Ostuni is a whitewashed hill town in Puglia in Southern Italy. It is referred to as La Citta Bianca or the White Town. It has narrow, often steep alleys that challenge both legs and knees. But the rewards are pure delight for the resolute traveler. Imagine door frames that seem to have time traveled to the 21st century, mesmerizing views of the sea and olive groves which produce some of the finest olive oil in Italy!
The Aragonese defensive walls in the photo above are remnants from the reign of Isabella of Aragon, the Duchess of Bari and her daughter, Bona Maria Sforza (Queen Consort of Poland) who succeeded her.
|Piazza della Libertà|
Getting to Ostuni was as simple as taking the train from Bari, the capital of Puglia, for the two-hour ride that provided glimpses of the Adriatic Sea. I found no taxis nor buses outside the station when I arrived in Ostuni. I asked an elderly gentleman standing around if a bus would be passing by and he kindly informed me that there would be one shortly and that it would go to the center of town. He suggested I start my sightseeing there. I got off at Piazza della Libertà which was a good place as any to begin my exploration of this ancient hill town.
|Obelisk of Sant'Oronzo|
At the center of the piazza is a 20-meter high column built in 1771, an offering of gratitude from worshipers to Saint Oronzo for protecting them against the plague and famine of the 18th century. The saint stands on top of the spire, his hand outstretched as if blessing the townspeople. Across the street from the obelisk is an archaeological excavation that connects Ostuni with its storied past.
Ostuni is serene in winter. Cobblestone alleys lead to courtyards with potted plants and colorful laundry hanging from balconies.
|Co-Cathedral of Ostuni|
Santa Maria Assunta or the Co-Cathedral of Ostuni was rebuilt in the 15th century in late Gothic style after an earthquake damaged the former Romanesque church. The façade has a rose window with symbolic representations. Inside the window are three concentric circles. The outermost circle has 24 rays which equate to the hours of day, the 12 inner arches correspond to the 12 months of the year and the seven cherubs immediately surrounding Cristo Sole (Christ the Sun) represent the days of the week.
|Interior of Co Cathedral of Ostuni|
The Arco Scoppa is a stone bridge linking the Bishop's Palace with the Seminary on Largo Trinchera. The bridge was built in 1750 to replace the old wooden structure. Arco Scoppa is decorated in Baroque style. Outdoor cafés pop up on this square during the summer months and hold the best seats for admiring the Cathedral.
One of my most intriguing finds in Ostuni were the door frames such as the one above. The frame is in the classical style, with Doric capped pilasters supporting triglyphs (three vertical bands separated by grooves) alternating with square panels called metopes. The cornice above the triglyphs has decorative molding, a fragment of which is missing. It's not surprising to find Greek influences in the architectural styles found in Ostuni. The Greeks were here and gave the town its name, Astu néon which means new town.
The door frame above has a distinguishing feature of a family crest with a coronet. There is also a date beside the crest. It says A.D. 1766 (66 can be found to the right of the crest). The frame is decorated in the Baroque style which was introduced in the 17th century by the Catholic Church to counter the rise of the Protestant Reformation. I wonder if the original occupants of the house belonged to the nobility class and if the current residents are descendants of that noble clan.
Baroque art was meant to appeal to the senses and move the viewer. This door frame certainly does that. Decorated in the exuberant Baroque style, it is the most elaborate of the door frames I found in Ostuni. There is a cherub above the door. Other Baroque elements on the frame are a profusion of carved volutes, foliage and conches. This door frame reminds me of altars inside the churches in Italy and Spain.
|View of the Adriatic Sea|
After exploring for several hours, I was confident I would easily find the bus stop for the return to the train station. I found it, I thought and read the schedule carefully. I had approximately 20 minutes of wait time. There were no benches so I stood there and waited patiently but no bus arrived. I walked down the hill and stopped at a sandwich place as it was late afternoon and I was hungry and I needed to rest my aching feet. The owner of the café told me where to catch the next bus and after I ate my focaccia, I went to the stop he indicated. I waited in vain. I saw buses crisscrossing the street a few blocks away and walked downhill again hoping to catch one there. It was getting late and I had walked quite a distance from Piazza della Libertà. I wanted to walk all the way to the train station but it was far away and I only had a vague idea how to get there. I didn't see any taxis. I had no app to call Uber. I asked a young student if a bus bound for the train station would stop where I was standing. I thought he said yes. A white van appeared a few minutes later. The young man got in and I followed him. I asked the driver if he was going to the train station and he nodded. What a relief! I was expecting the same big bus I took earlier in the day only to be picked up by a white van. I had been waiting for close to three hours. But all's well that ends well. I was glad to finally be on my way to the train station. Grazie al cielo!
Images by TravelswithCharie