View from the bastion to Otranto

Oṭṛàntu (Salentino)
Derentó/Δερεντό (Greek)
Comune di Otranto
Otranto seen from the castle
Otranto seen from the castle
Coat of arms of Otranto
Location of Otranto
Otranto is located in Italy
Location of Otranto in Italy
Otranto is located in Apulia
Otranto (Apulia)
Coordinates: 40°09′N 18°29′E / 40.150°N 18.483°E / 40.150; 18.483
ProvinceLecce (LE)
FrazioniPorto Badisco, Conca Spellucchia
 • MayorPierpaolo Cariddi
 • Total77.2 km2 (29.8 sq mi)
15 m (49 ft)
 (31 December 2017)[2]
 • Total5,800
 • Density75/km2 (190/sq mi)
DemonymIdruntini or Otrantini
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
Dialing code0836
Patron saintBlessed Otrantine Martyrs
Saint dayAugust 14
WebsiteOfficial website

Otranto (UK: /ɒˈtrænt/,[3] US: /ˈtrɑːnt/,[4][5] Italian: [ˈɔːtranto]; Salentino: Oṭṛàntu; Griko: Δερεντό, romanizedDerentò; Ancient Greek: Ὑδροῦς, romanizedHudroûs; Latin: Hydruntum) is a coastal town, port and comune in the province of Lecce (Apulia, Italy), in a fertile region once famous for its breed of horses. It is one of I Borghi più belli d'Italia ("The most beautiful villages of Italy").[6]

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.[7]

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 kilometres (31 mi) 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 Iapygium or Sallentinum. The district between this promontory and Otranto is thickly populated and very fertile.[7]

The area that lies between Otranto and Santa Maria di Leuca is part of the Regional Natural Coastal Park of "Costa Otranto - Santa Maria di Leuca e Bosco di Tricase" wanted by the Apulia Region in 2008. This territory has numerous natural and historical attractions such as Ciolo, which is a rocky cove.


The fortress
Historic map of Otranto by Piri Reis

Otranto occupies the site of the ancient Greek city of Magna Graecia Hydrus (in Greek: Ὑδροῦς) or Hydruntum (in Latin), also known as Hydrunton, Hydronton, or Hydruntu. Otranto was a town of Messapian (Illyrian) 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, (in present Albania) was less than from Brundisium.[7]

In the 8th century, it was for some time in the possession of duke Arechis II of Benevento.

On 17 August 928, the city was sacked by a Fatimid fleet under Sabir al-Fata. Its inhabitants were carried to North Africa as slaves.[8] 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.

Ottoman invasion

Main article: Ottoman invasion of Otranto

Skulls of "Martyrs of Otranto" on display in Otranto cathedral

In 1480, Sultan Mehmed II sent an Ottoman fleet to invade Rome under the command of Gedik Ahmed Pasha. The force reached the shores of Apulia on 28 July 1480, and the city was captured in two weeks on 11 August 1480. All of the male inhabitants were slaughtered by the victorious Ottomans. Of the 22,000 inhabitants, only 10,000 were left alive. Some 800 citizens, known as the "Martyrs of Otranto", were beheaded after they had refused to convert to Islam. They were canonised by Pope Francis on 12 May 2013.[9] Archbishop Stefano Pendinelli was also martyred.

Between August and September 1480, the Italian and European kingdoms failed to help King Ferdinand of Naples except for his cousin Ferdinand the Catholic of Spain, the Kingdom of Sicily and later the Republic of Genoa.[10] In 1481, the Pope, in panic, called for a crusade to be led by King Ferdinand of Naples and was joined by troops of Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus. The Ottomans controlled the city for 13 months. Mehmed II died on his way to capture the rest of Italy.[11] His successor, Sultan Bayezid II, ordered Gedik Ahmed Pasha to be hanged. On 11 September 1481, the Ottomans abandoned the city.

In 1537, the famous Ottoman corsair and admiral Barbarossa recaptured Otranto and the Fortress of Castro, but the Ottomans were again repulsed from the city and from the rest of Apulia.

Napoleonic Wars

In 1804, the city was obliged to harbour a French garrison that was established there to watch the movements of the English fleet.[citation needed] 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).[citation needed] The family used the title of duc d'Otrante after Joseph Fouché's death.[citation needed]

Sea front

World War I

During WWI the allied Italian-French-British Fleet organized the Otranto Barrage to control the Austro-Hungarian Fleet in the Adriatic Sea. The Austro-Hungarian Fleet led by captain Miklós Horthy attacked the Barrage (13 -15 May 1917) breaking it and sinking some British drifters (Battle of the Strait of Otranto (1917)).[12]

World War II

During WWII the British fleet raided the Otranto Channel (11-12 November 1940) as a diversionary manoeuvre (Battle of the Strait of Otranto (1940) from the contemporary main attack on Taranto (Battle of Taranto).[13]



Otranto experiences a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) with long, hot summers and short, cool winters.

Climate data for Otranto
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 13.0
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 7.2
Average precipitation mm (inches) 52
Average 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[14]

Main sights

The Cathedral of Otranto
Torre Sant'Emiliano, not far from the Palascìa lighthouse
The harbor of Otranto seen from the historic center

Otranto main sights include:


Otranto is the setting of Horace Walpole's book The Castle of Otranto, which is generally held to be the first Gothic novel. Walpole had chosen the town from a map of the Kingdom of Naples because the name was "well-sounding"; he was not aware that Otranto had a castle until 1786, some twenty-two years after the novel was first published under a pseudonym. The principal model for the castle was his villa in Strawberry Hill, London.[15]

Otranto is also mentioned in Bram Stoker's novel The Lady of the Shroud.

International relations

See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Italy

Twin towns – Sister cities

Otranto is twinned with:

See also



  1. ^ "Superficie di Comuni Province e Regioni italiane al 9 ottobre 2011". Italian National Institute of Statistics. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Popolazione Residente al 1° Gennaio 2018". Italian National Institute of Statistics. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Otranto, Strait of". Lexico UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press.[dead link]
  4. ^ "Otranto". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). HarperCollins. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  5. ^ "Otranto". Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  6. ^ "Puglia" (in Italian). Retrieved 1 August 2023.
  7. ^ a b c d Ashby 1911.
  8. ^ Halm, Heinz (1991). Das Reich des Mahdi: Der Aufstieg der Fatimiden [The Empire of the Mahdi: The Rise of the Fatimids] (in German). Munich: C. H. Beck. pp. 214–215. ISBN 978-3-406-35497-7.
  9. ^ "Pope canonises 800 Italian Ottoman victims of Otranto". BBC. 12 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  10. ^ G. Conte, Una flotta siciliana ad Otranto (1480), in "Archivio Storico Pugliese", a. LXVII, 2014
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 March 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2011.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Carlo Stasi, Otranto e l'Inghilterra (episodi bellici in Puglia e nel Salento), in Note di Storia e Cultura Salentina, anno XV, pp. 127–159, (Argo, Lecce, 2003), Paul G. Halpern, The Battle of the Otranto Straits (controlling the Gateway to the Adriatic in WWI) (Bloomington, I.U.P. 2004).
  13. ^ Carlo Stasi, Otranto e l'Inghilterra (episodi bellici in Puglia e nel Salento), in Note di Storia e Cultura Salentina, anno XV, pp. 127–159, (Argo, Lecce, 2003), Carlo Stasi, Otranto nel Mondo. Dal "Castello" di Walpole al "Barone" di Voltaire (Editrice Salentina, Galatina 2018) ISBN 978-88-31964-06-7, Thomas P. Lowry, The Attack on Taranto (Stackpoole Books paperbacks, 2000)
  14. ^ Lecce-Galatina weather station[permanent dead link] Italian Ministry of Defence Retrieved 2009-06-02
  15. ^ Walpole, Horace; Clery, E.J. (2008) [1764]. Lewis, W.S. (ed.). The Castle of Otranto (Oxford World's Classics ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 117. ISBN 9780199537211., Carlo Stasi, Otranto nel Mondo. Dal "Castello" di Walpole al "Barone" di Voltaire (Editrice Salentina, Galatina 2018) ISBN 978-88-31964-06-7