That Puglia in recent years has become increasingly cosmopolitan and international you notice it by walking alleys and squares of Ostuni, where groups of foreigners swarm. And, as we recently discovered thanks to the invitation from the Councillor of Tourism Marketing Territorial and Events Vittorio Roberto Carparelli, not only in the height of summer but also when the sun peeks through the clouds in a sparkling spring.
The village of the white city that enchants
Coming from the sea, the Città Bianca shines bright in the sun on the top of a hill overlooking an ocean of olive trees dotted with beautiful farms (https://www.cittameridiane.it/a-ostuni-tra-gli-olivi-e-il -sea/). Looking at it I always thought about a huge and delicious cake covered with whipped cream! If you reach Ostuni in the evening, however, the feeling is to come across a bright spaceship just landed.
And despite knowing it for some time, the village of the candid city protected by massive circular walls, does not cease to enchant me. And the enchantment doubles when you climb through narrow streets and stairways, for courtyards and small open spaces, between arches and cave-houses on each other, baroque balconies and palaces with rococo portals.
The town’s drawing room is Piazza Libertà, on which stands Sant’Oronzo on its almost 21-meter high spire, which has a rich Baroque decoration and is surmounted by a statue of the saint with a miter and pastoral that for centuries looks and protects the former fourteenth century convent, now seat of the Town Hall with adjacent church of San Francesco d’Assisi, full of statues and paintings.
From here, take the road that climbs towards the Cathedral. On the street overlook the monastery of the Monacelle and the church dispensed from the cult dedicated to San Vito Martire where today is the oldest mother in the world.
In the Museum of Preclassical Civilizations, has place one of the most fascinating pages of history dating back more than 25 thousand years ago and which leads back to the sanctuary grotto of Santa Maria di Agnano, an ancient place of worship first pagan and then Christian.
Here was discovered the burial of the young woman about to give birth, curled up, with her arm and hand to protect the child she wore on her lap and with her wrist and head adorned with shell jewelry.
To look at her you feel an infinite tenderness!
In other rooms, dedicated to the Christian and Messapian and Paleolithic ages, other finds recovered in the Ostuni area, including the skeleton of another woman who, after being analyzed with carbon 14, could date back to 30,000 years ago.
Once again the ascent towards the Cathedral, a high and deep stone arch leads to the open sea where on one side the facade of the church dedicated to Santa Maria of the Assumption emerges and on the other the monumental suspended corridor of the Episcopio.
A curiosity: on the arch that unites the Episcopium to the Curia there is the emblem of Queen Bona Sforza who is said to have inhabited this palace overlooking the square where even today an ancient sundial marks the time.
In Gothic-Romanesque style, the concattedrale recently awarded the title of minor basilica, is among the most beautiful in Puglia. Built between 1435 and 1495, it has an enchanting façade with three rosettes, the central one of which is one of a kind and one of the largest in Europe. It has its fulcrum in the Cristo Salvator Mundi surrounded by seven cherubim, followed by three trilobed arches symbols of the apostles, which then multiply and become 24. To include everything, a ring decorated with figures clinging to vine shoots and ears of wheat, Eucharistic signs of passion.
The interior has a Latin cross with three naves and presents eighteenth-century shapes, with painted ceiling and baroque chapels. In the apse there is a richly carved walnut choir dating back to the 1600s.
Tired of walking? Or maybe you want to go around Ostuni looking at it from another perspective? You can do like us: visit Città Bianca on board a gig!
We went up with our Otto in Largo Trinchera, a square overlooked by the Cathedral, and we made the tour of the historic center through Via Cathedral arriving in the central Piazza della Libertà, dominated by the Town Hall and the spire of S. Oronzo. The tour continues towards Viale Oronzo Quaranta in front of the Aragonese towers up to Porta Nova ending between the Cathedral, the Episcopio and the Curia.
The visit to the historic center is completed by wandering, almost lost, among the houses painted in lime milk, hanging arches and “cave” rooms carved into the rock where rooms full of atmosphere have been created.
Walking between one building and another, the blue line of the sea appears on the horizon where the Regional Natural Park of the Coastal Dunes extends, with six kilometers of sand covered with Mediterranean scrub.
Between the sea and the village, the terracing and vegetable gardens that developed from the Middle Ages on the remains of a Messapian necropolis near the Madonna della Grata.
We visited them in the company of Domenico Melpignano, who is part of the Bio Solequo Cooperative led by Antonio Capriglia and who told us the stories of the “Gardens” as they were called the orchards, of the church and of the same cooperative.
The fields, where today are planted different varieties of cereals and vegetables, were taken in concession in 2014 by both the municipality and private citizens and saved from the state of abandonment in which they were and are devoted to organic agricultural production and recovery of ancient productions.
The entire surface of these gardens is crossed by canals, which channel rainwater into cisterns and channels: real hydraulic engineering works dating back to the Middle Ages.
The church is dedicated to the “Madonna della Grata”, which in the Ostuni dialect indicates the back. In fact, legend has it that a farmer, during the work in the fields, had severe back pain and asked for the intercession of the Virgin who granted him healing. To remember the miraculous event, thanks to a collection of farmers, a chapel was built in that place.
Domenico’s tale continues with the story of the Bio Solequo Cooperative that has not only leased these lands for use, where it grows its products, which it sells on site through Solidarity Purchasing Groups and local shops, but is also active in the promotion of fair trade and ethical finance. It also organizes cultural events and educational activities to make these environmental resources known and enhance them.
In this sense, the Municipality is also involved with a participatory path aimed at drafting proposals to be submitted to the regional call for proposals “Interventions for the protection and enhancement of areas of natural attraction”, for the redevelopment of urban gardens on the sidelines between city and countryside downstream of the historical city.
Museum of Preclassical Civilizations of the Southern Murgia
Via Cattedrale 15
tel. +39 0831 303973 – www.ostunimuseo.it
Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm – Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 7pm
Archaeological Park of Santa Maria di Agnano
ex SS 16 Ostuni – Fasano, at Km. 878 / II
every Sunday and holidays at 9: 30-13: 00 (BUS timetable) or by booking by writing to email@example.com or calling +39 0831 336383
Regional Natural Park of Coastal Dunes
ss16, km 870
tel. +39 348 1638228 – www.parcodunecostiere.org
Bio Solequo Coop – The Gardens of the Grata
Registered office: Via Leonardo da Vinci 6
Agricultural production: Contrada Madonna della Grata sn, Contrada Cervarolo
tel. +39 0831 305303 – firstname.lastname@example.org
In collaboration with the Municipality of Ostuni