The original settlement was established by the Messapians, who named it Anxa. The current place name was chosen by the Greek, and derives from the expression kalé pólis, meaning "beautiful city". It is located in a unique position: the ancient settlement was built on a small island, connected to the headland by means of a 17th century bridge, part of the Salentina coast. A typical feature of the city is represented by its plaster-coated dwellings, with a top terrace, and outstanding monuments, first and foremost the Angevin Castle, and especially the Sant'Agata cathedral, built in the late Lecce baroque style.
The beautiful city of Lecce was defined as the "Florence of Baroque", as a result of the fact that between the 16th and 7th centuries, the city was beautified by monuments built in this style. The landscape features a great number of such illustrious examples, and one of the most outstanding is represented by the Basilica di Santa Croce which, following a long restoration, appears in all its dazzling splendour. Last but not least, its Cathedral is worth mentioning as creating a unique ensemble in the square it is located in.
Owing to its geographical location, over the century it was involved in the events that marked the history of the local peoples since the Upper Palaeolithic to the current era. All left traces of their passage: the Palaeolithic peoples left the "Grotte dei Cervi"; the Messapians, tombs and ceramic kilns; the Greek monolithic marble columns, capitals, tombs; the Romans a necropolis, tombs, epigraphs, stelae.