Puglia - A stay in Ostuni, The White City
Off to Ostuni - After a happy dream come true filled weekend in Lecce (which you can read about in the link at bottom of the page ) My husband and I made our way out of the city and headed north. Driving up the coast of the Adriatic Sea, my husband at the wheel and I in the passenger seat, we were out on our adventure... on our way to Ostuni. The White City. Nicknamed The White City because.....well....because the whole thing is so gleaming white that you need to wear glasses on a sunny day just to look at it! It's blindingly amazing! Driving up we were a little distracted by time and a new landscape - we were trying to arrive before dark to check into our B&B. The only thing more stressful then trying to find addresses and streets in an Italian town, is trying to do it in the dark. I have no idea how anyone ever got around some of these places before GPS! As we came around a corner all of the sudden it appeared. The most amazing view. The most amazing silhouette. High up on the hill. The sun was setting with dark clouds above but clear on the horizon. I could almost hear the angels singing. It looked like a magical kingdom out of a fairy tale. My mouth fell open. Not believing my eyes I couldn't stop staring. How could anything look like this? As we drove closer the city was starting to show itself as it's silhouette started to disappear. Changing slowly from that breathtaking first view against the evening sky into buildings and houses with life and detail. I couldn't wait to see the town I'd been looking at in pictures for so long. A town that reminded me of Venice in it's uniqueness and Greece in it's colors. A place you can hardly believe exists until you take it in with your own eyes.
First stop - our B&B. This small, perfect apartment made for two was called "The Living Stone" and that is exactly what it felt like. Alive from all the time, moments and lives that have been shared within. The stone walls, calm and cool and in shades of white, cream and brown were capped by some of the unique domed ceilings like you find in the south. A single door leading out to a balcony let in just enough light to make the living area feel dreamy and set the perfect stage to take some incredible silhouette photographs. A single person wide stone staircase, impossibly steep, lead up to the roof top terrace and the bedroom. A room the width of a queen size bed and twice as long. Ridiculously small but wonderfully comfortable. My absolute favorite part of this place was the rooftop terrace which you can find a lot in this town and once I knew they existed I wasn't going to settle for staying anywhere else. It was heavenly up there and my favorite place to take it all in, or to have a coffee or glass of wine. Perfection with a view! If you will be staying in Ostuni I would absolutely recommend finding a place with a rooftop. There is a whole other world up there.
Sightseeing - Our days were spent roaming around and exploring as much of this glorious place as we could. We wanted to see all it's white washed little back streets and hidden gems. Out of the few days we were visiting we were lucky enough to have one completely sunny day, which is the way this city should be seen. It sparkles in the suns light and the contrast between the city, land and sea is breathtaking. There aren't really museums here so the points of interest are the city itself. Other than the beautiful cityscape there is the main piazza, Piazza della Liberta, which is a great starting point for your day. Enjoy your morning coffee while doing a little people watching here and then check out the Chiesa di San Francesco before heading off to explore the historic center. The most ancient part of the city is walled and is built highest up on a hill with the Cathedral of Ostuni and Arco Scoppa being at the very top. As you wind up through the city, the main road (Via Cattedrale) will take you by lots of lovely shops and restaurants and then will drop you at the steps of the cathedral and arch. After you cross under the arch it feels as though the path dead ends as it splits down from a large road into quaint little walkways and side streets so go a head and keep exploring. Around the city there is a large walking path that circles by outer ancient wall. Walking along, with the towering white walls to one side and the spectacular views of the land and ocean to the other, was relaxing and magical. Ostuni overall was a wonderful place to get lost in.....there were so many unexpected steps and paths that would take steep ups and downs. Impossible to imagine what the next change could bring...maybe a beautiful view...maybe just a quiet neighborhood. Either way, every corner was worth looking at.
Eating - One of our favorite things to do in Italy is go to the farmers market or grocery store and cook at home or B&B or hotel or wherever you might have a spot. Depending on the town and when you are in it you should always try to hit up the farmers market first and then move on to the grocery stores. Sometimes we will find a store we like and return to it for everything and other times we will make a stop while we are out adventuring. This can be a good option if you don't know hours or days of the markets and stores. We've been caught before in a small town on a Sunday with no restaurants and no stores open. It makes for an adventure in the kitchen but not my favorite. Although we were not in Ostuni during the farmers market (Saturdays) we didn't seem to have any trouble finding nice little stores to get our necessities. And just in case you forgot something, there was a traveling van that made it's way around the neighborhoods selling produce out of the back. Just like the ice cream man only healthier :) We did also go out to eat while in Ostuni because even though we like to cook it's also fun to let someone else do all the work and dishes too. We made a stop for lunch at the Parisi Cafe. It is right along Via Cattedrale (like most everything in the historic center!) This probably means that it is quite full with tourists during the busy season, something I usually try to stay away from, but since it was November and empty we decided to stop in. We were starving after a morning of walking around and didn't want to go on until we had some nourishment....and maybe a prosecco....and then of course a gelato :) Everything that we had was fairly simple but it was all delicious and kept us happy and alive! For dinner we chose Osteria Monacello. It was along one of the side streets off of Via Cattedrale and it's lights caught our eye. Their menu was fairly short but enticing and the ambiance seemed just right for a lovely dinner for two. We left with our bellies full and our souls happy. Overall there seemed to be plenty of places to stop in Ostuni to enjoy some southern Italian cuisine. If you aren't feeling adventurous check places out before you go to dine so you know where you are going. All those wonderful side streets and ups and downs made it so that some places were more hidden away than others and I imagine Ostuni isn't quite as beautiful when you are lost and starving in the dark :)
Shopping - We actually had a lot of fun shopping here. We went into the newer part of the city (so just a few hundred years old or so...haha) to find some NOT souvenir type shops. We were pleasantly surprised by how many there were and we spent the better part of our evening window shopping and buying my husband some gorgeous Italian shoes. Most of the stores in the historic center are more artisan and souvenir type shops. We loved looking around these shops as well and spent plenty of time doing so. For the most part they are all on the main street Via Cattedrale. We bought a magnet to add to my Italian magnet collection as well as a few ceramics, but our most favorite and memorable purchase was a picture of an Ostuni street. Not just any picture but a picture carved and painted into the local Italian limestone. When we first walked into the shop I knew we would be leaving with something special. Bottega D'arte - Ostuni Sulla Pietra is right along the main Via Cattedrale. With it's art, flowers and vintage bicycle adorning the storefront, it is very picturesque and can't be missed. The owner and artist, Croci Pino Sisinni, told us all about the art and process and helped us with choosing just the right piece. To go just one more amazing step further, while he was mounting our picture, he gave us directions to go and look personally at the street that was his inspiration. This spoke to my heart. How ridiculously amazingly fun and unforgettable. I look at and enjoy this beautiful piece of Italy every day of my life. It watches over our dinner table and brings calm to a busy world around it. The perfect souvenir from The White City in Puglia and a wonderful way to end our experience there.
I guess that is the end of the story. A few lovely days from our lives that we will forever remember in a white kingdom on a hill in southern Italy. If you have the chance to see La Citta Bianca (The White City) then I would definitely do it....just make sure to bring your glasses!
A VoomaGo Cooking Experience in Puglia - The weekend in Lecce from the beginning of the story :)
Below are the names and address of the main places I mentioned.
The "Living Stone" apartment (name has changed) - Web - www.airbnb.com/rooms/3324002
Bottega D'arte - Ostuni Sulla Pietra - Via Cattedrale 7 - 72017 Ostuni
Parisi Cafe - Via Cattedrale 41, 72017, Ostuni Phone - 39 0831 302959
Osteria Monacello - Phone - 39 0831 334212 Web - www.osteriamonacelle.com