Situated west of Brindisi, on the Murge hills covered with olive trees gently descending to the sea, is the white town of Ostuni.
We visited this lovely part of Italy in winter because I foolishly thought, the temperature is quite mild in winter and an ideal time to visit as the crowds who flock to the beaches are long gone.
We left Rome early one morning and were a little puzzled as we drove south and the outside temperature hovered between 0 and 1 degree celsius. Then we noticed that there seemed to be a great deal of white dust blowing across the countryside. Once we stopped for a comfort, food and fuel stop we realised that the “dust” was in fact snow!!!
By the time we arrived in Ostuni it was freezing cold and the locals told us that it would soon snow. We thought they had spent too much time on the grappa. However, next morning we awoke in the white town to a complete whiteout. The buildings in Ostuni are all painted white and it was totally snowed in. Can you imagine snow on palm trees? At first, there was great excitement, but then we realised we couldn’t go anywhere. This area of Italy, unlike the north is not geared for snow. So…..we had to amuse ourselves in this small town for 3 days. Noone could leave and noone could get in.
This ancient part was built on seven hills, the highest of which is the medieval city called Ostuni. It is surrounded by walls and round towers, with typical narrow alleys, arches, stairways and the famous whitewashed colour of all the houses, for which it is known as the “White City”.
Its strategic position close to the sea made it a key centre and to defend it from the many invasions it was fortified repeatedly in the centuries.
The cathedral of Santa Maria dell’Assunzione, rises on the highest spot in the town. The facade contains a miscellany of styles, from the late Romanesque, which is very rare in Puglia, to the gothic and Byzantine. We were fortunate enough to witness a wedding in this lovely cathedral. It was interesting to see the locals trying to cope with the snow, ice and slush whilst climbing the narrow winding streets to the church in their finery.
There were many lovely little bars and places to eat. Many of the restaurants featured baby horse on the menu and this is a great delicacy along with donkey. These two meats are considered to be the cleanest and leanest of meats in this part of the world!!
The old town was the best part to be in and in the Christmas season part of this historical centre is turned into a living crib.
We were unable to see a great deal of Puglia, or even the surrounding countryside, but found a great deal of places to explore whilst we were snowed in. I would love to go back in the warmer weather – maybe in spring??