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Otranto

Description

Situated on the most Eastern point coast of the peninsula of Salento, Otrantogives its name to the channel that divides Italy from Albania.

The antique Hydruntum has Messapi origins (an ancient Italic population). The city was an Ancient Greece colony before becoming a Roman Municipium. Otranto submitted over the centuries the domination of Byzantine, Norman, Anjou and Aragon civilizations. In 1480 the city was attacked by the Turks that killed the population and destroyed the Monastery of San Nicola di Casole, seat of one of the most important libraries of the Western World. The Turks remained for a year until the Aragon army liberated the city.

Surrounded by fortified walls, Otranto features a typical medieval district with stoned streets that converge to the predominant Cathedral, built on the ruins of a Roman Domus, a Messapi village and an Early Christian Temple, all with traces evidenced during the refurbishments of the late XX century. Started in 1080, the façade features a large rose window and a Baroque portal; the plan is a Latin Cross with one central nave and two aisles and semicircular apse with two side chapels. The major attraction is the splendid mosaic floor, which features scenes of the Old Testament in the main nave and episodes of the life of the prophet Jonas in the apse. In the right aisle, there are 7 large wall showcases that preserve the remains of the martyrs of Otranto, killed by the Turks on the hill della Minerva.
The Aragon Castle was built by Ferdinando I d'Aragona in 1485, after the Turk's raid, to defend the city from similar attacks. The pentagon shaped plan proposes bulks (Alfonsina, Duchessa and Ippolito) and a fortress known as "il Torrino".

The first religious building edified in Otranto was the Basilica of San Pietro, one of the major evidenced expressions of the Byzantine art in the whole Southern Italy. Built in the VIII century the construction features a Greek Cross and preserves inside frescos with scenes of the New Testament (the Last Supper, the Baptism of Christ and the Feet Washing).

Not to miss: the Sanctuary of Santa Maria dei Martiri, built on the Hill della Minerva, where 800 innocent inhabitants of Otranto were slayed by the Turks, the Church of the Vergine degli abissi, the Chapel dello Spirito Santo, also known as the Chapel of the Madonna dell'Altomare.

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