2 Best Sights in Otranto, Puglia, Basilicata, and Calabria

Castello Aragonese

The massive Aragonese Castle is considered a masterpiece of 16th-century military architecture. Rebuilt by the Spanish viceroy Don Pedro di Toledo in 1535 after it was badly damaged in the siege of Otranto (1480), when invading Ottoman armies destroyed the city, its impressive walls and bastions dominate the port and seashore. Escape the heat with a walk around its cool interiors and more fascinating cellars (underground tours available for extra €4) that snake around its recently landscaped moats. Various art and photographic exhibitions are held here in the summer, although it lacks engaging interpretation materials.


By far the best sight in Otranto is the cathedral, Santa Maria Annunziata, consecrated in 1088. Its highlight is a 12th-century Pantaleone mosaic: covering the entire length of the nave, the sanctuary, and the apse, it depicts scenes from the Old Testament and traditional medieval chivalric tales and animals set alongside a Tree of Life. The walls behind the main altar are lined with glass cases containing the skulls and tibias of the 800 martyrs of Otranto, slain by the Ottomans after the seige of 1480 for not renouncing their faith.