houses are decorated with splendi ornaments, still visible their entirety. The monumental complex of Duomo Square, which, besides the Cathedral, comprises the 70-meter high’s bell tower, the Bishopric (17th century) of Reinassance style, and the ex-Seminary, is surrounded by beautiful Baroque buildings. Only by freely walking around the old part of Lecce, not specifically looking for the most reknowed monuments, it is possible to discover little and great wonders of creativity and fantasy, from the churches to the palaces, to the little citizens’ houses. Among the worth visiting palaces there are: Carafa Palace, seat of the Municipality, the palaces in Piazza Falconieri and the Provincial Museum, rich with notable archeaological findings. Beside the old Lecce urban centre, the modert part of Lecce is also worth visiting. A pleasant walk in the cool of the evening is waiting for you, among artistic beauties and elegant shops.
Maglie is the throbbing heart of Salento, a dynamic, cheerful town rich with culture and monuments of great artistic and historical importance. Some archeological findings in the Maglie feud are evidence that the site was inhabited since very old ages, as confirmed not only the remains of the ancient Messapic wall ruins but also by the dolmen and menhir that can still found among olive trees. Various settlements followed one after another throughout the centuries to date. A visit to the Cathedral or Chiesa della Collegiata (Church of the Collegiata), built in the 18th century on two pre-existent buildings is not to be missed. The bell tower, which, although at a reduced scale, reminds a lot that in Piazza Duomo (Duomo Square), notable is also the baroque church Madonna delle Grazie, also known as Chiesa della Congregazione. Built in the first half of 16th century, the church’s exterior shows an elegant portal and spiral columns, and in its interior a unique nave with several canvases and paintings and other valuable work of arts. Also noticeable is the Column of the Madonna delle Grazie, built in 1684, it has a smooth shaft and a Corinthian capital, on top of which the statue of the Madonna was erected. When in 19th century it was damaged by lightning, another statue was commissioned to an artist from Maglie, called Luigi de Pascalis. Facing the main square, there is Palazzo Capece, dating back to 17th century over the ruins of a pre-existing castle of Angevin period. The only remains of this building are the foundations, the stables, the storehouses, and the hall’s internal portal. Currently the palace is used by the Liceo Classico (Secondary School-Humanities), named after Francesca Capece, who donated it to the Municipality in 19th century. The square is named after an illustrious citizen of Maglie: Aldo Moro. A usual visiting destination of students is, but not only, Alca, which puts together the Municipal library and the Museo Civico di Paleontologia e Palentnologia (Civic Museum of Paleontology and Palaeo-ethonology) “Decio de Lorentiis”. Inaugurated in 1960, exhibits about 2500 highly valued geological findings.
Poggiardo is only a few km away from Castro and Santa Cesarea Terme, and is rich with great historical, artistic and natural beauties, that have nothing to envy to other more popular itineraries. Worth visiting are the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli with its crypt and splendid frescoes representing a valid alternative to the most demanding tourists. The Mother Church of Poggiardo, dedicated to the Transfiguration of our Lord is in Baroque style, built over a very old building, dating back to the year 1300. The Church of the Madonna Immacolata was built in 17th century in the proximity of the Mother Church, with its XVI, the well preserved renaissance style portal, the Church of St Francis of Assisi rises in the old town centre, near the main square, built in the end of 16th century with its annexed convent, it was neglected for many years. It was renovated and re-built in neoclassical style. The interior has six lateral altars, three on each side, in addition to the main one. Here you find many papier marche statues. Its castle, called Palazzo Guarini, was erected around the second half of 14th century, and looked like a small stronghold, for defensive purposes and as a vedette. In close proximity to the pinewood you can find the Carsic Grottos of Poggiardo, among which, the spectacular Grotta delle Meraviglie (Grotto of Wonders).