What to see in Otranto? Otranto is a small, fascinating town, surrounded by thick city walls, made of narrow streets, white houses and terraces overlooking a clear blue sea. It was dominated by Byzantines, Normans and it was the starting point for ships of the Crusaders.
Otranto’s heyday was ended by the siege of the Turks in 1480. And, even after the town was won back, the decay was progressive. Until it found its tourist vocation.
But… that’s it, I found it very, very touristy. Many were the shop selling souvenirs, and not everything was quality stuff. Also with food we couldn’t find precise indications, not even by locals, about places where to eat genuine, good food at affordable prices. We ended up eating panini or focacce every day. Honestly, there should be some good address, like we found in Polignano a Mare. Find out on my article Top things to do in Polignano a Mare.
What to see in Otranto
1 The Lungomare
The lungomare is the seafront, with benches, flower beds, many kiosks, cafés and shops. And above all, the beach, half with facilities, and half free. We didn’t try that, and I will reveal our choices later on this article.
Anyways, a passeggiata along the Lungomare is a must, especially after dinner. The town fills with people strolling, taking pics, eating gelato and chatting.
2 Porta Alfonsina
Built after the liberation of the town from the Turks, it is the entrance to the historical centre from the lungomare area. Towards the sea, you can see a statue. Dedicated to the Martyrs of Otranto, it represents the Homeland defends itself from the danger that comes from the sea.
First built in Romanesque style, but reconstructed after the Turks siege, has a very bare facade, apart from a rose window (rosone) and the decorations above the portal.
Inside, you will immediately notice the giant mosaic, covering the whole floor, dating back to 12th century.
It displays a stone prayer. It represent a tree of life, sustained by elephants. On the branches, lots of allegorical figures, referring to the whole medieval knowledge system, from the Bible to the legend of king Arthur.
Other remarkable details: the wooden ceiling, the Martyrs chapel (preserving part of the bones of 800 martyrs killed by the Turks during the siege) and the crypt, with 42 columns and different capitals.
4 Civic clock tower
Located at the corner between corso Garibaldi and the small piazza del Popolo, it presents the city emblem, a clock and a little bell on top.
5 Church of Saint Peter
Totally different from the duomo, this is a small church from the Byzantine era. In fact its has a Greek cross plan. I found very beautiful the cycle of frescoes.
6 Bastione dei Pelasgi
It is a bastion where you can observe the town harbour and the sea in all its splendour.
7 Castello di Otranto
It is a huge castle, with three round tower and a bastion that almost reaches the dock area. It currently houses exhibitions. Some of you may have heard of it, because it inspired the first gothic novel, called precisely The Castle of Otranto, written in 1764 by Horace Walpole.
8 Artisan shops
Right in front of the Castle entrance, you will notice a corner shop. It is Lillo Creazioni Artegiane, a lovely shop selling fabrics, clothes, jewels and many other beautiful, handmade products. In my opinion, it is worth a visit.
Another interesting shop is O di Otranto, in the main street, Corso Garibaldi. It sells handmade leather goods, above all sandals.
9 Street food
Sofish is a small spot where to eat a fish burger. I found it quite good.
Another place we tried was the baguetteria Skafè, in the Lungomare area. It only has 2 small tables inside. You can choose a baguette from the menu or compose your creation.
For a granita, we tried two places, both good: Gelateria Artigianale Cavour and La Granita di Nonna Elvira. The latter, despite a ton of enthusiast reviews, was good but, in my humble opinion, not to die for. My husband, however, loved it.
If you feel like a pasticciotto, along the Boardwalk there is one of the many seats of Martinucci.
10 Punta Palascìa Lighthouse
Not far from the town, you can see the Punta Palascìa lighthouse. It marks the point where the Adriatic and Ionian sea meet. But it is also the most easterly point of Italy.
Fun fact (that you already know if you follow me on Instagram @mycornerofitaly). The point was so easterly, that my husband Matteo received the following text message from his mobile company: Welcome to Greece! 😀
What to see in Otranto: the sea
Well, Otranto is part of the beautiful area of Salento. You have to know that people from Salento define with a saying: “Salentu, lu sule, lu mare, lu ientu”, which means “Salento, the sun, the sea, the wind”.
It is very windy indeed. Recognizing the wind is fundamental for your days on the beach. Yes, because there are days in which the wind is too strong on the Adriatic coast, so you have to go to the beach on the Ionian sea. And vice versa. The locals will help you out.
Both the coasts are blessed with a magnificent sea, but there’s a huge difference:
- Along the Ionian coast, the beaches are rocky.
- While along the Adriatic coast, there are many sandy beaches.
Every morning at breakfast , the owners of our lovely Agriturismo informed us about the wind. And they were right.
So, the first day we went on the Ionian coast, precisely in Castro Marina. We chose a beach with facilities, mostly because Matteo’s skin is very, very delicate, so he must stay under the beach umbrella. Sun beds and chairs were placed on the rock, that was cut in some parts so to create high steps in order for people to move and to gain space. Then, in two points, two staircases led to the sea, which was almost immediately deep, a bit chilly and with very beautiful blue shades.
The following day, they suggested us to go on the Adriatic coast, and we choose the Alimini area, which is very renowned for its white sand and crystal waters. It was a dream. And the water, being the sea bottom very low, was also warmer than that of the previous day.
Where to sleep near Otranto: Agriturismo La Palascia
Agriturismo La Palascia was our choice for the nights in Otranto. It is very isolated, but lovely. The wind allowed us to sleep with the door open and without air conditioning. The room was proper. The three dogs adorable. The garden lovely. Breakfast yummy.
The atmosphere was relaxed, peaceful and congenial. I’d go back immediately, also because there are so many amazing beaches in that area, and small charming villages, too, that you could stay there 15 days and find each day a different destination.