What is there to see in Otranto?
Otranto is a small, charming town , surrounded by thick walls , made up of narrow streets , white houses and terraces overlooking a crystal clear sea . It was dominated by Byzantines , Normans and was a point of departure for Crusader ships .
Otranto’s heyday ended with the ‘siege of the Turks in 1480 . And, even after the reconquest of the city, the decay was progressive . Until it found its tourist vocation .
The Apulian city is also the easternmost city in Italy .
Otranto is most famous for its proximity to the Otranto Channel, the body of water that connects the Adriatic Sea with the Ionian Sea and separates Italy from Albania. Those wishing to visit Otranto itself should note that the city is best known for its “historic center” and medieval castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Fishing boats sway in the wind as the setting sun kisses the horizon and contented couples walk hand in hand through the ancient settlement. Otranto’s historic harbor has been in use since ancient times, when Otranto was originally founded as an ancient Greek settlement.
The port became especially important in Roman times because of its strategic location on the eastern edge of the coast of the Salento peninsula. There was a time when Otranto was even more important to the Roman Empire than the city of Brindisi. Centuries later, Otranto was ruled by the Byzantines and then the Normans. Today, Otranto’s harbor is best seen at sunset and is home to a multitude of fun bars and cafes.
Walk along the city walls and ramparts.
To get an idea of what Otranto must have looked like in days gone by, just trace the historic city walls that wind around the historic downtown part of the city. The walls were built after a particularly tragic siege in the 15th century.
Visit the Cathedral
A beautiful example of Romanesque architecture, Otranto Cathedral is considered one of the largest churches in Italy. The church building is located at the highest point in Otranto and was originally founded as early as the 11th century (1088 to be exact), although it was heavily restored during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Known as the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria Annunziata in Italian, the Roman Catholic place of worship is dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. It is worth taking an extra look at the 12th-century floor mosaics depicting the “tree of life.”
The castle is a fortress built by the Aragonese of Naples between 1485 and 1498, probably on a pre-existing building dating back to Frederick’s time. It has a pentagonal, irregular plan, with a moat extending around the perimeter, and at one time it also had a drawbridge that was the only point of entry. It consists of three cylindrical towers and a lance bastion, nicknamed “Diamond Point,” built in 1578. Inside is a small forecourt with a flight of steps leading to the upper levels. Currently, the castle is the space where exhibitions and cultural and artistic events are held.
St. Peter’s Church
This church is one of the best examples of the Byzantine building tradition in Apulia. It dates back to the 9th or 10th century, and is located right in the historic center of Otranto. It is probably the city’s first cathedral, reporting directly to the patriarchal see of Constantinople. The church has a Greek-cross plan, according to Byzantine religious tradition. Inside, three small naves, surmounted by a central dome, are supported by four columns. There are also amazing Byzantine frescoes dating from the 10th-11th centuries. The oldest paintings are “The Washing of the Feet,” which depicts Christ lifting the leg of St. Peter, and “The Last Supper.” Dating back to the 14th century are “The Nativity of Jesus,” “Pentecost” and “Resurrection.”
When to visit Otranto?
Otranto is a small town, but one that has a lot to offer.Between historical and cultural monuments, incredible beaches, and its location near other beautiful places, I recommend staying in Otranto for at least three days.
But if you are already staying close to Salento, Otranto can be visited as a day trip from places like Gallipoli, Lecce and Santa Maria di Leuca.
The best time of year to visit Otranto is clearly summer when tourists and events enliven the city. However, if you are looking for tranquility, consider visiting Otranto in late spring or right after summer.
The warm, sunny Apulian days continue even when the summer season is over! But the crowds are smaller and peak summer prices for hotels decrease.
How far is Otranto from Lecce?
The total straight line distance between Lecce and Otranto is 37 KM (kilometers) and 128.51 meters. The calculated distance in miles from Lecce to Otranto is 27 miles. This is a straight line distance and so most of the time the actual distance to travel between Lecce and Otranto may be greater or vary due to the curvature of the road.
Travel time from Lecce to Otranto
Lecce is about 37 KM from Otranto so if you travel at the constant speed of 50 KM per hour you can reach Otranto in 0.74 hours. The travel time to Otranto may vary depending on the speed of the bus, train, or vehicle used.