"Otranto" Otranto by BlueLlama

Otranto Travel Guide: 35 reviews and 101 photos

A pretty seaside town by day, Otranto really comes into its own after sunset. The old defensive walls have sharp, striking angles which are illuminated for maximum effect at night. Lights from the town above are cast down onto the sea, silently mirroring Otranto's lively passeggiata.

Within the walls shops are open and at their busiest after the sun goes down; in the peak of summer it's far too hot to do much here during the day. And although many of the shops sell souvenirs and curios that are attractive to visitors, the centre has not been spoilt by tourism. Restaurants serve regional food and most of the people walking around in the evening are locals.

Evenings in Otranto are dramatic. The light and shadow of the castle, the hubbub of the crowds and music pulsating from the odd bar and restaurant, alongside fair-style treats for children; all in contrast to the eerily quiet water.

It's also the time when the awful events of the Ottoman occupation seem closest. Otranto suffered the gruesome slaughter of many inhabitants on a nearby hill in 1480. Nowadays it's little more than a spicy historical detail, but at night you can imagine just how vulnerable this little town at the very edge of Italy would have been.

The beaches

Otranto's big draw is its position on the coast. While the town is appealing in itself, we found the beaches just outside to be the best.

Those in Otranto itself are less natural (indeed, they seem to be largely man-made), but just outside are some lovely coves waiting to be explored.

On a summer's day there's really not much else to do except enjoy the sea. It's far too hot in July and August to sightsee for long, although I do wish we'd had time to drive down to Italy's most southerly point, just a short drive away. You can also see Albania on a clear day from nearby .

The heel of Italy

So it's a strange place, Otranto. By day a peaceful seaside getaway, while at night the events of centuries ago seem curiously close and real. The vastness of the sea is in tangible contrast to the compact old town. It all feels far away from Puglia's big towns and cities; you have to travel a long way up minor roads with only scrubland and sea in sight to reach Lecce, and Bari seems very remote. It is this sense of being on the edge that makes Otranto far more than just another picture-postcard Mediterranean town.

  • Intro Updated Mar 28, 2009
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