Ostuni is a hilltop city that was believed to have been established by the Messappi people. In the 8th century BC, the Messappi started to build the first fortified towns in the region. These city was eventually attacked and defeated by Hannibal during the Punic Wars. Around 216 BC, the region was conquered by the Romans. After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, the city experienced a decline. In the 11th and 12th centuries AD, the Puglia region was conquered by the Normans. In the 12 century, Godfrey III, the Count of Lecce, built a castle on the highest hill and the area surrounding it began to develop into the town of Ostuni. Throughout the 12th and 13th century, the town continued to grow and more fortification walls were built. During the Aragonese reign, the fortifications were further strengthened and the city continued to flourish.
As you approach Ostuni, the most noticeable thing is the brilliant white color of the buildings. These hilltop structures were built wall by wall and formed using a joint structure. To hold the structures up, arches were built over the streets, creating a beautifully unique architectural sight. The surfaces of these structures are covered with white lime. This applique is what gives Ostuni its defining character and is also why Ostuni is commonly referred to as “La Città Bianca” or “The White City.”
From the city wall, you have an unobstructed panoramic view of the Ostuni hillside and the Adriatic Sea.
As you explore the town, you pass many narrow staircases that lead to courtyards with flowers and interesting architectural details.
Museo Civilta Preclassiche della Murgia Meridionale
The Museo Civilta Preclassiche is housed in a former Carmelite monastery with the adjoining church of San Vito Martire. It was opened to the public on May 14, 1989. The collection was originally created to house the archaeological discoveries made on the Ostuni hillsides. Over time, the Museum began to host exhibits with artifacts from all over the southern Murgia region.
The most fascinating exhibit in this Museum is the skeletal remains of a pre-historic pregnant woman who died mysteriously. It is not known whether she died during childbirth or while simply taking a nap in the fetal position. What is most interesting is the fact that the remains contained an intact fetus in a stage of advanced development.
As I walked through this exhibit, all I could think of was, “what happened?” I was in awe that it was possible to view something that happened thousands of years ago in such detail; Natural nature is a master preservationist.
Lunch: Osteria Monacelle
After the Museum, my friend and I walked back to the Osteria Monacelle, a little restaurant known for its authentic cooking. Our tour guide had recommended this a few other restaurants to eat at for a nice lunch.
One of the great things about this restaurant is that the kitchen is open and you can see the chef, una donna (woman), cooking. It was almost like dinner theater, where the preparation of the meal is the theater component.
As a starter, we were provided with a wheat-based foccacia with roasted tomatoes. I did not like this at all. That didn’t deter me from trying a pasta. For the midday meal, I had the tortelli di farina di farro con funghi galletti (mushroom ravioli with galletti mushrooms). This was outstanding. The sauce on it was amazing.
A Brief Walk
After lunch, my friend and I continued to explore the town on foot. At one point, we came to a winding staircase that would take us further down the Ostuni hillside. Due to time and the fact that by this point we had gotten “semi-lost” in other towns, my friend and I made our way back to the city center.
As we made our way back to our tour group meeting location, we stop for a sweet treat before the galeteria closed for the midday siesta. I chose to try one on the gelato cookie sandwich.
This was the perfect end to our morning excursion.