The Ultimate Guide to the Best 12 Things to Do in Ostuni Italy
Looking for insider tips on things to do in Ostuni, Puglia?
Want to know where to stay, where to eat, how to get there, or what to do?
Then this Ostuni travel guide should come in handy!
Ostuni is the most authentic and fascinating example of Mediterranean architecture, known for its whitewashed houses gathered on a hilltop in the Valle d’Itria (Itria Valley), also known as the Valley of the Trulli.
It’s one of the best destinations in Italy’s Puglia region and, because of its whitewashed buildings, is also known as “Città bianca” (white city).
What makes Ostuni unique is its town center, built on top of a hill, overlooking the valley’s olive groves and vineyards as well as the sea.
It’s a maze of narrow cobbled streets, arches, staircases, small courtyards, shops and restaurants.
On sunny days, its white houses blend in perfectly with the blue of the sky and the sea not far away, and its beautiful streets become truly dazzling!
Apart from its distinctive town centre, Ostuni has received numerous awards for the beauty of its sea.
The town has been awarded several times in the past few years by Legambiente, a national citizens’ organisation dedicated to the preservation and improvement of the environment, and it’s easy to see why when you visit it.
Ostuni has a long history.
The area around Ostuni has been inhabited since the Stone Age, with the Messapians establishing the first large settlement on the upper part of the hill around 1000 BC.
The Iapigi arrived in the area around the same time, and they both lived peacefully, mixing their traditions and rituals.
Following Hannibal’s destruction of the town, the Greeks rebuilt it and gave it the name “Ostuni.” It derives from the Greek word “Astu-neon,” which means “new town.”
It was most likely built on the ruins of the older city between the first and second centuries AD.
Then the city was taken by the Roman Empire and remained under Roman control until 448 AD. It was then occupied by the Ostrogoths immediately after the fall of the Roman Empire and by the Lombards in the 7th century.
In the 11th century, the city was taken over by the Normans, who built the fortified hilltop city.
Later on, Ostuni became a gathering place for artists and creatives, and as a result, it was a prosperous time for the town and had a more stable history than many other towns and cities in Puglia.
Even though the town flourished for much of its history, it was not immune to the plague’s devastation.
Infected houses were painted white by mixing limestone dust with water, and it was discovered that the lime had antibacterial properties, and those living nearby did not contract the plague.
Nowadays, they have become so popular with tourists that the local government requires that all the houses in the historic centre must be painted white, which is why the houses are so white.
Today, this ancient city stands proud atop its hilltop location with its whitewashed buildings and cobblestone streets, making it an easy place for photographers and travellers alike to fall in love with!
Best Things To Do In Ostuni
If you are planning a trip, here is a list of things to do in Ostuni.
Meet the locals at Piazza della Libertà
Piazza della Libertà is in the heart of Ostuni, where most of the main streets converge. It’s the town’s vital centre, the meeting point of the new and old town, and an excellent starting point for exploring the city.
It’s a beautiful square lined with imposing buildings.
The centre of the piazza is dominated by the famous Obelisk of Sant’Oronzo (Colonna di Sant’Oronzo), a towering column, also known as “the Spire,” built in honour of the city’s patron saint. It’s 21 metres high and dates back to around 1771.
On one side of the square is the Palazzo di San Francesco, an ancient eighteenth-century Franciscan monastery that now houses the Town Hall, and next to it is the church of San Francesco.
The rest of the square is filled with beautiful cafes and bars where you can enjoy a drink. In the evenings, the square becomes the centre of Ostuni’s movida, with locals enjoying the warm Italian evening with a glass of wine and whatever entertainment is on that day.
Wander around the old town (Historical centre)
A walk through the alleys of Ostuni’s historic centre is a must-do. They are full of charm and character, and offer a glimpse into the city’s past.
Ostuni is divided into two sections: the more modern, lower part of the town; and the old town, which sits atop the hill.
The old town is surrounded by mediaeval walls that have been extended and modified over the centuries.
Originally, there were four gates to enter the city, but only two remain today: Porta Nova and Porta San Demetrio.
You can walk along the white walls in a semicircular path on the wide Viale Oronzo Quaranta to find these gates.
On clear days, you can admire the surrounding countryside with olive groves and the sea in the distance.
Within the walls, you’ll find the historical centre, known as the “old town”, which is a maze of cosy streets lined with whitewashed buildings;
stairways and balconies all adorned with flowers;
countless arches connecting the buildings and creating some street-perfect geometric figures;
and alleyways that lead to breath-taking panoramic views.
The best way to explore the old town is on foot, and it’s easily walkable for anyone.
There are several stairs, but they can be avoided because there are numerous other feasible routes leading to well-known places of interest.
So just wander and don’t worry about getting lost in the narrow streets; instead, enjoy the beauty that awaits you at every corner.
A private walking tour with a local guide is an alternative and better way to explore Ostuni like a local.
Tour Ostuni in a vintage ape calessino
Although walking is the best way to explore the city center, catching a typical ape calessino is one of the most fascinating ways to experience the White City.
The old town is uphill, making it hard to reach the hot spot of the white village; instead, you can take a traditional vehicle for a small fee.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Ape, it’s a three-wheeled motor vehicle, originally produced in the 1940s to transport farmers and their goods.
Today, these little vehicles have been restored and are used as tourist vehicles.
They’re a fun and unique way to see Ostuni. Thanks to the small size of these vehicles, the guide will lead you through the narrow alleys of the old town, reaching the city’s highest point with minimal effort.
He’ll also become your guide, sharing information and anecdotes that will enrich your experience.
Simply book your place on board on this dedicated page.
Visit Ostuni Cathedral
Be sure to stop by the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, which is a must-see attraction in Ostuni and is located in a small square (Piazzetta Cattedrale) in the hearth of the oldest part of the town.
It was built in 1435 on the highest point of the town using a fusion of Gothic and Venetian school styles.
Its façade includes a finely decorated central rose window, which is also Europe’s second largest.
Three elegant portals give access to the interior, which is divided into three naves and is enhanced by wonderful Baroque chapels and a painted ceiling.
On the left, in front of the Cathedral, you can see the Bishop’s Palace and the Seminary Palace.
Both buildings are connected to each other by the beautiful Arco Scoppa, an ancient stone archway that was originally made of wood.
Enjoy the view from the blue door
Of all the things to do in Ostuni, one of the most unique is visiting the house with the blue door.
It’s located a few steps from the cathedral and is Ostuni’s most photographed door.
Its colours are reminiscent of the Adriatic Sea and contrast sharply with the white walls.
It’s a vantage point with a magnificent view because it’s located at the highest point.
It has become a symbol of Ostuni, but it’s actually the entrance to a simple tourist lodging!
I recommend going at sunset; not far from this door is the Borgo Antico Bistrot, where you can enjoy an aperitif with a view of the sea in the distance.
Take the winding pedestrian street to the right of the door to reach it. Not only can you enjoy a beautiful view, but you can also sample high-quality local products.
Pro Tip: This isn’t the only door in Ostuni worth checking. There are many other adorned doors painted in vibrant colours, as well as many staircases adorned with flowers, that will catch your attention.
Visit the Museum of Preclassic Civilisations of the Southern Murgia
If you enjoy history, don’t miss the Museo Civico, also known as the “Museo delle Civiltà Preclassiche della Murgia Meridionale,” during your trip to Ostuni.
The museum is built within an antique convent, and here you’ll find grave goods from the Messapian period, as well as finds from the mediaeval, Renaissance, and modern periods.
There are also ceramics and other objects from the Grotta di Sant’Angelo excavations.
All of the archaeological evidence discovered in the Grotto of Santa Maria di Agnano can be seen in the museum’s last three rooms: fresco fragments, weapons, terracotta, and casts of the two Palaeolithic burials.
The museum’s most valuable and significant work is the evocative reconstruction of the site where the skeleton of a pregnant woman from 26,000 years ago was discovered (Palaeolithic period).
This is the so-called “Woman of Ostuni” or “Delia“, and she is the oldest pregnant woman ever discovered in the world.
The remains were discovered in the Santa Maria di Agnano Archaeological and Natural Park (which can be visited and is only 2 km from the city centre).
You can find the most recent timetables and prices on the official website.
Take in the view of the city from a distance
To truly appreciate the beauty of the White City, I recommend heading to Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and taking a seat at Piazzetta Martiri delle Foibe.
To get there, set your GPS navigation device to number 208. This is the best place to see the magnificent city in all its glory.
Although Ostuni is beautiful at any time of day, it’s especially lovely at sunset. So make sure to arrive in time to witness a spectacular sunset over the city.
Relax at the Beach (Marina di Ostuni)
Not only the White City, but also the crystal-clear sea. Less than 9 km from the city centre, Ostuni’s beaches are easily reached in a few minutes by car.
Upon arrival, you’ll find nearly 20 km of equipped beaches with sandy dunes and breathtaking coves.
Costa Merlata, with its inlets and rugged coastline, has some of the most beautiful coves.
Torre Pozzella, with its sheer cliffs and tower of the same name, along with Torre Guaceto, are the most well-known coastal areas.
Other beaches worth visiting include Lido Morelli with its sandy dunes, Rosa Marina and Quarto di Monte for nightlife, Pilone beach, and Torre Santa Sabina.
Once you’re there, take off your shoes and feel the sand between your toes!
Shop at The Local Ostuni Market
Every Saturday, Ostuni hosts the traditional local market that sells only the freshest produce. It’s only open between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. and is held in the city’s new part, near Via Gabriele D’Annunzio.
It’s a great place to avoid the tourist crowds and experience real life in this city.
A section of the market is dedicated to selling clothing and local crafts, but the best section is the food area, which has stalls selling everything from fruits and vegetables to tasty cheeses and meat.
Experience the local harvest season in Ostuni
It’s time to discover what Puglia is famous for, beyond its stunning landscapes and enticing seaside resorts.
The Puglia Region is a beautiful part of Italy known for its excellent olive oil and wine.
As you wander through Ostuni’s maze of small streets, you will come across many shops selling olive oil.
That’s because Puglia accounts for more than 50% of total Italian olive oil production, producing some of the finest extra virgin olive oil.
Much of this production takes place in the area surrounding Ostuni, where the hills and flatlands have different soil types, allowing for variations in olive oil.
The area around Ostuni is also well known for producing excellent white and red wines.
The wines from this area are so unique that they were granted protected status in 1972, meaning that only those produced in a small district can be referred to as Ostuni wines.
The protected status is granted to two distinct wines produced in Ostuni: the Ostuni Bianco (white wine) and the Ostuni Ottavianello (red wine or rose-style wine).
Both must be produced under strict guidelines and with specific amounts of various grape varieties from the region.
If you want to learn more about olive oil and wine production in Ostuni, consider participating in the local harvest season, providing assistance and bringing back fond memories of Italy, or taking part in this tour, which covers history, production, and special Apulian taste.
Join in the local festivals
Summer is a great time to attend local festivals.
I love Puglian cuisine, and one of the best days to sample it is on August 14th and 15th (the Italian Ferragosto), when Ostuni hosts the Sagra dei Vecchi Tempi, where you can taste all of the region’s incredible offerings and traditional dishes.
For something even more traditional, attend the Cavalcata di Sant’Oronzo (the town’s patron saint) celebrations, which take place each year between the 25th and 27th of August. On the second day, don’t miss the scenic costumed horseback procession.
Explore the best of Puglia
Ostuni is an excellent base from which to explore the beautiful cities of the Valle d’Itria.
It’s perfectly located between the famous trulli area and Salento, and allows for easy day trips to some of the region’s most beautiful towns, including Alberobello (the famous Truli town), Martina Franca (had the best bombette here), Locorotondo, and the spectacular Adriatic coastline.
From Ostuni, it’s also easy to discover hidden gems of Italy and less popular little cute towns in the Valle d’Itria, such as Cisternino.
Just rent a car and explore the Puglian countryside, the crystal blue sea, and the charming villages that surround it.
Practical Tips To Plan Your Trip To Ostuni
Where is Ostuni in Italy?
Ostuni is located in Puglia, a region in southern Italy (the heel of the boot).
It’s located in the province of Brindisi, which is 43 kilometres (26 miles) away, about a 35-minute drive.
Both Bari (north of Ostuni) and Lecce (south) are about an hour’s drive away.
The closest airports to Ostuni are Brindisi Airport, about 35 kilometres (21 miles) south of the city, and Bari Airport, about 110 kilometres (68 miles) north.
How to get to Ostuni
There are many ways to get to Ostuni, but by car is the quickest and easiest, so you can visit the nearby beaches and hill towns on your own time.
However, parking can be difficult. The historic centre is located on a steep hill, with parking at the bottom.
It’s best to stay just outside the centre if you want to be able to park right outside your accommodation.
Drive to Ostuni
If you’ve rented a car for your trip to Puglia, the quickest way to get to Ostuni by car is to drive from Brindisi.
The main airport of Salento is only 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Ostuni if you take the E55 highway toward Bari, then take the first exit toward Ostuni and follow the signs.
If you are coming from Bari, the highway E55 Brindisi-Lecce will take approximately 1 hour for 60 kilometres (37 miles).
If you’re driving to Ostuni, be aware that driving in the wrong part of a “centro storico” can result in a hefty fine.
Most Italian towns have a ZTL (Limited Traffic Area) that you will be unable to drive through. And Ostuni has a relatively large ZTL (limited traffic zones) into which only residents are permitted to drive.
Take the pubblic transport to Ostuni
The train is another option for getting to Ostuni. It’s served by the Trenitalia trainline, which provides direct connections to Bari, Brindisi, and Lecce.
If you are travelling from Bari to Ostuni, take any regular train from Bari’s main train station in the direction of Brindisi or Lecce. It takes around 50 minutes and costs as little as €6,10.
If you’re arriving from Brindisi to Ostuni, take any regular train towards Bari. It takes 20 minutes and costs €3,10.
However, Ostuni’s train station is a 30-minute walk from the historic centre, about 2 kilometres (1,2 miles), but you can take a local bus into the city centre.
Where to stay in Ostuni
If you don’t plan to rent a car in Puglia, I recommend staying in a hotel or apartment in Ostuni’s old town. This way, you’ll be closer to the action when going out at night.
The following lodgings are highly recommended and are within walking distance of the city centre:
Both Biancadamare and Dimore del Tempo Perso are two stylish B&Bs with beautiful views of the old town and the sea.
Relais La Sommità – If you want luxury in a prime location, this is one of the best places to stay in town. It even has a Michelin-starred restaurant!
Palazzo Stunis Charme (mid-range)— While most visitors to Ostuni prefer an apartment-style stay, this stunning historic home converted into a guest house, with beautiful tiled floors and tasteful interior decorations, is a great option for those who prefer the hotel experience.
Stay at a masseria in the countryside
If you have a car the best option is to stay in a masseria (fortified farmhouse) in the surrounding countryside.
The best thing about Masserie is that they also have the finest restaurants.
Some of them also have a local shop where they sell their organic products. You can also dine at a masseria to enjoy the delicious local cuisine.
If you are planning a trip to Puglia, you should consider booking a table at a masseria at least once, even if you are not staying in a masseria.
Here are some of my favourite Masserie in Ostuni:
Masseria il Frantoio – This is a 500-year-old organic olive farm located 10 minutes outside of Ostuni, deep in the countryside and just a few kilometres from the sea.
Its 16 comfortable guest rooms were obtained through the renovation of the house’s main buildings “without demolishing ancient walls.” The beautiful grounds and pool are ideal for relaxing, as are the tasting menus that feature farm-fresh produce and oil.
Feudi Mandolivo – If you want to experience sleeping in a trullo (who said that you have to go to Alberobello? ), this is the place for you.
It provides exclusive hospitality in two finely furnished “Dream Suites” within an enchanting Trulli group, providing a romantic and unforgettable stay in pursuit of nature and well-being.
What to eat in Ostuni
What do I enjoy most about Puglia?
The products used in the local cuisine come from the nearby sea and the surrounding countryside.
Typical Ostuni dishes not to be missed include:
Orecchiette con le cime di rapa (Orecchiette with turnip tops)
They’re typically the size of a thumb, but because they are handcrafted, their size and shape may vary.
A panzerotto is a small version of a calzone, which is a folded pizza. It is also made with a softer dough and is fried rather than baked. Tomato and mozzarella are the most popular fillings.
Purè di Fave con cicoria ( Mashed broad beans with cicory)
This traditional dish can only be made with dried broad beans. This means they must be cooked long enough to be easily mashed with a spoon to make a puree. The chicory used in this dish is usually the wild variety.
Chickpeas and Cavatelli pasta
Cavatelli are small shells of pasta made by cutting long strings of dough into small pieces and creating grooves with the tip of the finger. The pasta is simple to make and, when combined with the chickpeas, makes a delicious and nutritious dish.
Focaccia with onions
Onions are stuffed between two layers of dough in this focaccia recipe, the end result is a pie with a unique flavour that you should try.
Friselle with tomatoes
Friselle are small bread loaves made with whole wheat flour. They are prepared by cutting them in half halfway through baking. They are usually served with tomatoes on top.
Where to eat in Ostuni
There are numerous restaurants and trattorias in Ostuni where you can enjoy traditional dishes, they are frequently found in unusual locations such as ancient ovens, oil mills, and caves.
Unlike in other bigger cities, the food here is good everywhere, but if you want to taste traditional local delicacies, I recommend Posto Affianco and Trattoria Fave e Fogghje.
Evò Sapori di Vite is the place to go for wine, drinks, and appetisers.
The white city of Ostuni, La Città Bianca, is one of Puglia’s highlights and shouldn’t be missed on a trip to this beautiful region of Italy.
I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time here, and if I’ve missed any of your favourite things to do in Ostuni, please let me know in the comments!
Ciao and safe travels!