The region of Puglia in southern Italy is growing in popularity as visitors discover its stunning architecture, rich history, white sandy beaches and delicious /best-places-to-eat-in-italy-cuisine-puglia/” target=”_blank”>traditional cuisine. Otranto is one of the cities on the “heel of the boot” that is worth visiting on custom Italy tours.
Snapshots of the picture-perfect city of Otranto with its whitewashed houses on the turquoise backdrop of the sea are often used to advertise the peninsula of Salento. In real life, it is even better!
The old centre of Otranto is still surrounded by defensive walls built centuries ago to protect its residents from never ending invasions. It was ruled by the Greeks, Byzantines, Normans, and Aragonese. In 1480 Otranto, after a two week siege, was invaded by Turks, and 800 stoic locals were executed for refusing to convert to Islam. They were canonised later and the martyrs’ bones and skulls are stacked today in the splendid Cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Annunziata). The basilica is also famous for its spectacular 12th century floor mosaics that cover 700 square feet. Interestingly, the mosaics depict not only Christian stories like Noah’s ark, but also historical figures, such as Alexander the Great and King Arthur, as well as mythological and pagan motifs.
Another Otranto’s attraction is the Castello Aragonese built in the 15th century after the city was liberated from the savage Turks. On your custom Italy tours admire the beautiful views over the whitewashed Otranto and the sea from the top of this formidable fortress!
There are some small beaches in the city but the coastline outside of Otranto are renown for their picturesque beauty. The beaches of Baia dei Turchi and Porto Badisco might get busy during peak summer months but even the crowds cannot spoil their allure. Punto Palascia, also known as Capo d’Otranto, south of Otranto, with its cliffs, lighthouse and unspoilt landscape is great for relaxing and coastal walking.
Photos via Flickr by: Patrick Nouhailler, Francesco Crippa.