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Visit Otranto, the most eastern city of Italy

Visit Otranto

The most eastern city of Italy

A city with oriental charm

The compass tells us that we have arrived in a city called the ”East Gate”, the most eastern city of Italy.

Welcome to Otranto, a small village located on the Adriatic coast of Salento, in an extraordinary natural scenery from which you can admire a beautiful view, a blue sea and the mountains of the nearby Albanian coast.

Otranto and its fortification walls Apulia guided tours
Otranto and its fortification walls

The origins of the Otranto village date back to the thirteenth century B.C. as evidenced by the pottery found during the archaeological excavations that reconstruct the history of a village in constant connection with the opposite Adriatic shore and the flourishing civilizations of the Aegean (Minoan and Mycenaean).

During the Messapian Age (4th- 5th century BC) and then Roman period, the ancient Hydruntum, from the name of the river Hydrus in whose valley the city rises, was an important port towards Greece. In the Middle Ages Otranto became the main political and cultural center of the territory: the ancient Land of Otranto.

The history of the city is marked by the violent Turkish conquest of 1480, with the massacre of the inhabitants of Otranto, in the streets and in the Cathedral, and the beheading on the hill of Minerva of the eight hundred Martyrs who refused to give up the Christian faith.

On our guided tours in Otranto we will tell you more about this episode.

A curiosity: In the fifteenth-sixteenth century the fear of Turkish incursions led to the construction throughout Salento of guard towers on the coast, fortified farms in rural areas, castles and fortification walls.

We begin our itinerary in Otranto from the promenade of the Heroes. We are already near the ancient village enclosed within the walls of the 15th century after Christ. After passing the monument dedicated to the Martyrs of Otranto you enter the old town through Porta Alfonsina, built after the liberation of Otranto by the Turks (1481) and dedicated to Alfonso of Aragon.

We would invite you to discover more about our guided tours and excursions in Apulia at this link

Monument to the Martyrs of Otranto on the Promenade of the Heroes Apulia guided tours
Monument to the Martyrs of Otranto on the Promenade of the Heroes

Porta Alfonsina door in Otranto, Apulia guided tours excursions
Porta Alfonsina in Otranto, Apulia

On the opposite side, at the end of the main road that crosses the city, crowded with shops and tourists, you can see the Porta di Mare.

Otranto presents itself with a beauty that time has not altered: between the white walls of the old houses and the narrow streets paved with stone blocks, we find ourselves immersed in a medieval atmosphere.

During our guided tours in Otranto village we reach one of the highest points of the city to visit the Cathedral of Otranto. 

The solemn building built between 1080 and 1088 dominates the square. Over the centuries, numerous reconstructions have profoundly modified the original aspect of the church. 

The Romanesque facade houses a Renaissance rose window with 16 columns decorated with elegant openwork patterns and a rich Baroque portal of 1674. 

A minor portal is present on the left side of the basilica.

Cathedral of Otranto guided tours excursions
Cathedral of Otranto

Ceiling in golden wood of the Cathedral of Otranto guided tours excursions
Ceiling in golden wood of the Cathedral of Otranto, Apulia

The Cathedral of Otranto is one of the largest churches in Puglia. The Basilica interior is divided into three naves with 14 columns and is covered by a precious wooden ceiling of 1693. The floor is a masterpiece of medieval art: a mosaic pavement preserved almost entirely, commissioned by Archbishop Gionata and executed by Pantaleone from 1163 to 1165.

Their names can be read among the thousands of polychrome tiles that make up the mosaic that has at its center the great “Tree of Life” and on its sides, among its branches, a multitude of allegorical figures such as characters from mythology, history and the Bible. 

The mosaic is an encyclopedia of medieval knowledge that uses images to convey a message of redemption and indicate a way that leads from sin to salvation.

Mosaic of the Cathedral of Otranto with Alexander the Great guided tours excursions
Mosaic of the Cathedral of Otranto with Alexander the Great

There are few traces of the frescoes that decorated the church.

The octagonal Chapel of the Martyrs preserves the remains of the eight hundreds Martyrs beheaded on 14 August 1480.

Chapel of the Martyrs of Otranto guided tours excursions
Chapel of the Martyrs of Otranto

A staircase leads to the Crypt, recently restored, which appears crowded with marble columns and capitals of various eras and styles.

From the Cathedral we resume our guided tour in Otranto and follow the narrow road that leads to the Castle. Rebuilt after 1481, like the walls that protect the city, it is equipped with large circular towers and a mighty bastion with a spearhead that goes almost to the sea. The Castle, surrounded by a deep moat, is accessible through a stone bridge to visit its underground and exhibitions that it periodically hosts.

The path that follows the perimeter of the walls allows us to reach the Ramparts, overlooking the sea. In summer it is full of people sitting in the many clubs and restaurants. It is certainly the most beautiful viewpoint over the city of Otranto and the port from which you can choose to leave with us for a nice excursion by boat or inflatable boat.

Whatever the chosen direction the spectacle of nature is assured! An excursion along the north coast allows us to reach Baia dei Turchi and the Alimini Lakes with the famous white sandy beaches; heading south we meet the steep cliffs on which stands the solitary Palascia lighthouse in Cape of Otranto.

guided boat kayak tours in capo otranto apulia italy
Our boat tour in Cape of Otranto

A curiosity: Cape of Otranto is the easternmost point of Italy and the closest to Albania (70 km) so much so that with the clear sky you can see the profile of the Acroceraunian Mountains. It is here that the Adriatic and the Ionian Seas meet, and not as is commonly believed, near Leuca. 

On New Year’s Eve the Palascia Lighthouse is reached by those who choose to attend, first in Italy, at the dawn of the new year.

Capo d'Otranto and the Palascia Lighthouse guided tours excursions in apulia
Cape of Otranto and the Palascia Lighthouse

New Year’s Dawn at the Palascia Lighthouse guided tours excursions in Apulia
New Year’s Dawn at the Palascia Lighthouse (Ph. Credit Paolo Laku)

To complete the visit of the historic center we have to enter the maze of alleys because it is there that hides another of the artistic jewels of Otranto: the small Church of San Pietro. The Byzantine building (IX-X century), with its Greek cross plan and three apses, still preserves part of the splendid frescoes that in the past completely decorated it.

Byzantine church of San Pietro Otranto guided tours excursions in Apulia
Byzantine church of San Pietro Otranto

Frescoes Byzantine church of San Pietro Otranto guided tours excursions in apulia
Frescoes Byzantine church of San Pietro Otranto

Close the town are within walking distance with a hike through paths surrounded by nature: the Torre del Serpe (serpent or snake tower), symbol of Otranto, and the lake in the quarry of Bauxite.

Quarry of Bauxite guided tours excursions in Apulia Salento
Quarry of Bauxite in Otranto

We are just at the beginning of one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in the whole region, which up to Leuca will give us unique landscapes we would love to share with you during our customized guided tours provided in this area.

Our guided tours give you the opportunity to live the tourist experience without hassle to save time and optimize your journey.

Please feel free to contact us at, we will be happy to help you in case you desire to take part in our customized guided tours in the city of Otranto or are looking for inspiration to plan your next travel experiences to Italy.

Are you looking to extend your experience to Lecce? Visit the Baroque city with us! Read more about our tours in Lecce at this link.

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