Convent of the Annunziata

The imposing palazzo on the West side of Piazza Vittorio Veneto is the ancient Convent of the Annunziata, completed in 1748 as the new home of the Dominican Cloistered Nuns.  The building was slightly taller than the Porta Maggiore, also known as the Porta della Bruna, in the Fontana della Torre district in which the nuns owned an orchard, which was demolished in 1820.  Mauro Manieri di Nardò, a Baroque architect who was very active in area around Lecce, brought the original project, drawn up by Vito Valentino di Bitonto in 1734, to completion.
The façade of the palazzo unfurls across two orders, enlivened by a series of string courses and arcades.  The sky can be seen through the top layer of these; behind them is a roof garden and café with breathtaking views over the piazza, the hypogea and the stones beyond in one direction, and a seemingly endless view of the Murgia plateau in the other.
There is a church hidden behind the large central arch, designed by an engineer named De Giorgi in 1844, but never used as such.  It is neo-classical in style, and having first served as venue for meetings, is now used as a cinema, complete with its imposing original white stone columns.
The building was used as a convent until 1809, the year in which monastic orders were suppressed, subsequently becoming the headquarters of the Tribunal, then of the Register and Record Office.  Later the premises were used for elementary and middle schools, before finally being restored to become the present headquarters of the provincial library, named after Tommaso Stigliani, a C17th Materan poet.  It contains 250 000 volumes, including precious manuscripts, incunabula, parchments and cinquecentine, and also houses a very technologically advanced Mediateque.