A Byzantine and much later Aragonese town, it sprung up around the impressive castle and cathedral. An archiepiscopal town and important tourist location, it gave its name to the Strait of Otranto which separates Italy from Albania and to Terra d'Otranto, an ancient administrative division of the Kingdom of Naples.
Monuments and places of interest
The main monuments of the town of Otranto are the Cathedral, with its noteworthy mosaic flooring dating back to 1163-1165, the castle which was reinforced by Frederick II of Swabia, the Byzantine Church of St. Peter, which is the oldest church in Otranto the Angevin walls and the historic centre.
Mention must also be made of the small church dedicated to the Vergine degli Abissi and the church of Santa Maria dei Martiri.
Otranto Castle, which gave its name to the first Gothic novel in history, represents one of the main attractions of the city and all of Puglia. Built by Ferdinand I of Aragon between 1485 and 1498, the castle was designed by Ciro Ciri with the help of Francesco di Giorgio Martini. At that time, fortifications dating back to the period of Swabian rule, with the addition of features added by the Turkish in 1480, could be found in Piazza Castello, the place where the castle now stands.
Under Aragonese jurisdiction, the castle was surrounded by a deep moat and Ciri added three round corner turrets. Even if the castle has a pentagonal layout, it is rather irregular due, above all, to subsequent renovation works carried out during the 16th century.
Indeed, in 1578, an arrow-head bastion with external ramparts to look out for the arrival of enemy ships and fleets was added to the side of the building overlooking the sea. The family coats-of-arms of Antonio da Mendoza and Don Pedro da Toledo, the city’s rulers at that time, are engraved on the bastion while the castle’s main door bears the coat-of-arms of Charles V.
Otranto’s coastline is rich in defensive buildings put up during the 16th century by Charles V to defend the area from Saracen attacks.
From north to South, you can find:
- Torre Fiumicelli
- Torre Santo Stefano
- Torre del Serpe
- Torre dell'Orte
- Torre Sant'Emiliano