An hour away

An hour away

It takes about an hour to get to the magnificent town of Lecce, known as the Florence of the South and famous for its baroque architecture and elegant shops.

Bari, about the same distance by train, has a splendid castle, as well as the beautiful Basilica di San Nicola, where the crypt contains the remains of St Nicholas (AKA Santa Claus), and a fascinating old town area, plus two parallel streets (full of Italian designer shops) that look like Oxford Street with palm trees.

Even more exciting is Matera, a 2 hour drive from Ostuni. Matera is in Basilicata and was the location for the filming of Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ. It is famous for the sassi – cave dwellings including churches built into the solid rock which are now a World Heritage Site – and has recently become a very smart place to live, popular with Italian film people. If you are driving and are interested in archaeology it’s worth visiting the Greco-Roman sites at Metaponto and Policoro on the coast south of Matera. In both there are wonderful museums containing well-preserved relics.

You can visit some delightful coastal towns by public transport. Monopoli and Polignano are on the way by rail from Ostuni to Bari and both stations are a short walk from the port area where you will find some good seafood restaurants and interesting little streets in the old town areas. If you change at Bari and carry on for a few more stops you will reach the lovely seaside town of Trani with its magnificent cathedral on the sea and its lovely port with bars and restaurants, and the fascinating medieval streets of the old town. You might want to drive inland to visit the magnificent Norman fortress of Castel del Monte.

If you have a car and want to drive further south from Lecce, the Salentine Coast is very beautiful (though crowded in summer). You can visit the pretty town of Otranto, then drive on to Santa Maria di Leuca, the ‘land’s end’ of this part of Italy where two seas (the Adriatic and the Ionian) meet. It’s also worth driving northwards up the Western coast to see Gallipoli where you pass over a causeway into the lovely old town, a maze of whitewashed small streets by the sea.