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Last updated on June 23, 2023 by Wandering our World

The heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia, is a hidden treasure in this beautiful country where you’ll find sparkling beaches, cool olive groves, and hillside towns to explore.

Bari and Lecce are two of Puglia’s most well-known cities, yet while both of them have nearby beaches and great food and wine, they’re very different cities…

Bari has been described as the “Bologna of the South”, with history and culture, but also plenty of nightlife and excitement. In Bari, you can wander the old town or the seaside promenade, and visit impressive churches.

But Lecce is more like Florence, with baroque architecture, churches, and connections to ancient Greece. Here you can visit the Roman Theatre, eat pasticciotto pastries, and relax at the beach.

There’s much more to both of these cities of course, so to help you decide which one to put on your bucket list, we’ve put together our own honest comparison of Bari and Lecce.

Let’s get started!


  1. A Quick Overview
  2. Which Is Better For Nightlife? 
  3. Which Is Better For Food?
  4. Which Is Better For Shopping?  
  5. Which Is Better For Families?
  6. Which Is Better For Beaches?
  7. Which Is Cheaper?
  8. Where To Stay According To Your Budget
  9. Which Is Better For Couples? 
  10. Which Is Better For History?
  11. Which Is Better For Activities?  
  12. Which Is Easier To Get To?
An infographic pitting Bari vs Lecce and showing some of the key differences that will be discovered later in the article.

A Quick Overview of Bari vs Lecce

Bari: A Quick Overview

Bari is located on the Adriatic Sea, in Southern Italy. It’s the biggest city in the Puglia region, and around 315,000 people call it home.

This has been a historically important city for thousands of years, and Bari has been influential as far back as the Roman times, the Middle Ages, and even World War II.

Bari is a warm city, with a typically Mediterranean climate. This means that the summers are very hot and dry, and the winters are mild and pleasant.

That climate means that agriculture thrives around Bari, and the city’s cuisine centers around locally grown and produced wheat, wine, and olive oil.

It’s the perfect place to enjoy a bowl of pasta and a glass of pinot!

Panoramic view of old town in Bari, Puglia, Italy

Lecce: A Quick Overview

Lecce is also located in Southern Italy, approximately 150km southeast of Bari. It’s a smaller city, with 91,000 residents, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character.

Lecce is said to have been conquered by the Romans and it’s been an important city for Italy ever since, with baroque buildings and beautiful structures being built thousands of years.

Lecce is known for its baroque architecture, and it’s a great place to visit to immerse yourself in Italian history and culture, without some of the crowds that come with other tourist cities.

The city also has a warm Mediterranean climate, and it’s easy to relax here in summer or winter.

Puglia italy italia south. Houses on cliff edge with water below
iStock.com/Noppanun Lerdwattanapaisan

Which Is Better For Nightlife?

If you’re looking to hit the town, Bari is a great place to start. This city is known for its great nightlife and a range of interesting bars and clubs.

Bari is home to around 60,000 university students, so you’re always able to find people ready to party the night away here.

In Bari, you just have to wander around the city’s old town to get a taste of the nightlife. In the old town, you’ll find pubs, restaurants, wine bars, and even clubs. Bari manages to blend ancient history with contemporary fun, and you’ll find a great range of places to visit here.

Lecce isn’t as well known for its nightlife, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good night out here.

There are still a lot of bars and clubs to visit in Lecce, and many of them are concentrated in the center of the city. If you’re looking for a cocktail bar or a wine bar, then you’ll be able to find a great one in Lecce.

Because it’s less of a tourist hotspot than some other Italian cities, and it also lacks the university student culture, Lecce is somewhat quieter than Bari.

Overall, we say that Bari is the best place to visit if you’re looking for nightlife. It’s bigger, louder, and livelier, and simply has more choices when you’re looking for a night out.

Young women dancing in a nightclub

Which Is Better For Food?

Bari is located right on a port, which means you’re guaranteed to get great seafood there.

Some of the local highlights include fresh fish from the fish markets, and the Panino col Polpo: a sandwich full of gently seasoned and seared octopus.

Bari is also famous for its Tiella di riso, Patate e Cozze, a local casserole-style dish, made of rice, potato, and mussels. It’s perfectly seasoned and cooked, and a must-try!

If you’re not into seafood, don’t worry, Bari has many other local delicacies too. These include the Orecchiette pasta, handmade right here in town, Spaghetti all’assassina (a spicy, caramelized tomato-style pasta), local cheeses, focaccia bread, and so much more.

In Lecce, you’ll find so many fresh, handmade ingredients that can be combined to make simple yet delicious dishes.

Lecce is known for producing mouth-watering vegetables like a special local variety of potato, and purple carrots. It’s also the city where you’ll be able to buy incredible locally made cheeses and wines, and pasta too.

And if you’re in Lecce, you can’t miss trying the local desert Fruttone either, a small pastry case full of jam and almonds, covered with chocolate. For a more savory experience, be sure to get your hands on some Rustico, a savory pastry case full of local vegetables, bechamel sauce, and mozzarella cheese.

Honestly, it’s hard to choose between Bari and Lecce for food. Both of these places have their highlights, and the food all through the Puglia region is excellent.

Both of these cities are a foodie’s dream, so you’ll be happy no matter which city you pick. But if you’re after local specialty dishes, pick Bari, but if you’re looking for artisanal homegrown ingredients, Lecce is the place for you.

Italian pastas with different kinds of sauce

Which Is Better For Shopping?

Bari isn’t known for shopping in the same way that Italian cities like Milan are, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find some fantastic stores here.

Right in the center of town, is the Fashion Centre of Puglia. This is the biggest shopping mall in the region, and it has a big range of stores to visit. This is the spot to visit if you’re looking for luxury or international brands.

For a more local, and eclectic experience, you can’t miss the Monday flea market at Via Napoli. This is the place to visit if you’re looking for handmade or second-hand items, and you’re sure to pick up a bargain.

Aside from these two places, you’ll find a lot of other shopping opportunities in Bari. There are big shopping malls, as well as hidden gems, so you can’t go wrong with a visit here.

Lecce has a few shopping centers, but they aren’t massive. This is a small city, so the demand for expensive items and high-class shopping is a lot less than in some of Italy’s metropolises. So if you’re looking for an international luxury shopping experience, Lecce probably isn’t the place for you.

Despite that, you’ll still be able to find some wonderful stores here, in particular the local, artisanal ones. Wandering around streets like Via Palmieri will help you to get started, and then if you haven’t found what you’re looking for you can also visit Via Salvatore Trinchese, which has several chain clothing stores.

If you’re planning a shopping trip, we recommend a visit to Bari. Because it’s a bigger city, there are more options here, and you’ll find a great mix of local and international stores to spend your Euros in.

Impression around the port of Bari, the capital city of the Apulia region in Southern Italy

Which Is Better For Families?

Traveling to Lecce as a family is a great option. With the beautiful architecture and ancient history, there’s something around every corner to explore in Lecce.

Here, you can wander the streets and stop in to see the Roman ruins, and there are a lot of different churches to visit. If you’re visiting churches with your family, we recommend the Lecce Cathedral which people of all ages can enter for free.

There are other great family options for your time in Lecce too, including relaxing days at one of the nearby beaches, or time spent in the family-friendly Villa Communale Park.

In Bari, you’ll also find great attractions to visit with your family. Bari is the bigger of the two cities, which means there is more to see and do here, but it is also harder to get around and more chaotic.

But in Bari younger children might enjoy a stroll along the Strada Delle Orecchiette, where you’ll get to witness Italian women making traditional pasta by hand.

And as it’s built on the historic port, taking time to visit the coastline will keep people of all ages entertained for a while. If you’re heading down to the port, don’t forget a trip to the fish markets!

However Lecce ticks all the boxes if you’re thinking of traveling with children, or as a family. It’s smaller than Bari, a bit quieter, but still has lots of fun activities for everyone to enjoy.

Beach bag, beach toys and a little girl on the beach.

Which Is Better For Beaches?

Bari is located right on the coast and is surrounded by beautiful beaches. You might have to travel outside of town to get to some of them, but the public transport is easy to use, and the beaches are very close.

But for a beach right in Bari, you can visit Pane e Pomodoro Beach. It’s got golden sand, calm, clear water, and it’s very easy to get to.

For one of Bari’s more picturesque beaches, you can travel to Cala Paura, which is a small one nestled amongst rocks. This beach is usually busy and has pebbles rather than sand, but it’s got a wonderful view that makes it worth visiting.

Lecce is also located on the coast of Italy, and just like Bari it’s also surrounded by beautiful beaches. One of the best ones to visit is Baia dei Turchi, which is known for having soft golden sand, as well as shallow gentle waves to paddle in. This beach is great for swimming, and perfect to visit with children.

For something different, try a trip to Lido Punta della Suina, another sandy beach surrounded by a rocky shoreline and featuring a small island. Here, you can rent a beach chair and relax in the sun, before diving into the water.

Bari and Lecce are both great beach towns. No matter which one you choose, you’re going to be able to swim a lot and get a great tan sunbathing on the beach.

For that reason, we can’t choose between Bari and Lecce when it comes to beaches.

View of the harbour in Gallipoli a town on the Ionian sea in the Apulia region, Italy

Which Is Cheaper?

Bari is much cheaper to visit than some of Italy’s bigger cities. You’re going to find accommodation and food much cheaper here than in places like Rome or Milan.

Bari has a range of hostels and hotels, as well as options for eating out, which means that you can take your pick depending on what kind of budget you’re traveling on.

Lecce is also cheap to visit compared to the more touristy cities in Italy. And just like in Bari, accommodation and food are cheaper here than in other parts of Italy.

Lecce doesn’t have quite the same range of accommodation or meal options that Bari does though, but you’re still able to find some good bargains here, especially if you’re booking in advance.

So in the end, Bari tends to be cheaper than Lecce, but only just. This comes down to it being a bigger city, and having more options available. In Bari you’re likely to save a few euros, or in some cases a few cents on accommodation and food costs, although it’s not going to be a lot.

Cityscape of Bari at sunset with Basilica of San Nicola and Romanesque Cathedral
iStock.com/Nicola Forenza

Where To Stay According To Your Budget


Budget: Situated in the center of Bari, B&B Murex is a fantastic budget accommodation close to the beach and many other amenities. See photos and rates!

Luxury: For a taste of luxury in Bari, then head to Il Palazzetto. This modern, stylish and clean self contained apartment is located in one of the city’s best districts and is close to many classy bars and restaurants. See photos and rates!


Budget: B&B The Sun ’tis is a lovely little accommodation in Castro di Lecce which sits right by the sea. So you’ll get ocean views when waking up every morning, but at a fraction of the price of other coastal hotels. See photos and rates!

Luxury: The five-star La Fiermontina is the spot to go if you’re looking for world class service when on vacation in the city. Complete with swimming pool, gorgeous gardens and a terrace, it’s no surprise this hotel is regarded as one of the best in the area. See photos and rates!

Image of couple drinking cocktails when relaxing on chaise-lounges by swimming pool

Which Is Better For Couples?

The coast of Italy has a reputation for being a romantic place to relax with your lover, and Bari is no exception to this.

If you’re visiting Bari, spending time wandering the historic alleyways and checking out the old town is a must. We also recommend taking your towels and bathing suits down to one of the nearby beaches, where you can enjoy some time relaxing in the sun with your partner.

For something more intimate, in Bari, you can book in to enjoy a cooking class or a wine-tasting experience. And for a taste of traditional Italian romance, why not book tickets to see an Opera at Teatro Petruzzelli?

For a romantic couples getaway, Lecce is a great place to visit. It’s big enough to be interesting, but small enough to be intimate at the same time.

Here, you can relax on the golden beaches, and wander through the old town admiring the baroque architecture. And if you’re looking for fine dining and exclusive beachfront accommodation, Lecce is the place to find it. This little city is the perfect spot to take your lover for a weekend away.

These cities are both great to visit with a loved one. But if you’re a couple looking for an action-packed weekend away, we recommend Bari.

If, however, you’re more into relaxing and simply enjoying some time together, then Lecce is the perfect place to create lifelong memories.

Alleyway in old white town Bari

Which Is Better For History?

Bari is bursting with historical sights, and even if you’re not a history buff we’re sure you’ll find this a fascinating city to learn more about. This city was founded centuries ago and has been an important place for trade and development in Italy ever since.

The Basilica di San Nicola in the city dates back to 1087 and is one of the best places to visit in Bari if you’re interested in history.

The architecture of this city has changed and developed over time, and you’ll be able to spot all kinds of different influences here, from ancient Roman to the legacy of dictator Mussolini.

For some more modern history, Bari is also known for playing a tragic role in World War II as well. In 1943, mustard gas was released into the city as a result of bombings at the port.

Lecce has been considered a commercially important city in Italy for more than 1,000 years, dating back to the ancient Roman Empire.

Just like Bari, Lecce was under Roman control, and ruins dating back to this empire can still be seen today.

The Roman Amphitheater in Lecce, built in the 2nd century is fantastic to visit if you’re interested in ancient history, the Baroque architecture style found all around Lecce was first introduced in the 15th century, and there’s so much that you can explore here. You’ll see a lot of it in the columns and towers in town, as well as the ornately decorated churches.

However ultimately if you’re looking to learn more about Puglian history, we recommend you visit Bari.

Bari has been such an important city for thousands of years, and there’s so much to learn about here. Whether it’s ancient Roman history, or WWII history that interests you, you’ll find something new here.

Scenic sight in old town Bari, Puglia (Apulia), southern Italy.

Which Is Better for Activities?

If you’re looking for some new activities to try, then Bari is a great place to be. While you’re here, you’ll be able to enjoy a lot of new experiences, no matter what kind of fun you’re looking for.

The Pinacoteca Corrado Giaquinto art museum is a great place to start, and a good chance to take in some more Italian culture.

But for more interactive experiences, there’s no shortage of activities like wine tasting, cooking classes, and city tours that you can book yourself into in Bari.

Lecce is bursting at the seams with things to do too, especially if you’re looking for outdoor activities.

Basing yourself in Lecce is a good idea so that you can take day trips out to enjoy hiking, horse riding, biking, trekking, or even sailing!

For a more relaxed experience, there are plenty of wine-tasting opportunities, as well as cooking classes that you can enjoy in Lecce. And, if you’re wanting something indoors to wait out a rainy day, try one of the local museums such as the Museo Ferroviario della Puglia, all about trains.

In the end, Lecce gets our vote when it comes to activities. You might have to travel a little further afield to get to some of them, but this is the perfect place to be based so that you make the most of your time on the Italian coast.

Outdoors or indoors, cultural or fun, Lecce has many opportunities for activities on your vacation.

Roman Amphitheatre in Lecce, Puglia (Apulia), southern Italy.

Which Is Easier To Get To?

If you’re looking to travel to Bari, there are lots of different ways you can get there!

Firstly, let’s start with flying. This city is serviced by the Bari International Airport-Karol Wojtykat (BRI). The BRI Airport is only 11km outside the city center, and it’s serviced by several different airlines including budget-friendly ones such as Wizz Air and Ryanair.

If you’d prefer to take public transport, there are a lot of options available to you as well. Trains run from almost every major city in Italy, and there are high-speed rail connections to cities such as Rome and Venice.

Buses run just as frequently, so no matter your choice of transport, you’ll be able to get to Bari. Of course, you can also drive there, and if you’re traveling around Italy by car, the trip to Bari will be scenic and pleasant, from any direction.

Lecce is also very easy to get to. Unlike Bari, there’s no airport in Lecce, but that doesn’t mean you’re cut off.

The closest airport is Brindisi Papola Casale Airport, which is located about 50km north of the city of Brindisi. Regular buses and trains are running between these two places, so if you decide to fly to Lecce, you can still find your way.

You can also fly into the Bari Airport, and then head south on the bus or the train. Lecce has a great train station, originally opened in 1866. This station is serviced by night trains, high-speed rail, and also regional rail services, so you can comfortably get into Lecce.

And if you’re planning to travel to Lecce by bus, you’ll also find a range of bus services, although they aren’t quite as frequent as the train.

When we compare the two, Bari is easier to get to. The proximity of the airport, as well as the fact that Bari is just slightly closer to other major Italian cities, means that this will be the easiest city to get to. That means you can start your holiday earlier!


  • Wandering our World

    Hi and welcome to Wandering our World! This article was written by one of the Wandering our World team - a team of travel enthusiasts who live around the globe.