Hidden Gems: Otranto, Puglia, Italy

This seaside town, in the Puglia region of Italy, is a perfect place to relax on a beach, hike along the coast or explore a unique mixture of Byzantine and Romanesque architecture. For people who are looking for a place to escape to peace and nature, this laid-back town is Italy’s hidden gem.

Why I love it

  • Tranquillity of the town
  • Amazing turquoise sea
  • Clean beaches
  • Great local food
  • Remarkable architecture

Best For

Beach lovers

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by Ivana Greslikova

I knew I was going to love Otranto. My partner Gianni used to spend every summer there with his friends and family and he always described it as a serene jewel of Puglia, the region where he was born.

We love to get our initial impression of a place when first arriving at a bus or train station. Many times, a station is only a busy channel through which all of us move from one place to another, but in many cases, stations tell stories of destinations, locals and travellers who just pass by.

We arrived in Otranto by train from Lecce, the baroque capital of Puglia, where busy and vibrant streets only quiet down for a few hours during the night. The rail line that ended in Otranto gave me the feeling that I was indeed in the middle of nowhere and in the centre of a Mediterranean heaven.

Otranto welcomed us with empty roads, local grocery stores, almost abandoned Italian summer houses and half-empty B&B facilities.

It was early October and the summer season was over. After we checked in to our chic room owned by a French traveller, the first thing we did was run to the beach only a few steps from our doorway.

Otranto, Puglia, Italy

Chilling out in clear waters in Otranto.

A still sea, people indulging in silence, elders chatting while walking slowly with their knees in the salty sea, couples giggling on their wet towels, and singles focused on reading their paperbacks while drying after a swim – that’s life on Otranto’s beach.

What’s So Great About It?

Puglia speaks the language of charm and beauty and the further you travel south, the more you’ll find untouched nature and small towns surrounded by ancient olive fields.

In Otranto, locals welcome you warmly and allow you to become immersed in their land. You can walk from east to west of the town within 15-20 minutes and yet each corner of Otranto has something different to offer. Here you can find small, yet gorgeous beaches or you can chill out in the shade of one of the seaside cafes and sip authentic espresso with original gelato!

Perhaps you prefer to get lost amongst tiny stone-paved streets that lead to some of the most beautiful and historically important churches of the region?

Otranto, Puglia, Italy

Impressive mosaic of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Annunziata.

We were roaming around the town when we discovered a former bauxite quarry hidden from the crowds. We were amazed by the striking contrast of colours in the water at the bottom of the quarry and the bright red bauxite hills around.

Otranto, Puglia, Italy

Striking colours of the nature near the quarry in Otranto.

Otranto is a town of locals and travellers who come here to appreciate the silence, sun and nature. That’s why here you won’t find crowded beaches, alleys of concrete and anonymous hotels. Instead, you will see small hotels that double as the houses of local residents.

The range of eateries varies from budget stalls where you can buy a scrumptious, fresh puccia filled with local delicacies or dine in style in a restaurant within the old town and order some special hand-made pasta!

How to Get There

Fly to Brindisi airport and then take bus #793 to Lecce. From there take either a bus or a train to Otranto.

Recommended by Ivana of Nomad is Beautiful

Ivana_photoIvana is a full-time digital nomad and the female half of Nomad is Beautiful blog. She encourages others to travel independently and mindfully. When she isn’t working for the blog, she is tasting pu erh tea around the world and learning Italian so she can read Tiziano Terzani’s books in the original language. Discover more about the Top 10 Puglia Beaches on Nomad is Beautiful.

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