In one of the first great Gothic novels, Horace Walpole's 1764 The Castle of Otranto, the English writer immortalized this city and its mysterious medieval fortress. Otranto (the stress is on the first syllable) has had more than its share of dark thrills. As the easternmost point in Italy—and therefore closest to the Balkan Peninsula—it's often borne the brunt of foreign invasions. A flourishing port from ancient Greek times, Otranto (Hydruntum to the Romans) has a history like most of southern Italy: after the fall of the western Roman Empire, centuries of Byzantine rule interspersed with Saracen incursions, followed by the arrival of the Normans. Modern Otranto's dank cobblestone alleyways alternatively reveal dusty, forgotten doorways and storefronts for modern Italian fashion chains; the spooky castle still looms above, between city and sea. On a clear day you can see across to Albania.
Otranto at a Glance
Elsewhere in Puglia, Basilicata, and Calabria
- Castel del Monte
- Ceglie Messapica
- Martina Franca
Need a break from the big city? View 42-hour itineraries from 13 cities.More