Otranto is a town in the province of Lecce (Apulia, Italy), in a fertile region once famous for its breed of horses.

It is located on the east coast of the Salento peninsula. The Strait of Otranto, to which the city gives its name, connects the Adriatic Sea with the Ionian Sea and Italy with Albania. The harbour is small and has little trade.

The lighthouse Faro della Palascìa, at approximately 5 km southeast of Otranto, marks the most easterly point of the Italian mainland.

About 50 km south lies the promontory of Santa Maria di Leuca (so called since ancient times from its white cliffs, leukos being Greek for white), the southeastern extremity of Italy, the ancient Promontorium lapygium or Sallentinum. The district between this promontory and Otranto is thickly populated and very fertile.


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The Castello Aragonese, reinforced by Emperor Frederick II and rebuilt by Alphonso II of Naples in 1485-1498. It has an irregular plan with five sides, with a moat running along the entire perimeter. In origin it had a single entrance, reachable through a draw-bridge. Towers include three cylindrical ones an a bastion called Punta di Diamante ("Diamond's Head"). The entrance sports the coat of arms of Emperor Charles V.

 

 

 

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The Cathedral, consecrated in 1088, a work of Count Roger I adorned later (about 1163), by Bishop Jonathas, with a mosaic floor; it has a rose window and side portal of 1481. The interior, a basilica with nave and two aisles, contains columns said to come from a temple of Minerva and a fine mosaic pavement of 1166, with interesting representations of the months, Old Testament subjects and others. It has a crypt supported by forty-two marble columns. The same Count Roger also founded a Basilian monastery here, which, under Abbot Nicetas, became a place of study; its library was nearly all bought by Bessarion.

 

jpgFew kilometres away from Otranto, towards the southern side, in "Valle delle Memorie" rises a hill upon which is erected "Torre Pinta", a circular tower that dominates the surrounding landscape. It is an example of dovecot tower, built in a settlement, perhaps of Christian people, dating back to the previous age, for its Latin cross shaped plan. The three short wings of the cross are oriented to the West, South and East; while the dark gallery, that corresponds to the long wing of the cross, is oriented toward the North. All the niches and the wide corridor with its low ceiling, present deep incisions caused by pigeons' nails. If you look at the walls with more attention, you notice some details that directly remind of Messapic culture: a furnace/crematory used for cremations and sacrifice; hundreds of cavities used as urns and a stone step along the entire walls, used, according to that people's custom, to leave the dead sat down.Today the most reliable hypothesis about the origins of this structure is that of Messapic origin. This hypogeum was discovered in August of 1976 by the Architect Antonio Susini who comes from Milan, and who firmly asserted that the numerous little cells found there, hosted pigeons bred by the owners of the near farm.In addition, the strategic position of the place gives sense to the supposition that there were homing pigeons that ran for the military Command of Borboni that garrisoned the territory of Otranto.Only the tower dates back to the Middle Age, but it was subjected to different recreations. This part is certainly the oldest in fact is characterized by oriental spires of Saracen inspiration.

 

 

Otranto takes its charm (above all) from its old town that stood up to storm of time and nowadays is the same of the past.
You enter this old part of Otranto from "Porta Terra" that brings you to a rampart of Napoleonic age. Once entered the heart of the little town, you are in a triangular square, created in the second half of XIV Century. Going forward rises "Porta Alfonsina", built in 1481 and dedicated to Alfonso Duke of Calabria, thanks to whom Otranto was set free from Ottoman control. It is exciting to walk upon the old paving made by cobblestones. Via Garibaldi is the main street of Otranto's trade: it brags about numerous little shops that stay opened until late at night, where you can find everything. This street ends up in "Piazza del Popolo" in which you can notice "La Torre dell'Orologio" built in 1799 and embellished with the citizens' coat of arms. Afterwards, among pubs and bars, you arrive at "Porta a Mare", throughout which, getting down a long wooden staircase, you arrive at the port. The old town winds through a busy web of tiny streets where you can admire old buildings dating back to different ages. From the seaside rises "Bastione dei Pelasgi": if you look across from here you perceive a quaint and wonderful landscape of the port. Moreover, in the heart of the old part of Otranto you can find St. Peter's Church; at the top of the town the Cathedral and the Seminary, while the Aragonese Castle is situated in direction of the sea. Another noteworthy thing is that if you look at the edges of some houses in the tiny streets you will find some granite balls that were shot by the Saracens' bombards in 1480.


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