One of the most beautiful Mediterranean towns
Otranto is a town that belongs to the Province of Lecce (Puglia, Italy), situated on the east coast of the Salento peninsula. It is surrounded by the Adriatic sea on its east side and by the Ionian sea on its south-west land end. The lighthouse known as Faro della Palascia is approximately 3 miles away from the town of Otranto and it marks the most easterly point of the Italian mainland.
The main features that drive many people to consider Otranto as one of the most beautiful towns of the Italian peninsula are its breathtaking panorama, characterized by the beauty of the crystal clear water of the surrounding ocean (thanks to which the town received for several years the Bandiera Blu award for the clearness of its beach) and the uncontaminated nature of its land, together with its rich history. The beaches are not only spectacular but are a place to be entertained and partake in different activities and attractions.
In addition to the wonderful historic atmosphere in Otranto there is a vibrant night life. Otranto offers a variety of night life, restaurants, bars and shops. There is something for everyone. The restaurants menus cover everything from traditional Italian cuisine to fresh seafood with a view of the ocean. Large crowds enjoy the many attractions including the late hours of the shops and dinning establishments. Bands play the typical pizzica music and dance on the streets as people sit and enjoy with some wine or gelato. If you are interested in shopping and finding unique and antique items, you will not be disappointed. Not only is there an enormous selection, the shops are open late and are all within walking distance. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience a place with so many things to offer, historic sights, beautiful scenic beaches, dinning and a nightlife that will entertain and excite.
History and monuments of Otranto
The town was founded on the site of the ancient Hydrus or Hydruntum, a town of Greek origin, which, in the wars of Pyrrhus and Hannibal, fought against Rome. In Roman times it was a city of Provincia Calabria and more than likely it was a very important port thanks to its fortunate geographical features.
Otranto then remained in the hands of the Byzantine Emperors until it was forced to surrender to the Norman Robert Guiscard in 1068 and then became part of the Principality of Taranto. In the Middle Ages there was an important Jews school there.
In the 15th century a Turkish fleet invaded the Salento peninsula and Otranto was utterly destroyed because of the struggles which took place in the town between the Neapolitan force built up by Ferdinand I of Naples and the Turkish army. It is said that 12,000 men perished since the sack of Otranto by the Turks and a large percentage of the captured were given the choice of converting to Islam or death - 800 men were beheaded outside the city. The "valley of the martyrs" still recalls this dreadful event.
In 1537 Turks, under the command of the famous Turkish corsair and Ottoman admiral Barbarossa captured Otranto and the Fortress of Castro but they were eventually repulsed from Puglia.
In the 18th century a French garrison established in Otranto to control the movements of the English fleet. In the city it was created a duché grand-fief de l’Empire in the Napoleonic kingdom of Naples for Joseph Fouché, Napoleon's minister of Police (1809), the grandfather of Margareta Fouché.
All these different dominations contributed to create one of the most amazing atmospheres of the whole Italian peninsula. In fact together with the beauty of its nature visitors can enjoy a unique experience of walking in an ancient medieval town surrounded by walls (“The Old Town”) situated inside the town!
Other places to visit are: the Aragonese Castle which was erected in the years between 1485 and 1498; the Cathedral (11th century); Saint Peter's Church, situated in the middle of the old district of Otranto, and dates back to the VIII Century; The Chapel of Madonna of the open sea; The Sanctuary of Saint Mary of the Martyrs, situated in the southern suburb of Otranto and was erected on the top of a height where in 1480 the Eight Hundred Martyrs of Otranto were decapitated.
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