Known as the “Gateway to the East”, in a way Otranto is Salento. This wonderful sea resort in the far east of Italy is rich in history and culture, as its outstanding old town testifies. You can wander around dozens of winding paths full of typical shops or just sit in a cafe and contemplate some must-see architectural masterpieces. The wonderful Romanic Cathedral, one of the biggest church in Apulia, holds the splendid mosaic flooring (1613-1615) by monk Pantaloon, while the big Medieval fortress, surrounded by a deep moat, gave its name to Horace Walpole’s first ever Gothic novel (The Castle of Otranto, 1764) and was the place where inhabitants took shelter when the city was invaded by Turks in 1480.
Once the castle was captured, 800 heroic locals refused to convert to Islam and were slaughtered in the Hill of Minerva. To honour their strenuous defence of Catholic faith, their skulls and bones were preserved behind a glass in the altar of the church, where celebrations take place every year on August 14, the Martyrs’ Day.
This unique town provides plenty of inlets and sandy beaches, which are easily accessible and represent the ideal destination for families and kids, as water height is low for up to 100 metres offshore. Furthermore, if you love sightseeing, you shouldn’t miss some stunning sea views along the rocky coastline between Otranto and Santa Maria di Leuca.