OSTUNI, 40km northwest of Brindisi (35min by train), is known as the “white city” and is one of southern Italy’s most stunning small towns. Situated on three hills at the southernmost edge of Le Murge, it was an important Greco-Roman city in the first century AD. The old centre spreads across the highest of the hills, a gleaming white splash of sun-bleached streets and cobbled alleyways, dominating the plains below. Seven kilometres away, the popular sandy coastline has Blue Flag beaches.
The maze of well-preserved winding streets provides a fascinating amble, and there are some exceptional views – particularly from Largo Castello over the woods to the north. Bits of cavorting Baroque twist out of unexpected places, including an ornamented eighteenth-century obelisk, 21m high, dedicated to St Oronzo, which stands in Piazza della Libertà (or Piazza Sant’Oronzo) on the southern edge of the old town. This is the focal point on summer Saturday nights for hordes of people who drive in from the countryside, meet their friends and pack out the bars and cafés. From here, follow Via Cattedrale uphill, past a series of monumental palaces and churches that trim the ascent. One of these, the Chiesa di San Vito, houses an ethnography museum, newly reopened after a long restoration (Tues–Fri 10am–1pm, Sat & Sun 10am–1pm & 5–8pm) – its highlight is “Delia”, the skeleton of a young pregnant woman found in a crouched position, her bones decorated before burial. At the top of the hill, the fifteenth-century Duomo nestles into a charming piazza dominated by the Palazzo Vescovile and the Palazzo del Seminario.