The unique town of Ostuni, also knows as la città bianca (‘the white city’) stands on top of a hill overlooking the surrounding olive groves and panoramic sea-views. Walking through the old town, centro storico, is like stepping into a medieval film set. And the concentration of white-stone architecture, historic streets, squares and elegant stairways is a rather surreal experience. The cinematically picturesque town is definitely worth seeing at least once in your life!
However, the reason for the white washed walls is less than romantic! During the 18th Century, Ostuni lost half it’s population to the plague, and in an attempt to overcome the epidemic, the walls were painted white to ‘disinfect’ the city.
The central square of the town, Piazza Liberta, is marked by two main sights; one is a column statue of Saint Orontius, the patron of the town, who according to beliefs saved the town from the plague. The other is a local administration building (Palazzo del Commune), which used to be a Franciscan monastery. However, the main sightseeing highlights of the old town are the churches.
The gothic Cathedral of Assunta (Cattedrale dell’Assunta), was built in the 15th Century, and is celebrated as a national landmark. The Church of Saint Vito Martire (Chiesa di S.Vito Martire) was built in the 18th Century’s rococo style and is a part of a Carmelite monastery ensemble. The church no longer does services, but is open to the public as part of a museum, which is famous for housing one of the world’s major archeologic discoveries of the 90s. The remains of the pregnant woman, Delia, are about 20-25 000 years old, proving that the land of Ostuni was inhabited back in the pre-historic Paleolithic period!
While in the old town, we also suggest a visit to the Church of a Saint Spirit (Chiesa dello Santo Spirito – 18th Century), the church of San Giacomo (Chiesa San Giacomo di Compostela – 15th century) and the Benedict Monastery (Monastero Claustorale delle Benedettine – 16th century).
Places around Ostuni to visit
If you get tired of all the historic sightseeing and need to refresh, take some time out by the seaside of Marina di Ostuni. The area is full of apartments and guesthouses to rent, and the outskirts of Ostuni have some famous grottos of Montevicoli, fortresses of Carovigno (15th century) and Ceglie Messapico (16th century).
How to get to Ostuni
The easiest way to reach Ostuni is to take a train from Bari, which departs every hour and takes about 45 minutes. You can also catch the connection from Rome, which will then take about 5-6 hours. For more information on transportation in the South of Italy, visit this page.