Ostuni, Italy is definitely more popular than when I first visited in the early 2000’s but I still enjoy a stroll through Puglia’s Città Bianca (White City) and I recommend at least a quick stop if you’re in the area.
Ostuni gets its nickname from its whitewashed walls. Back in the mid-17th century, the town painted its walls (inside and outside) in order to fend off the spread of a plague. The lower part of the city (the poor part of the town), was required to painted its walls with a white limestone mixture, which was believed to be a disinfectant.
The walls are still painted white (for marketing reasons, mostly), but the limestone mixture is no longer used (because it’s toxic).
If you’re visiting Puglia’s Valle d’Itria (Itria Valley), make sure Ostuni is on your list. It’s an easy place to spend a day, or even a few hours in the evening for a passeggiata, aperitivo, and dinner.
While you can spend the night in Ostuni, I prefer making a base in other towns (like Monopoli), and in the countryside.
This is my guide to spending a day in the small town of Ostuni, Italy.
Andiamo – Let’s go!
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Arrive and Park
Enjoy the views of Ostuni as you drive closer to it. It’s perched up on a hill and makes for a perfect photo. Find a pullout and snap a photo now in case you don’t have time when you leave town.
We like parking in the lot just southwest of the historic center – Parcheggio Via Specchia. It’s pay and display, or use the EasyPark app (that’s what we do, and it’s… easy). The lot is a quick 5-minute walk up to the town center, and there are also toilets (small fee, changing table) and a water fountain.
Good To Know: If the Via Specchia parking lot is full, try the large lot on the southeast corner of the city center – Parcheggio Al Giardino.
Pastries at Da Pasquale
Walk up into town and start your visit with a stop at Bar Pasticceria Da Pasquale. If there’s a line, be patient – the pastries are worth the wait. You may choose to indulge in a local pastry, the tette delle monache (nuns breasts), cream filled small cakes. There are a few outdoor tables, or down your coffee at the bar and walk down to the city walls to eat your pastry with a view.
The Walls of Ostuni (Le Mura di Ostuni)
Walk downhill to stroll the walls of Ostuni and catch one of many gorgeous views you can see from the town. You’ll notice the tower at the Porta Nova (the town entrance for the military) isn’t painted white. This was to distinguish it from the rest of the city. You can still see the three slits in the walls of the tower where unwelcome visitors were treated with buckets of boiling water or oil.
As you walk along the walls, you can see the Adriatic at a distance (and the original Ostuni, a Roman port town called Petrolla before the town was moved inland an on top of a hill for defense reasons).
You can also see a different sea – of green trees. Most are olive trees – there are over 36,000 olive trees in the Ostuni area that are over 100 years old! There’s even an olive tree at nearby Masseria Brancati that’s over 3100 years old – and still produces olives. The other trees are almonds trees and fig trees.
Fun Fact: The white walls of Ostuni are painted twice a year. The paint fades and chips due to the heat and salty air. The houses in Ostuni are also supposed to be painted yearly.
Tiny Lanes of Ostuni
When you’ve finished checking out the walls of Ostuni and the views of the countryside and Adriatic Sea, walk into the old city by entering through one of the two remaining porte (doors) – either Porta Nova or Porta San Demetro. Porta Nova is close to where you started. If you’ve walked the length of the wall, enter via Porta San Demetro.
There are plenty of photo-friendly alleys, piazzas, and narrow walkways. Wander around, check out the shops, stop for a coffee in the small piazza in front of the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Stella (and peek at the view below), and see the amazing olive wood art and products at L’Ulivo Che Canta.
Don’t skip these small streets to rush to the Ostuni Cathedral and Arco Scoppa – wandering these small streets is one of the best things to do in Ostuni.
The Blue Door of Ostuni
You may have seen photos of Ostuni’s famous blue door (porta azzurra). Yes, it’s trendy, but it’s gorgeous with the blue sky!
Good To Know: Alternatively, during the summer, you can also stop for a nice photo with the plants on the walls in the small piazza in front of the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Stella.
Fun Fact: In the past, residents of Ostuni painted their doors based on their profession: farmers had green doors, merchants had brown doors, and sailors and fishermen had blue doors.
Ostuni’s Cathedral – Cattedrale Santa Maria Assunta
If you enjoy frescoes, step inside the Ostuni Cathedral, and admire the ceiling. Otherwise, just check out the outside of the Cathedral. Notice that it’s not painted white, because it was believed that the church would be protected from the plague by God.
See the rose window on the front of the Cattedrale. You can’t see it from the inside because it was closed up due to the sun shining in the eyes of the priest. The rose window symbolizes time with its 24 rays, 12 apostles, and 7 angels.
Turn around and look back at the little ‘bridge’ connecting the Seminary (on the left) to the Bishop’s Palace (on the right). If you think it looks a bit like the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, you’re not the only one. It was (supposedly) designed to look like the famous bridge in Venice.
Souvenirs Shops and the Woman of Ostuni
Make your way downhill toward Piazza Libertà. On your way, you’ll pass small shops selling products like souvenirs, clothing, and olive oil. You’ll also pass by the Museo Civilta’ Preclassiche della Murgia Meridionale. Stop in if you want to see the skeleton of the ‘Woman of Ostuni,’ a skeleton found nearby that’s dated at over 28,000 years old. The woman was pregnant (probably over 30 weeks), and you can also see the skeleton of the small baby as well.
Piazza della Libertà and the Colonna di Sant’Oronzo
You’ll know when you’ve arrived in the lively Piazza della Libertà because you’ll see the towering Colonna di Sant’Oronzo.
Stop for a coffee at a café in the piazza or get an excellent gelato at Cremeria La Scala (I recommend one of the fresh seasonal fruits like fig if it’s a hot day).
In the evening, the piazza if full of local kids playing in the piazza, in front of the Comune (town hall) and the Chiesa di San Francesco d’Assisi (Church of St. Francis of Assisi).
A Perfect View of the Old City
It’s outside of the city, but if you’re looking for a nice spot for a photo of Ostuni, head to the Piazza Martiri delle Foibe, in the newer part of the city. You get gorgeous views of the old city and it’s under 10 minutes walking from the Piazza della Libertà.
Say ciao to Ostuni! Take a photo below the town on your way out if you didn’t get one on your arrival.
I hope you enjoyed this visit to Ostuni!
Tips for Visiting Ostuni
- There are restaurants scattered throughout the old city (and new part of the city). Depending on where you’re at in town at mealtimes, stop in a restaurant for a meal or grab a quick snack like a panino (like at Sapori d’Eccellenza, via Petrarolo 2). Other recommendations include Il Posto Affianco (Via Vitale 34), Osteria Pizzeria Sant’Oronzo (via Giovine 21) and La Locanda del Macellaio (Via Tamborrino 45/47).
- Sleep outside the city center. Yes, there are places in Ostuni, but the countryside is gorgeous and there are so many masserie (fortified farms) worth staying in. It’s lovely to return to an olive grove hotel in the evening after a day touring the towns of the Valle d’Itria or the local beaches.
- Have dinner at Masseria Il Frantoio. It’s a multi-course meal using many of the farm’s produce and products, and I rank it as one of my favorite Italian meals. It’s a long one that’s paired with local wines, so come with stretchy pants and a designated driver. Or, just stay the night in one of the beautiful rooms!
- If possible, avoid visiting during from mid-July through mid-September (Ostuni’s high season). The temperatures are high and crowds are dense. Spring and fall are gorgeous, and December is another nice time to visit if you want to soak up the Christmas spirit (but it’s not a good time to visit if you want to swim!).
- Bring your sunglasses – the white walls and streets create an intense glare.
Ostuni with Kids
Ape Tour – Take an Ape Tour! You can catch a tour of Ostuni for up to four people (and you can even fit a stroller in the back). It’s just 15€ per adult for a 20 minute tour or 20€ per adult for a 40 minute tour of the old city. You’ll stop for some nice views, learn a little bit about the city, and save little legs from getting too tired!
Water – There are water fountains spread throughout the city so you can refill your water bottle when needed.
Toilets – You can use bathrooms in restaurants or cafés that you frequent, or pay a small fee to use one of the public bathrooms in Ostuni. There are a few sprinkled throughout town.
Strollers – Ostuni isn’t super stroller friendly, so I’d leave the stroller in the car. But, if you need it (for example, you want your baby to take a nap while you explore town), you can stick to some of the main streets and have your stroller with you). Read more about Strollers in Italy.
Glare – Like many of the towns in Puglia with white streets and walls, the glare on a sunny day can be extreme. If you can, have your kids wear sunglasses while walking around Ostuni.
Playground – Ostuni’s best playground is in the Parco Rimembranze.
Read more our Tips for Visiting Ostuni with Kids
Map of Ostuni, Italy For Your Visit
What To Do Near Ostuni
Before or after your visit to Ostuni, there’s plenty more to do in the area:
Go to the Beach
Puglia has some gorgeous beaches, and those near Ostuni are no exception. The most popular beaches are on the Costa Merlata, a section of Adriatic Coast that has a lot of rocky inlets with turquoise water, and some have small sandy patches.
Our family loves the beach clubs and sandy beaches of the Parco Naturale Regionale Dune Costiere da Torre Canne a Torre San Leonardo (a Regional Natural Park of Coastal Dunes that run from Torre Canne to Torre San Leonardo). We enjoy Lido Morelli for its simplicity – you can rent umbrellas and beach chairs and there’s a small beach bar, toilets and showers. For a larger lido (beach club) with a restaurant and a swimming pool, head to Viar Beach Club just down the road.
Helpful Tip: Remember that the beaches in Puglia get extremely crowded in July and August, so keep that in mind when you’re deciding what to do. If you like tranquil, empty beaches, these aren’t for you. However, if you visit in the shoulder season (May, first part of June, late September, and early October), you’re in for a treat!
Visit Another Small Town or City
One of the nice things about visiting this area is that the travel distances are short. Nearby, you’ll find two of my favorite towns in the area – Locorotondo and Cisternino. You can also stop in Martina Franca or Ceglie Messapica, Alberobello (trulli homes), or visit the caves of Castellana Grotte. Explore the coastal city of Monopoli (local living on the sea) or its neighbor Polignano a Mare (our favorite seafood panini and the famous Lama Monachile beach).
Drive Around to See the Monumental Olive Trees
Take a drive in the countryside around Ostuni to see the ‘monumental’ olive trees of the region. They’re huge, intricate, gnarled, majestic, and as a dear friend says, “sacred, gentle, and giving.” Take photos in an ancient olive grove, give an olive tree a hug, and appreciate that these beauties have survived Xylella.
Ostuni, Italy FAQ
If you’re in Ostuni on a Saturday, you can stop by the market. It’s a typical Italian market with food, clothing, and housewares. It’s definitely more geared to locals, but you’ll find fresh cheeses, taralli, and local fruits and vegetables – great for a picnic or snack! I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit it.
You can easily walk around the Ostuni old city center. There are a lot of steps if you want to wander of the ‘main streets.’ You can also visit some of the old town of Ostuni on an ape tour (an ape is a small vehicle like a tuk tuk).
I’d follow the itinerary I’ve given above, but know that some shops and restaurants will be closed from late October through April (except for the Christmas period). Enjoy the tranquility in the quiet winter months!
Ostuni is nicknamed the ‘White City,’ or La Città Bianca, because the town painted its walls white in the mid-17th century to try to combat the plague. The white limestone mixture was believed to be a disinfectant, so locals were ordered to paint their houses (including inside) with the mixture. Nowadays, the toxic limestone mixture is no longer used, but the town continues to paint its walls white.
For the most part, Ostuni’s olive trees were unaffected by the ‘olive tree disease.’ There was much more damage in other parts of Puglia, especially down near Lecce.
Yes, you can take the train to Ostuni, but the Ostuni train station is below town. You’ll need to take a quick taxi ride up to the city center. Although you could walk it in about 30-40 minutes, I wouldn’t attempt it because the road up to the historic centre is busy.
Brindisi Airport (BDS) is just 35 minutes away by car (38 kilometers) and Bari Airport (BRI) is 70 minutes away by car (100 kilometers). I recommend checking fares for both because you can easily explore the Valle d’Itria from both airports. If you need to rent a car, check both Bari and Brindisi for the best rates, but know that the one-way drop off fees tend to be high.
Yes! Even though Ostuni may look like it’s far from the water, it’s only about 8 kilometers from the Adriatic Sea.