Set like a white pearl between the sky and the blue sea, Ostuni remains in the hearts of its visitors for the whiteness of the houses that populate its streets. Among the most popular destinations of the Salento peninsula, it is known all over the world as the ” white city ” for the lime roof that characterizes most of its homes.
Stroll through the historic center, a labyrinth of winding alleys and a succession of squares that climb the sides of a hill, until you reach the lower part of the village, surrounded by an ancient wall with two doors that have remained intact: Porta Nova and Porta San Demetrio.
In the upper part of the city visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta , one of the major attractions of Ostuni. Built in 1400, it features a finely decorated facade and a central rose window which is the second largest in Europe . Ostuni is also synonymous with sea and relaxation: Torre Guaceto , Torre Pozzelle , Rosa Marina and Creta Rossa are just some of the beaches that you can find in the city and its surroundings.
02 Caves of Castellana
We move to the south-eastern Murge, to go to the Castellana Caves , one of the main attractions of the Apulian hinterland. Located in the homonymous municipality of Castellana Grotte, a few kilometers from Alberobello, they are one of the most amazing caving complexes of karst origin in Italy .
The entrance to the caves, called Grave , is a cavern about 60 meters deep formed about one hundred million years ago, during the Cretaceous era. At that time Puglia was submerged by the sea and what we see today are the rocky layers that once were on the surface, shaped by rainwater over the centuries.
The Castellana Caves offer two different itineraries : one shorter, of about one and a half kilometers, and the other longer, of 3 kilometers. In addition to the huge chasm called the Grave, along the way you can visit many other caves, all with fantastic names, children of the legends that are told about these places. Walking among stalactites, stalagmites and limestone concretions of the most bizarre shapes you will pass through the Black Grotto , the Cavern of the Owl , the Cavern of the precipice and many others. Also worth seeing are the crystal pond , the Grand Canyon room and the Leaning Tower of Pisa cave which has a stalactite similar in shape to that of the Tuscan monument.
Stretching out towards the Adriatic, in the northern part of Puglia, there is the Gargano , the promontory also known as the “ Sperone d’Italia ”. What is most striking in this area is the immense variety of landscapes that include forests, mountainous areas, lakes, a coast full of white cliffs, long sandy beaches and villages overlooking the sea.
To protect the territory, the Gargano National Park was established , covered by a dense network of paths and areas equipped for excursions and trekking. In the area there are also two UNESCO sites : Monte Sant’Angelo and the Umbra Forest . The latter is one of the symbolic places of the Gargano, the green lung of the park, which extends over about 10,000 hectares at an altitude of 800 meters. In this nature reserve you will be able to observe a luxuriant vegetation composed mainly of beeches and oaks and specimens of native fauna such as roe deer, foxes, badgers, wild boars, owls and many other species.
Expanses of centuries-old olive trees on red earth, cacti dotted with prickly pears, dry stone walls, rows that follow one another as far as the eye can see: this and much more is the Itria Valley . It is an area of central Puglia between the city of Bari and the provinces of Brindisi and Taranto. The area largely coincides with the southern portion of the Murge plateau and includes Locorotondo, Cisternino and Martina Franca.
Locorotondo , a real jewel with white houses with sharp roofs (called cummerse ), stands on a summit overlooking the Itria Valley. Go to the Villa Comunale to enjoy a spectacular view over an expanse of trulli and olive groves and visit the majestic Church of San Giorgio Martire with its bell tower almost 50 meters high.
Cisternino is one of the most fascinating villages in Italy. Here, too, the municipal villa offers an incredible view of the valley, while on the opposite side you cannot miss the Mother Church of San Nicola and, in the main square, the clock tower. Having an aperitif in the Piazza dell’Orologio is a must and also stopping for dinner: here almost all butchers are transformed into small restaurants and resisting the heady smell of grilled meat will be practically impossible. Absolutely to try the Apulian bombette and local sausages.
Otranto is the easternmost city of the boot . The strength of this charming seaside village is the excellent mix of art, history, culture and nature. Let’s go find out! One of the reasons to stop in Otranto is undoubtedly the Aragonese Castle . Surrounded by defensive walls that protected the city from invaders, it can be visited in the internal parts that include the ramparts, the basements and the towers.
Stroll through the historic center made up of white houses leaning against each other overlooking the cobbled streets between hanging clothes and shops. While you are in the center, allow yourself some time to visit the Cathedral which dates back to the second half of the year one thousand. It is partly dedicated to the memory of the 800 Christian martyrs who, in 1480, were killed during the Turkish invasion – Otranto, in fact, is also known as the “city of martyrs”.