OF puglia

A short guide to Otranto: One of Puglia’s most charming towns

Otranto is certainly one of Puglia‘s most charming towns and is well worth a visit. It is located on the eastern coast of the Salento peninsula, facing the Strait of Otranto that connects the Adriatic Sea with the Ionian Sea. Otranto has a rich and varied history, dating back to ancient times when it was a Greek colony called Hydruntum. It was later conquered by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Normans, and the Ottomans, who massacred many of its inhabitants in 1480. Otranto is also famous for being the setting of the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, written by Horace Walpole in 1764. The novel tells the story of Manfred, a prince who tries to prevent an ancient prophecy from being fulfilled by marrying his son’s fiancĂ©e, Isabella. Otranto known for its gorgeous swimming and sunbathing spots, the cornucopia of excellent restaurants, seawall walks, and a real sense of the southern Italian dolce vita.

guide to otranto

You can enter the city from the Castello Aragonese by walking past the charming harbour where you will see the boats and fishermen that give life to this place. From here you will be immediately immersed into the lively streets of the town where you can find many shops selling local products and handicrafts. When the historic center becomes a bit too busy we reccommend seeking out the sea views and light breeze by heading away from the central thoroughfares and down to the lungomare, where you can take a leisurely stroll while eating an ice cream. For a refreshing swim or just simply an hour of sunbathing head to Spiaggetta Del Molo.

It is definitely worth your time to visit the Cathedral, built on the ruins of a Roman temple in 1068. As you walk inside, you might not notice anything remarkable about the walls or the altar. But then you look up and down. The ceiling is adorned with golden stars, and the floor is covered with a stunning mosaic made by a young monk named Pantaleone. He depicted his vision of heaven and hell, with scenes from the Bible, mythology and history. The mosaic was so beautiful that even the Muslims who sacked the church (and damaged some of the 13th century mosaics) after the Siege of Otranto spared most of it from destruction. You can’t walk on the mosaic, but you can admire it from a distance. It is less famous than the mosaic floor of Siena, but it is equally impressive and worth a detour to see it.

If you want to try a traditional puccia (a sandwich) head to Friggitoria Otranto and try a puccia and some frittura di pesce with a peroni. If, instead, you want to sit down and enjoy something to drink away from all the noise head to L’Ortale Ristoro Salentissimo, a gorgeous little deli with a private rooftop terrace where you enjoy the most wonderful aperitivo.

For parking there are several large, all day car parks on the approach to the town. We highly reccommend just parking the car and waling to the centro storico.