The city of Ostuni rests on a hill, dominating the olive groves below, and a view stretching through the haze towards the Adriatic about 10 kms distant. Originally settled by the Meassapians, it passed into Roman control after the Punic wars against Hannibal, and was resettled and rebuilt by evacuees mainly from coastal villages, looking for safety inland from the depredations of Saracen pirate fleets ransacking their settlements along the littoral.
Overlooking a territory inhabited since the Palaeolithic era 50,000 years ago, Ostuni inherits a history similar to most of the other towns in Central/Southern Puglia and down to the Salento peninsular.
Known as the “La Citta Bianca” (The White City) Ostuni is famous throughout Italy for the longevity of its inhabitants, and claims its nickname due to the caustic limestone used in the Old Towns construction, and the habit of whitewashing its buildings, originating as an anti plague measure in the Middle Ages in an attempt to reflect the “bad airs” thought to be the cause of the malady.
A popular tourist destination today, Ostuni is split by the central Piazza which lies between the Old and the New Town.
Climbing through the jumble of narrow laneways and streets that spill up the hill towards the Cathedral from the Piazza, first time visitors could be forgiven for thinking that they were in a Greek settlement, so much is Ostuni’s Old Town closer in its style of architecture and building to Greece than to Italy. The twisting thoroughfares, some barely shoulder-wide, hide a plethora of sights and discoveries.
throughout its warren of streets, cafes and bars jostle with restaurants, souvenir stalls and local craft shops.
Sights to see include The Duomo at the peak of the Old Town, close to the magnificent archway straddling the street between buildings and more reminiscent of Venices’ famous Bridge of Sighs than the hilltops of Puglia.
The 15th century church on the Piazza reveals an interior far more ornate and resplendent than its exterior facade would suggest, the Piazza itself is alive in the summer. Surrounded by stylish cafes and ice cream bars, on a balmy summers evening it is a delight to relax open air with a coffee and gelato being entertained by musicians.
Take a stroll up and onto the town walls, by day or at night, and enjoy the different panoramas spreadeagled below you, – above all, Ostuni is a ramblers paradise, well suited to leisurely discovery and inquisitive meanderings.
- Osteria del Tempo Perso – (Puglian cuisine) 47, Via G. Tanzarella Vitale – Old Town, above walls.
- Osteria Piazzetta Cattedrale (Puglian cuisine) 7, Largo Arcidiacono T. Trinchera – Near Cathedral