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Lecce is the city in Puglia which more than any other, has entirely preserved its historical and cultural identity. As the natural main town of the Salento area, nearly halfway between the Ionic coast and that of the Adriatic, it dominates a great deal of lowlands marked only occasionally by small hills, a frontier land of sorts set on the far most eastern point of the peninsula. The landscape is characterised by an immense expanse of red earth and bare stony ground. One of the symbols of the city is the church, Chiesa di Santa Croce (1549), an object of recent restoration and to be found in the immediate vicinity of Piazza Sant'Oronzo, at the centre and part of the beating heart of the city.
Lecce has also been defined as the "small Florence of the south" for its Baroque atmosphere and its beautiful monuments. The Lecce Baroque is a type of sculpture and architecture which, beginning in the 16th century, spread all throughout the province. It exploited the malleability of the Lecce stone, a calcareous stone which, compact and homogeneously honey-coloured, is used in decorating roads, balconies, buildings and churches. Even today, the shops still feature local artisans who, with plane and chisel, bring sculptures and other treasured objects to life.
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