Otranto, the Far EastApril 11, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C
Next to Lecce, Otranto is the most beautiful and historic city we've visited so far. It's lighthouse, located about 5 kms south of the old city, marks the easternmost point in Italy.
We managed to find a parking spot a few hundred meters outside the walls of the old city, which is considerably smaller, but no less of a maze, than Lecce. Once we crossed the drawbridge into the old town, we were transported back in time by the aged castle walls, the massive fortifications, the well-worn stone footpaths, and the awe-inspiring places of worship.
Of all the churches and cathedrals we've seen thus far, the Otranto cathedral is, by far, the most, .............hmmm............interesting. The cathedral was founded in 1088 and the main entrance is adorned with an ornately carved rose window and a coat of arms supported by two angels. Once inside, one’s eye is immediately drawn to the mosaic tile floor that depicts various biblical scenes from the old testament as well as medieval and mythological beasts, all intertwined in a tree of life showing the human experience from Adam and Eve to the Salvation. The mosaic was created between 1163 and 1165 by a group of artists led by Pantaleone, a Basilian monk. For more detailed photos of the mosaic, click here:
On the right-hand nave of the cathedral is the Martyr's chapel, that contains, encased in three glass displays, the bones of 813 residents of Otranto who were executed for refusing to convert to Islam when the city fell to an Ottoman force in 1480. Gruesome! The martyrs were canonized in 2013 by Pope Francis.
Below the main floor of the cathedral is a crypt that dates to the original 11th century church and contains seventy marble columns of different design, that represent all the cultures that have held the city. There are also several original frescoes, including one of the Madonna and child, that date to the same period.
After leaving the cathedral, we wandered through the streets of the town as the shops slowly reopened after their afternoon lunch break. We stopped for a beer in a charming little cafe while we waited for a sudden rainstorm to subside.
We ended our day with pizza at Horus restaurant where my pie was so large, I had to doggy bag a quarter of it home. While we were in the restaurant, some very serious flashes of lightning constantly lit the sky and the thunder crashed. The skies opened and the rain was coming down in torrents. Of course, I had left my jacket and umbrella in the car, which we had fortunately moved closer to the restaurant. With no end to the rain in sight, I dashed off to the car, picked up Brenda in front of Horus and we hit the road home. Rather than take the short, direct route through the winding backroads, we detoured through Lecce to stay on the highway, which was a good decision since the downpour only let up after about twenty minutes into our drive.
And thus ended our exploration of Puglia's Adriatic coast.Read more