Down the outside "heel" of Italy, Lecce, a small city of 95,000, is the capital of the province of Lecce. It is famous for its stunning architecture (including the rounded, dome houses called trulli just a few miles to its north), with some of Italy's most important cathedrals and amphitheaters. Lecce MICE venues are sometimes unique but always hospitable.
Lecce does not have an airport itself, but there is a sizable one, Brindisi-Salento Airport (BDS), in the Adriatic seaport of Brindisi, which is 30 miles northeast of the city center and has service to the major Italian cities and to such airports as London-Stansted (STN) on low-fare carriers.
There is no stand-alone convention center in Lecce, but making do very admirably is the 273-room Grand Hotel Tiziano e dei Congressi, which has a conference center with 13 meeting rooms and space for groups of up to 1,000 persons. Other MICE hotels in Lecce include the 150-room Hotel President Lecce, which has nine meeting rooms, the largest able to host 450 persons; the 143-room Hilton Garden Inn Lecce, which has eight meeting rooms; architecturally wonderful, 63-room Patria Palace Hotel Lecce, which has eight meeting and function rooms for up to 140 persons; the very modern, 55-room Clarion Collection Arthotel & Park Lecce, which has two meeting rooms; and the 47-room Risorgimento Resort, which is a sister property to the President and has three meeting rooms for up to 80 persons.
This is a unique area of Italy, and MICE venues in Lecce mirror that. Excellent choices of venue include the Chiostro dei Domenicani, a glorious, cream, religious space from the year 1400 with pillars and courtyards that can be lit up and room for up to 1,000 persons. Castello Monaci—or Monk's Castles—which is half castle, half stately home, but all spectacular; with spacious lawns, crenellated battlements, and the ability to put on banquets fit for royalty, also for up to 1,000 persons. Even farther south to the bottom of the heel, Borgo Cardigliano, a converted church that has the appearance of a South American monastery, 26 guest rooms, and space for groups of up to 250 persons, and inside Lecce itself the 53-room Grand Hotel di Lecce, which has Old World touches such as wrought iron, a crystal canopy, and Liberty glass and has a poolside courtyard with tree shade, an ornate function room, and other pristine spots. For an event using the trulli houses to the north, head to the Ristorante Sette Trulli, the Restaurant of Seven Trulli, which indeed incorporates seven trulli and has private function and dining rooms and a local, Italian menu.
Great restaurants able to arrange private dinners in Lecce run to the Osteria del Pozzo Vecchio, which has a local menu, is a converted house from the 1950s, and has vintage touches including a private dining room that doubles as a museum; Il Ristoro dei Templari, known for its fish and pizza in an old, high-ceilinged edifice; even-older-looking Torre di Merlino, which has a site right on the Piazza San Oronzo and has a large wine cellar and what might be the finest cuisine in Lecce; Osteria degli Spiriti, which follows the slow-food movement of cuisine; and Il Giardino, which has an airy main dining room and a pretty, shaded courtyard for when the sun beats down, as it can very often here.