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coat of arms
Otranto (Italy)
Country Italy
region Apulia
province Lecce  (LE)
Coordinates 40 ° 9 ′  N , 18 ° 29 ′  E Coordinates: 40 ° 9 ′ 0 ″  N , 18 ° 29 ′ 0 ″  E
height 15  m slm
surface 76 km²
Residents 5,851 (Dec. 31, 2019)
Population density 77 inhabitants / km²
Post Code 73028
prefix 0836
ISTAT number 075057
Popular name Idruntini or Otrantini
Patron saint Hll. Antonio Primaldo and Companions
Website www.comune.otranto.le.it

Otranto [ ˈɔːtranto ] is an Italian port city with 5851 inhabitants (as of December 31, 2019) in the province of Lecce in Apulia and is a member of the association I borghi più belli d'Italia ("The most beautiful places in Italy").

Location and dates

The city is located at the southern end of the east coast of Italy on the Salento peninsula , about 35 kilometers southeast of Lecce . The strait in front of the city is called the Strait of Otranto .


Archaeological finds show that Otranto was already settled in the Middle Bronze Age. In the Young and End Bronze Age there were contacts to the Mycenaean culture of Greece, such as finds from Mycenaean ceramics from the late 13th and 12th centuries BC. BC ( Late Helladic III B2 and III C) prove. Around 1000 BC Messapier settled here and founded numerous cities throughout the region. In the course of the 8th century BC The Greek colonization that began in BC Otranto became part of the Magna Graecia and after the conquest of southern Italy by the Romans, it became an important port of communication to Epirus as a hydruntum . In 845 Otranto was besieged by the Saracens without success .

After the fall of Rome , it belonged to the Byzantine Empire , but was conquered by the Normans around 1070 , who fortified the city and built the cathedral, consecrated in 1088. Due to the marriage of Henry VI. , the son of Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa , with Constanze of Sicily in 1186 and the coronation of Henry as King of Sicily in Palermo in 1194, Otranto came under the rule of the Hohenstaufen and after their downfall finally in the hands of Ferdinand I of Aragón , King of Naples from 1458 to 1494.

Otranto, view from the Bastione dei Pelasgi

In 1480 , the Ottoman Turks conquered Otranto as the first town on Italian soil. The reasons for the attack on the city were, on the one hand, probably of a strategic nature - it is closest to the east coast of the Adriatic, which was then already occupied by the Turks, and had a good port. On top of that, the Sultan in Constantinople regarded himself as the legitimate ruler of the former Byzantine Empire to which Otranto had belonged. 800 Christians were beheaded after refusing to convert to Islam. Archbishop Stefano Pendinelli was one of them .

In 1481, after a long siege, the city was taken again by Christian forces under the leadership of Alfonso II , the son and later successor of Ferdinand I. The handover took place without a fight, as the Turks had previously been granted free withdrawal after negotiations. Sultan Mehmet II had died in 1481, and the Ottoman leadership concentrated on the succession to the throne in Constantinople. Since the Turkish occupation in Otranto no longer received any reinforcements, the historical discussion suggests that the attack on the city was merely a diversionary maneuver, possibly a symbolic relief attack in favor of the Nasrid Sultanate in Spain (at the same time the last Castilian-Aragonese campaign against Granada began, the Nasrids had sent requests for help to the Ottomans, and Otranto belonged to the Aragonese kingdom of Naples).

After a checkered history, which is characterized by the decline in population after further Turkish invasions (1535, 1537, 1614 and 1644), the expansion of swamps and the associated malaria and the increasing importance of trading cities such as Bari and Brindisi , trade and industry in Otranto, a renewed upswing of the city began in the 20th century with the drainage of swamps.

In the last two decades of the last century it has become a popular tourist destination, which is particularly frequented in July and August. This has changed the economic structure of the economically underdeveloped region compared to northern Italy : Alongside agriculture, tourism is the main source of income. The smuggling of people and cigarettes that used to flourish in the area has lost a lot of its importance. The Mafia families, which are otherwise often found in Apulia , only rarely appear in public.


Hypogaeum Torre Pinta
Fortress of Otranto

The main attractions of the city are the Cathedral of Santa Annunziata with the mosaics (1163–1165), the fortress Castello Aragonese and the small Byzantine church of San Pietro and the Hypogaeum of Torre Pinta.

The old town, enclosed by a mighty city wall, is a major attraction in summer; on Saturday evening it is the meeting point for the entire area of ​​Otranto. On Sunday afternoons, the quayside from Porta Terra is closed to through traffic and reserved for pedestrians ( Passeggio ).

Santa Annunziata Cathedral

Otranto Cathedral

The Basilica minor from the 12th century is the seat of the Archdiocese of Otranto . Here is a large floor mosaic from the 12th century.

The cathedral also contains relics of the 800 martyrs of Otranto .


Sights in the area are:

  • the Alimini Lakes
  • Valle delle Memorie with numerous caves formerly inhabited by monks
  • Grotta Romanelli with remains from the Stone Age
  • Grotta Cervi in the belonging to Otranto fraction Porto Badisco with rock art from the New Stone Age
  • Grotta Zinzulusa, famous for its stalagmites and stalactites


The port of Otranto, located on the 70 km wide street of Otranto named after the city , is mainly used for goods traffic , but is also used by private sailors. Until 2007 there was a regular ferry connection to Vlora , Albania , which was abandoned due to insufficient traffic.

The Adriatic Railway of the Società Italiana per le Strade Ferrate Meridionali began operating at its terminus on September 22, 1872. Today in the end terminal station of Otranto the railway Maglie-Otranto . The station is on the slope above the historic town center. Due to the incline of the slope, the platform level is at the level of the first floor of the reception building, but the station forecourt is one floor lower.



  • Antonio Antonaci: Hydruntum (Otranto) . Galatina, 1954.
  • Grazio Gianfreda: Otranto Nascosta . Lecce 1997.
  • Hubert Houben (Ed.): Otranto nel Medioevo. Tra Bisanzio e l'Occidente = Saggi e testi. Università degli studi del Salento, Dipartimento dei beni delle arti e della storia 33. Galatina 2007, ISBN 978-88-8086-737-1 .
  • Christine Ungruh: The floor mosaic of the cathedral of Otranto (1163–1165): Norman ruler's ideology as an end-time vision = studies on the history of art of the Middle Ages and the early modern period. 9. Basket 2013, ISBN 978-3-939020-09-7 .
  • Ekkehart Rotter: Apulia . Trips to Byzantine grotto churches, Norman cathedrals, Hohenstaufen forts and baroque buildings in Lecce. (=  DuMont art travel guide ). 6th edition. Dumont Reise Verlag, Ostfildern 2012, ISBN 3-7701-4314-0 .

Literature on the 800 martyrs

  • Hubert Houben (Ed.): La conquista turca di Otranto (1480) tra storia e mito. Atti del Convegno internazionale di studio Otranto - Muro Leccese, 28–31 March 2007 . 2 vols. 2008, ISBN 978-88-8086-830-9 and ISBN 978-88-8086-829-3 .
  • Otranto 1480. Atti del Convegno internazionale di Studi nel V Centenario della caduta di Otranto ad opera dei Turchi. A cura di Cosimo Damiano Fonseca . 2 vol. Galatina (LE) 1986.
  • I Beati 800 Martiri di Otranto del 1480. Atti del Convegno ecclesiale di Studio nel Quinto Centenario. A cura del Comitato Diocesano per il Quinto Centenario by Beati Martiri di Otranto . Lecce 1980.

Novels (selection)

Web links

Commons : Otranto  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Statistiche demografiche ISTAT. Monthly population statistics of the Istituto Nazionale di Statistica , as of December 31 of 2019.
  2. ^ I borghi più belli d'Italia (official website), accessed April 14, 2017 (Italian)
  3. ^ Marco Bettelli, Italia meridionale e mondo miceneo. Ricerche su dinamiche di acculturazione e aspetti archeologici, con particolare riferimento ai versanti adriatico e ionico della penisola italiana. Florence 2002, p. 26 (with further literature).
  4. ^ Marco Bettelli, Italia meridionale e mondo miceneo. Ricerche su dinamiche di acculturazione e aspetti archeologici, con particolare riferimento ai versanti adriatico e ionico della penisola italiana. Florence 2002, p. 26.
  5. Gian Pietro Brogiolo, Paolo Delogu (ed.): L'Adriatico dalla tarda antichità all'età Carolingia. Atti del convegno di Studi (Brescia 11-13 ottobre 2001) , All'Insegna del Giglio, 2005, p. 188.
  6. Pope canonises 800 Italian Ottoman victims of Otranto . In: BBC . BBC. Retrieved May 12, 2013.
  7. Otranto . In: I Borghi più Belli d'Italia . ( borghipiubelliditalia.it [accessed August 22, 2017]).
  8. Compare the analysis in the “Dossier Puglia” in “narcomafie”, February 2008 under the title: L'evoluzione pericolosa http://www.narcomafie.it/2008/02/10/levoluzione-pericolosa/ . More detailed investigations into the extent to which the Mafia is involved in the business with the increasingly important economic tourism in Puglia and accordingly wants the situation to calm down in order not to impair it are not yet available. The analysis mentioned in “narcomafie” warns of an increasing penetration of the economic-political space by mafia-like structures. Naturally, there are no public statements on the part of the Mafia; informal sources, however, confirm the facts.
  9. http://www.gcatholic.org/dioceses/diocese/otra0.htm
  10. ^ Pietro Marra: Rotaie a Sud Est . Bagnacavallo 2014. ISBN 978-88-909824-0-8 , p. 21.