Otranto is a town in the province of Lecce and is part the Salento area. It is located in a harbor along the east coast on the Adriatic Sea and is the easternmost town in Italy. Its small seaport is mostly used for fishing activity and tourism, especially for the ferry services to Greece. The city also gave its name to the Strait of Otranto, which separates Italy from Albania.
The old town of Otranto has been declared by UNESCO as “Heritage witness to a culture of peace”.
Otranto is strategically located along the coast and is therefore always been considered a natural bridge between East and West. Especially during the Roman Empire when the town became one of the most important maritime centers of Italy and the natural point of trade with Greece.
Today Otranto is a quiet town and a popular tourist destination. Its historical center has been included in the list of the most beautiful towns in Italy, from “I borghi piu’ belli d’Italia”, and the town attracts each year thousands of tourists especially during summer months. The town still retains its characteristic appearance of the ancient market towns that are washed by the Mediterranean. While walking around the town, the ancient walls and the Aragonese Castle can be admired. The castle is a massive building which is part of the tough defenses of Otranto. It was built in the 15th century on one of Frederick II’s earlier fortresses ruins. It is open to the public and sometimes houses temporary exhibitions.
Another masterpiece of Baroque architecture is the Cathedral of S. Maria Assunta, consecrated in 1088, it has a huge rose window. The interior, has columns said to come from a temple of Minerva and a fine mosaic pavement of 1166, it is one of the largest mosaics in the world and depicts the “tree of life” with interesting representations of the months and Old Testament subjects. The Cathedral has a crypt supported by 42 marble columns. It holds the bones of 800 martyrs (later proclaimed saints ) who were killed by the Turks in 1480 in an attempt to conquer the town. Bones are kept on massive shelves inside the cathedral.
Despite the different destruction suffered throughout the time, Otranto retains a very well defined old town, with the typical aspect of the southern Italian houses painted in bright colors which make it very picturesque. The old town is still enclosed within its defensive walls; the small streets are full of bars, restaurants and small souvenirs shops. On summer nights Otranto has a lovely holiday scene and usually street artists fill up the city center with their shows. Tourism is in constant expansion thanks to the beautiful beaches and landscape that this town can offer, and the warm hospitality of the locals.
A Photo Tour of Otranto, Italy By Cheryl Howard
Otranto is one of the most gorgeous towns in Salento, Italy. It sits on the easternmost edge of Italy’s coast and for this reason, remained one of Italy’s most conquered locations for many centuries. The lingering medieval fortifications are now a modern-day tourist attraction.
Even though I was only there for a few hours, I long to return so I can spend more time exploring its historical monuments (ahem, castles and cathedrals!), wandering the cobblestoned streets and sampling regional cuisine.
Allow the romance and beauty of this place to take hold of your heart, as it did mine. Come and join me on a photo journey of Otranto.
Castello Aragonese, once the heart of the town’s defensive capabilities, now serves as a cultural venue which hosts events and art exhibits.
I think it would be an incredible place to get married! I’m not really sure if they allow for weddings there, but a girl can dream …
Castle of Otranto
The castle is surrounded by a large moat, thankfully now dried up and not stinking up the town as it would have during medieval times. As you walk through the castle, you’re led down to the sea.
Port of Otranto
Walking along the port area, you’ll see bicyclists riding by and the stunning blue hues of the Adriatic Sea
Streets of Otranto
Walking these cobblestoned streets of the historical center, you almost want to pinch yourself. You’ll wonder if the charm of these streets and this town are real and not something that you invented in your dreams.mmm those dried pastas look great, are those sweets behind and underneath them? I see something that says “al chocolato” mmm.Pasta, pasta and more pasta! I left with two bags, which I brought home to Canada with me. They were only a couple of euros each.The pasta was so fresh and oh so good!
One of the more enjoyable things to do in Otranto is visit the weird and offbeat Skull Cathedral. There’s an altar of human skulls and a large tile floor mosaic with unknown meaning.Learn all about the so-called Skull Cathedral, which is said to be the scariest cathedral in the entire world.
This place is much more happening during the spring and summer months, when warmer weather brings the locals out to play, as well as the tourists.I’d love nothing more than to enjoy endless days at the beach, tasty dinners outside with a view of the Adriatic, walking hand in hand with a tall, dark handsome stranger under the stars …I’m dreaming again! Alas, I’ll be back to Salento in October. Can’t wait to be reunited with Italy, which is seemingly my one true love (as far as countries go).
Good to Know
Otranto isn’t far away from other towns in Puglia, Brindisi and Monopoli.Tours of Salento, including Otranto, can be arranged through Agrifeudi – a new tour operator which offers highly specialized travel experiences throughout the region. These “rooting” experiences as they’ve come to call them will lead you to understand Salento on a deeper and more emotional level, putting you in touch with the history and ancient traditions of the region.
Italy in general is gorgeous, it’s so full of these kind of little towns and villages I’ve never heard of, but which would all be worth a visit! I especially loved that street image with the Fiat, soooo Italian….🙂
Otranto is definitely gorgeous. The architecture is so regal. Haha And who know perhaps you will meet your tall handsome stranger and be able to get married at Castello Aragonese.
Cheryl! Great post about Otranto. I live in Lecce and usually go the one of my favourite Salento beach which is near Otranto: the Turkish Bay (Baia dei Turchi), go there please, it’s a paradise! If you’ll come in october here and want to discover the great negroamaro and primitivo region near Lecce or the Ionio coast with sandy beaches just ask me 😉 A presto…Fabio.
Thank you Fabio! I must admit, that I fell in love with Puglia and in particular Salento. I’m not yet sure if I’ll be there in October but if I do return, I’ll drop you a line! It would be great to have a wine drinking companion of course, especially if I can consume copious amounts of primitivo! Mmmmm, so good…Cheryl