The White City

March 10, 2014 / Places
As you’re driving through the countryside near Brindisi in Puglia, the long coastal area of the heel of the “boot”, you will definitely mistake it at first for one of those optical illusions/mirages in the distance created by heat radiating off the landscape.

Turns out you’re approaching the ancient city of Ostuni (from Astuneon, or “New Fortress/Citadel”, in Ancient Greek). Ostuni, like other similar towns in the region, is built entirely of the plentiful local limestone. Unlike the others however, all the buildings in Ostuni are entirely whitewashed in a white limestone-based natural paint, thus the apparition effect.

Low light in the narrow medieval alleyways? A non-issue even at night, the white paint magnifies any available light. Scorching 120F heat in the summer? The white walls and roofs radiate much of the heat back out. That nasty plague that hit the area in the 17th century? Not Ostuni, thanks to the limestone paint’s pest-repellent properties.

You’ll also see amazing limestone bas-relief work (photo 1), particularly on the many Baroque churches and patrician palaces. This plus its incredible food and the fact that it’s only 5 miles from some of the most pristine Mediterranean coast there is… Ostuni is a “mirage” that would be too foolish to pass up on your next southern trek.

Photos kindly provided by Cariddi Nardulli, thank you!


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

12 Responses to “The White City”

  1. Joseph A. Cecc0

    Great!! I have been waiting for notes on Puglia. I visited the area in September, it was a nice relief from the major tourist areas.

  2. R

    We spent some time in Ostuni when we lived on the Amalfi Coast – and enjoyed the drive across the “boot” as well! Amazing landscape there and the food! To die for. Found a little restaurant called “Locanda dei 7 Peccati” – my mouth is watering thinking of it! Thanks for bringing me back!

  3. Antonio Russo

    L’hai fatto di nuovo, GB!! Un articolo interessantissimo! Che paese incredibile! Per certo ci vado quando ritorno in Italia. Grazie!

  4. Barbara Levy

    I was delighted to see your article about Puglia. I’m going in April and will be sure to visit Ostuni.

  5. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    Great to see Carridi Narduli on the Italian notebook team!

  6. When I was a teen I lived near Ostuni and absolutely loved going to the open market there. I took a friend there a few years back and was disappointed at how commercial it’s all become. We ate at a small taverna and I wasn’t impressed (which is most unusual for Puglia!). And the prices!! Ostuni thinks it is in league with Rome, Florence and Venice.

  7. Barb Penney

    Completed a 9 day self guided bike tour of Puglia in September 2013. Incredible experience and my favorite restaurant was in Ostuni. Multi-levelled outdoor dining with a fabulous menu and fresh and delicious food. Look for Taverna della Gelosia in the old city. You won’t be disappointed!

  8. Kathleen Martin

    Live in Puglia for six years in the 80’s.. love every minute of it and went to Saturday market in Ostuni almost every week… Was back for a visit during the holidays 2012/2013 and was in Ostuni for market and wine buying… a very stunning city.


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