First Stop Otranto: The Off the Beaten Path Italian Road Trip

Road trips through the Tuscan hills are the norm for most tourists to Italy. While the iconic road trip through Tuscany is as refreshing as a sip of Chianti Classico, the road trips down south will win you brownie points for getting off of the tradition tourist trail. Beginning with the city of Otranto in the Puglia region, all of the elements for the great Italian road trip are present. Intrigue enters the scene with the thought of seeing Italy’s pointy stiletto, the geographical end of the country. Mystery steeps in strange structures seemingly from the east and nowhere near Tuscan villa design. And then, all of the elements of a great Italian town leave you wondering if you should even leave. Otranto appreciates its location along Italy’s heel and the road tripper in search of something different will appreciate just the same. Grab some Travel Money, get in a car and get on the road!

Image: Yellow.Cat

Begin with the Aragonese Castle

Otranto’s castle is the perfect starting point for a road trip down to Italy’s boot heel. The Aragonese Castle is hard to miss, appearing more like a thick walled fort. You can still see the original cannon balls on display within the castle. It is a good place just to wander around and see why this is the king of Otranto.

Soak Up The History in the Otranto Streets

Otranto has one of the most intriguing histories in Italy. The town in Puglia served as the country’s main port to the Orient for around 1,000 years. In the 15th century, 18,000 Turks descended, killing 800 Christians. The attack would be called the Sack of Otranto. Otranto is also thought to be the site of the first Western Mass, held by St. Peter. To get a sense of Otranto’s past, the streets must be roamed. Pop in a mom and pop restaurant or shop and get the real story on local living.

Say a Little Prayer Before Hitting the Road

If you aren’t a praying sort of person, Otranto’s Cathedral might make you one just for its eye-catching Romanesque style. Constructed by the Normans in the 11th century, visitors’ feet are even treated heavenly here. 12th century mosaics cover the floor. Up above, a wooden coffered ceiling brings the eye to the heavens. Those in tank tops and shorts, forbidden from entering, can still appreciate the open façade and blindingly bright cream color of the Cathedral.

The Road To Follow

From Otranto, cling to the SP358. The road follows the coast down to the end of Puglia. It winds past secret coves and beaches for swimming. If you see a spot to your liking, you can stop, but the reverberating song of the crickets out the car window might keep you on the road.

Stop at Villa Sticchi

Just before Italy’s ending point makes its statement, a strange sight enters the picture. Villa Sticchi pops up in Moresque style. Characteristic of seaside resorts, the Villa was built for Giovanni Pasca between 1894 and 1900. The designer, Pasquale Ruggieri had a vision in mind. His passion for the east is reflected in the Villa’s design.

The End of Italy

The end of Italy was not with the fall of Rome. The geographical conclusion comes at Santa Maria di Leuca, specifically at Punta Ristola. The town presents the meeting point of the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea. You can watch the currents crash into one another as you realize, this view might not be what you imaged of Italy’s end. However, you are at the lowest point on Italy’s heel. Regardless it is something for it concludes Italy’s world.

Written by Suzy Guese

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