Only a few kilometres from
the beautiful Adriatic coast, on top of a solitary hill, is
where one can visit Ostuni, known as the White City.
Its name derives from the Greek Astu-neon, signifying a new
city and probably referring to another pre-existing city on
the same hill.
It is almost certain that the territory on the slopes of the
hill, could have been inhabited by the Messapians (5th Century
BC), as testified in finds of tombs in the areas of Rosara,
Santo Stefano, Boario Market and Villa Nazareth.
The territory however, was inhabited since Palaeolithic-Middle
times (50.000 years ago) and also during the High. The find
of the Santa Maria of Agnano crypt is important, where the
skeleton of a pregnant woman lay and was discovered.
There have also been finds of Neolithic settlements in numerous
localities around Ostuni.
Like the whole of Puglia, Ostuni passed under Roman domination
after the battles against Pirro (280-275 BC), and during the
Second Punic War, the City had to suffer scourge brought by
the clashes between the Carthaginians of Hannibal and the
Romans (220-205 BC).
Not much is known about the Roman Imperial Period nor the
Medieval, but the habitation existed around 1000 years before
the arrival of the Normans.
It was Ruggero II, the Norman, who ordered the construction
of the Castle. Today, only the garden and a turret remains
from the period of Ostuni Goffredo (1101-1115), Count of Lecce.
On his death, it passed to his son Accardo, and then directly
to the Crown.
The following century (12th Century), Ostuni belonged to Roberto
Visconte, then once again was Regio Demanio (Royal Property)
and then part of the Principality of Taranto, rightfully Manfredi’s,
son of the Emperor Federick II of Swabia.
The death of Manfredi (1266) coincided with the ascension
to the throne of the Angiò Family in the South, and
Carlo II gave Ostuni to his son Filippo in 1294.
In 1373 it passed to Giacomo Del Balzo, then Sanseverino,
therefore the Orsini (1420), following the history of the
Principality of Taranto.
In the 15th Century, the Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral was constructed.
Under the Aragonese, Ostuni was bought by Caterina Sanseverino,
but there was an uprising by its inhabitants who were discontent
with the economic situation. It quickly passed hand during
the years of clashes between the Spanish and French, to Bona
Sforza (1524), daughter of Isabella of Aragona and King of
It was bought by Ferdinando Loffredo and by Duke Giovanni
Zevallos during the subsequent century (1639), and remained
this way until Ostuni experienced a brief republican period
following the decline of Napoleon Bonaparte in Italy (1799).
It then returned to Zevallos and became their feudatory on
2nd August 1806, the day feudal rights were abolished by Giuseppe
Bonaparte, King of Naples.
With the re-instatement of the Bourbons to the throne of the
Two Sicilies (1815), democratic petitions existed in the Carbonare
and Renaissance secret associations, which provoked the motions
of 1820 and 1848, decisive steps for the birth of the Reign
of Italy (1861).
Ostuni wholeheartedly adhered to Republican ideals and became
one of the fulcrums of protest in the entire region.
Afterwards, the City and its territory suffered for the brigandage
phenomenon until the advent of the First World War, when Ostuni
contributed with the sacrifice of some of its citizens.
Between the two wars, Ostuni’s economy was essentially
based on agriculture and its products. They are well known
for olive oil in the area.
Instead, in recent times, Ostuni has taken on more of a tourist
vocation, encouraged by the beauty of its streets and city
Ostuni is known as the White City for the particular colouring
of its houses in caustic limestone, making them visible from
afar. The use of this limestone, derived from the period of
pestilence, is a good method of lighting the streets which
are embedded between closely positioned houses.
Ostuni can be visited by entering Porta Nova (15th Century)
and Porta San Demetrio (13th Century), which open up along
the city-wall and have the peculiarity of accommodating civil
Among the churches we would like to cite: S. Giacomo of Compostella
(15th Century), S. Maria Annunziata (1499), the modest Madonna
of Nova (1561), S. Pietro (1659) and the Cathedral (15th Century)
with its splendid rose window.
One can relax by stopping in the Villa Comunale, the only
park in the City.