The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Otranto

Otranto beach holidays

Otranto in Salento is very close to Lecce and is part of one the most beautiful area in Puglia (South East Italy), together with the Gargano and the most inner Murgia hills.

It ‘s the easternmost city in Italy with a small port on the Adriatic Sea, mostly used for fishing and tourism, in particular for the ferry services to Greece.

Every year, the increase of tourists from all over the World is steady. And it’s not a surprise: the beaches, the scenery you meet around, the typical views of Otranto, the warmth and hospitality of the locals, as well as an unforgettable cuisine where seafood reigns, are the basis of Salento as a whole great success.

Why don’t you test yourself the beauty of this place in Apulia by booking our Otranto Beach Holidays package next Summer?

I’m sure you will be back enchanted

Great beaches in and around Otranto.

Since Otranto is a beach city on the Adriatic Sea, the seaside life here is very important for most visitors.

As for the beaches to visit, the closest to the town are small and become very crowded in summer.

But if you go further north or south, you will find the largest and most beautiful beaches.

In the north, you van enjoy the Bay of the Turks, which seems a sand paradise. It is off the beaten tracks, and therefore it is not very popular with tourists. But this is its greatest strength, beyond its natural beauty.

Also in the north, take time to stop at the Lakes Alimini beach: it well worth the rest.

If you go south, Porto Badisco is the nicest beach: it’s a rocky cove, a perfect place for snorkeling thanks to the calm, clear water.

But not only snorkeling: in Porto Badisco, if you’re eager to take scuba diving lessons, various shops at the port can readily satisfy your desire, whichever your skill level is.

Certified professional divers provide regular lessons.

Fully equipped boats and specialized personnel accompanying day and night divers to sites such as caves, wrecks and fascinating seabed.

Dives take place in the wonderful waters teeming with colorful marine life.

So, if all this sounds good to you, the best is yet to come: Salento is a perfect location for kitesurfing.

Since Salento is a small peninsula between two seas, the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea, this offers countless combinations of places with favorable and wind conditions.

Here, the ‘Tramontana’ (North) and the ‘Scirocco’ (south-east) are the most appreciated winds by local kiters.

Otranto and its surroundings are amongst the most famous World destinations for kitesurf.

If you like the Tramontana wind, the best area is the Adriatic coastal trait from San Foca to Otranto, with Frassanito and Alimini also great with the south-east wind.

If you prefer the Scirocco wind, the best kitesurfing spots are Gallipoli (the sandy beaches of Baia Verde and Padula Bianca) on the Ionian Sea.

The best way to get to Otranto?

By plane:

You can reach Otranto very easily by plane: There are two airports nearby, one in Brindisi and one in Bari. From here, you can rent a car or take a shuttle.

By train:

If you travel by train, you can take a FSE (Ferrovie del Sud Est) bus from the Lecce station. After approx. one hour, you will arrive to Otranto; then, take a bus to the city center where there are most hotels and tourist attractions.

By car:

From Brindisi, take the SS16 (National Road n.16) south towards Otranto.

From Lecce, on the same SS16 the direction is north.

Yet, you don’t have the problem of reaching Otranto if accept to travel with My Tours in Rome and its Otranto Beach Holidays package, since the round trip transfer to/from your selected hotel is included in the holiday plan.

Tip: In summer, there is a bus line known the “Salento”.

This bus will take you around Otranto, as well as the surrounding areas, including the beaches.

The Old town of Otranto: it is well worth a visit by the UNESCO

A visit to the “cento storico” (old town) can start with a walk on the promenade: from here, you can enter the old suburb through a portal and dine while enjoying a fantastic panoramic view of the bay.

Along this remote and sometimes primitive southern coast of Italy you can find a wide range of architecture styles and ancient buildings — from medieval to Byzantine to Baroque — as the result of constant attempts of invasion and military conquests that hit the Salento peninsula over the centuries.

The result of this architectural plurality in the Salento goes from the Otranto’s Castle, that someone has defined similar to “…a child’s sand castle on a grand scale”, to the trulli, houses with a stone conical huts typical of the Itria valley, in particular of the Alberobello old town, to the lacy filigree of Lecce, “the Florence of the South.”

Despite several distructions suffered over time, Otranto retains a very well established old town, with the typical southern Italian houses, painted in bright colors that make you feel be in a very picturesque dream.

The old town of Otranto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the motivation “Heritage witness to a culture of peace”.

Italy’s Touring Club included Otranto’s Centro Storico in a special list of the most beautiful small towns in Italy, attracting every year thousands of tourists, especially in summer.

The Otranto Castle: dark and Gothic building. Isn’t it, Mr. Walpole?

While walking through the city, you can admire the old walls and the Aragonese Castle, a massive construction built by Frederick II of Swabia in 1226 and subsequently modified by the Aragonese kings (XV Century) first, and by Emperor Charles V (XVI Century) later.

The Castle is well worth a visit.

While Horace Walpole in his famous novella, “The Castle of Otranto” depicted this building as a dark, labyrinthine palace, the real thing is a benign, if really big, presence, located on the limits of the city like a robust centuries-old barnacle.

Not so Gothic, in the end: the most Gothic thing, at least for the atmosphere it creates, is the turret used for falcons. In fact, a multitude of pigeons invaded the castle, and falcons and a falconer are there in order to control the problem.

Has life anything to do with a tree and a Medieval monk?

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, consecrated in 1088, is a masterpiece of the Baroque architecture.

The facade has a huge Renaissance rose window, while the interior has columns that are said to come from a temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva:

This is the Church where you can admire a beautiful mosaic floor dated back to 1166, beneath the 17th-century Moorish coffered ceiling, by a monk named Pantaleone. It’s one of the largest mosaics in the world and depicts the “Tree of Life”, with interesting representations of the months, and episodes of the Old Testament.

The nearly 1,000-square-yard pictogram borrows its images from everything from pagan times to ancient Greek and Hindu mythology to the Old and New Testaments to medieval history.

Using the Tree of Life as its central motif, it weaves a wildly chaotic chronological web ranging from creation to the fall of Adam and Eve. Here King Arthur and Alexander the Great share floor space with the Tower of Babel, elephants, dragons, hydra-headed beasts, griffins, unicorns, minotaurs, Norse gods and horned devils.

800 martyrs inside the Cathedral.

Another great feature of the Otranto Cathedral is the crypt, supported by 42 marble columns and surrounded by charming remnants of its early-Italian frescoes pale beside this mosaic masterpiece. It contains the bones of 800 martyrs (later proclaimed saints) who were killed by the Turks in 1480, in an attempt to conquer the city. The bones are held on huge shelves inside the cathedral.

Once in Otranto, don’t miss a visit to another couple of artistic and architectural jewels: firstly, the Byzantine church of St. Peter, dating back to the IX Century, which preserves precious frescoes.

Secondly, we recommend the Chapel of the Holy Spirit (also called “Madonna of Altomare” Chapel as the locals name it), and the St. Mary of the Martyrs Sanctuary, where, as mentioned before, the Turks behead the 800 Otranto citizens, in 1480.

Is there a nightlife in Otranto?

Let’s get rid of doubts: Otranto is the coolest clubbing venue in Salento, and maybe in the whole Puglia (and probably in Southern Italy). It competes with Ibiza to attract the best DJs on Earth.

So, if you are a nightlife fan, fear not: get ready to start dancing, drinking and enjoying yourself until the morning comes.

During summer nights, Otranto is a very lively city offering a wide range of entertainment.

The city schedules every year a wonderful scene with the typical atmosphere of a beach holiday, including street artists that fills the center of the cities with their shows, among other attractions.

Every night, in many different places along the coast you can enjoy a party atmosphere, as the sun goes down. Food, drink, music and dance attract locals and guests of various ages, very often directly on the beach. Parties may continue until next morning.

Some city nearby too can host beach parties with live entertainment, costume, and special guests.

If you really want to immerse yourself in the local culture and you look for something really unique in the world, don’t miss the Taranta: this ancient dance with its syncopated rhythm has a powerful hypnotic power that makes people dance in an incredible way, even if your’re not so keen to dancing.

Italians call ‘tarantolati’ (hit by the tarantola, a species of poisonous spider) to indicate those who can’t stay still and dance like crazy.

The world-famous Taranta music festival is named La Notte della Taranta (Taranta’s night), and takes place every year in Summer in Melpignano, approx. 23 km from Otranto.

Anything definitively more romantic?

Managed by the European Commission, the lighthouse at Cape Otranto is a refurbished building now welcoming tourists, housing a maritime museum and serving as a weather station.

Since the coast here also creates a natural border between the Adriatic and Ionian Sea and, therefore, the location is perfect for watching sunsets.

The lighthouse is the typical destination of very pleasant trips and offers spectacular views.

Finally, traditionally, every year the locals come here to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

And You?

Have you already been to Otranto for your beach holidays?

If you liked it, tell us your experience.


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