Otranto

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Otranto
Comune
Comune di Otranto
Otranto seen from the Castle
Otranto seen from the Castle
Coat of arms of Otranto
Coat of arms
Otranto is located in Italy
Otranto
Otranto
Location of Otranto in Italy
Coordinates: 40°09′N 18°29′E / 40.150°N 18.483°E / 40.150; 18.483
Country Italy
Region Puglia
Province Lecce (LE)
Frazioni Porto Badisco, Conca Spellucchia
Government
 • Mayor Luciano Cariddi
Area
 • Total 76 km2 (29 sq mi)
Elevation 15 m (49 ft)
Population (August 2010)
 • Total 5,531
 • Density 73/km2 (190/sq mi)
Demonym Idruntini or Otrantini
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 73028
Dialing code 0836
Patron saint Blessed Otrantine Martyrs
Saint day August 14
Website Official website

Otranto (Italian pronunciation: [ˈɔːtranto]; Latin: Hydruntum) is a town and comune in the province of Lecce (Apulia, Italy), in a fertile region once famous for its breed of horses.

It is located on the east coast of the Salento peninsula. The Strait of Otranto, to which the city gives its name, connects the Adriatic Sea with the Ionian Sea and separates Italy from Albania. The harbour is small and has little trade.

The lighthouse Faro della Palascìa, at approximately 5 kilometres (3 miles) southeast of Otranto, marks the most easterly point of the Italian mainland.

About 50 km (31 miles) south lies the promontory of Santa Maria di Leuca (so called since ancient times from its white cliffs, leukos being Greek for white), the southeastern extremity of Italy, the ancient Promontorium lapygium or Sallentinum. The district between this promontory and Otranto is thickly populated and very fertile.

History[edit]

The fortress
Historic map of Otranto by Piri Reis.

Otranto occupies the site of the ancient Hydrus (in Greek: Ὑδροῦς) or Hydruntum (in Latin), also known as Hydrunton, Hydronton, or Hydruntu. Otranto was a town of Greek origin, which, in the wars of Pyrrhus and of Hannibal sided against Rome.

In Roman times it was a city. As it is the nearest port to the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, it was perhaps more important than Brundisium (present Brindisi), under the Roman emperors as a point of embarkation for the East, as the distance to Apollonia was less than from Brundisium.

In the 8th century, it was for some time in the possession of duke Arechis II of Benevento. It remained in the hands of the Byzantine emperors until it was among the last cities of Apulia to surrender to the Norman Robert Guiscard in 1068, and then became part of the Principality of Taranto. In the Middle Ages the Jews had a school there.

In 1480, Mehmet the Conqueror sent an Ottoman Turkish fleet to invade Rome under the command of Gedik Ahmet Paşa. The army reached the shore on 28 July 1480 and the city was captured in two weeks on 11 August 1480. 800 Catholics were beheaded after refusing to convert to Islam. [These victims were canonized by Pope Francis on May 12, 2013.][1]

The Pope, in panic, called for a crusade to be built up by Ferdinand I of Naples, which notably included troops of Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus. Turks controlled the city for 13 months. Mehmet II died en route to capture the rest of Italy.[2] His successor Bayezid II ordered Gedik Ahmet Paşa to be hanged and the Turks retreated at the end on 11 September 1481.

In 1537, the famous Turkish corsair and Ottoman admiral Barbarossa captured Otranto and the Fortress of Castro, but the Turks were eventually repulsed from the city and the rest of Puglia.

In 1804, the city was obliged to harbour a French garrison that was established there to watch the movements of the English fleet. Under the French name of Otrante it was created a duché grand-fief de l'Empire in the Napoleonic kingdom of Naples for Joseph Fouché, Napoleon's minister of Police (1809), the grandfather of Margareta Fouché. The family used the title of duc d'Otrante after Joseph Fouché's death.

The sea front

Climate[edit]

Otranto experiences a Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa) like much of Italy.

Climate data for Otranto
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 13.0
(55.4)
13.5
(56.3)
15.7
(60.3)
18.9
(66)
24.4
(75.9)
27.0
(80.6)
28.7
(83.7)
28.5
(83.3)
25.8
(78.4)
22.3
(72.1)
17.3
(63.1)
14.0
(57.2)
20.76
(69.36)
Average low °C (°F) 7.2
(45)
8.2
(46.8)
9.6
(49.3)
10.0
(50)
12.1
(53.8)
15.9
(60.6)
21.2
(70.2)
21.1
(70)
16.0
(60.8)
12.7
(54.9)
10.3
(50.5)
8.3
(46.9)
12.72
(54.9)
Precipitation mm (inches) 52
(2.05)
60
(2.36)
81
(3.19)
83.3
(3.28)
83.6
(3.291)
110.7
(4.358)
85.8
(3.378)
67.5
(2.657)
114.6
(4.512)
100.2
(3.945)
80.7
(3.177)
53.3
(2.098)
972.2
(38.276)
Avg. precipitation days 6.7 7.1 8.2 8.1 6.9 7.3 5.8 5.1 7.7 7.5 7.2 6.6 84.2
Source: Italian Ministry of Defence[3]

Main sights[edit]

The Cathedral of Otranto
Torre Sant'Emiliano, not far from the Palascìa lighthouse

Otranto main sights include:

  • The Castello Aragonese (Castle), reinforced by Emperor Frederick II and rebuilt by Alphonso II of Naples in 1485-1498. It has an irregular plan with five sides, with a moat running along the entire perimeter. In origin it had a single entrance, reachable through a draw-bridge. Towers include three cylindrical ones and a bastion called Punta di Diamante ("Diamond's Head"). The entrance sports the coat of arms of Emperor Charles V.
  • The Cathedral, consecrated in 1088, a work of Count Roger I adorned later (about 1163), by Bishop Jonathas, with a mosaic floor; it has a rose window and side portal of 1481. The interior, a basilica with nave and two aisles, contains columns said to come from a temple of Minerva and a fine mosaic pavement of 1166, with interesting representations of the months, Old Testament subjects and others. Bones and relics of the Martyrs of Otranto, who perished in the 15th-century siege surround the high altar. The church has a crypt supported by forty-two marble columns. The same Count Roger also founded a Basilian monastery here, which, under Abbot Nicetas, became a place of study; its library was nearly all bought by Bessarion.
  • The church of San Pietro, with Byzantine frescoes.
  • The catacombs of Torre Pinta.
  • Idro, a small river which the toponym Otranto stems from.

Culture[edit]

Otranto is the setting of Horace Walpole's book, The Castle of Otranto, which is generally held to be the first Gothic novel. It is also mentioned in Bram Stoker's novel The Lady of the Shroud.

International relations[edit]

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Otranto is twinned with:

See also[edit]

Sources and references[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]