Ostuni is also known as “the white town” because it certainly does not go unnoticed its dazzling whiteness, especially on days with a clear sky. The bright white color derives from whitewashing, a tradition of medieval origin initially conceived with the aim of providing greater brightness to the alleys of the village and spread also thanks to the wide availability of lime.
The year 1656 was a terrible year for the whole southern Italy, in fact it was the year in which the terrible epidemic plague developed causing a mortality of about 50% of the existing population.
Whitewashing, was one of the few methods known at the time to prevent the plague from spreading further thanks to the alkaline action of lime that prevents the proliferation of bacteria.
A bit of history
In Valle d’Itria, Ostuni and its surroundings is the area with the most remote origins. The numerous caves in the hilly area, offered natural shelters for the primitive man. From those caves, the primitives organised hunting and observed the migration of animals. Bone and ceramic findings confirm with certainty the presence of man in the Palolithic era. Amazing was the discovery of the skeleton of a pregnant woman dated back to about 30,000 years ago, in a cave that is now part of the Archeological Park of Ostuni and can be visited. The first nucleus of Ostuni was built by the Messapians around the seventh century BC and like any other settlement in the Valle d’Itria, this also was located on a hill in order to be defended more easy in case of enemy attacks.
The old town
The old town is embellished by the facades of the many noble palaces, with baroque and rococo sculptural decorations, deriving from centuries of economic prosperity. The “living room” of Ostuni is Piazza della Libertà reorganized starting from 1861 in neoclassical style. In the small archaeological site located in the square are visible the remains of the ancient messapic settlements and in particular one of the two towers that delimited the city in the sixteenth century.
This vast urban space stretches out into Piazza Sant’ Oronzo dominated by the eighteenth-century spire that celebrates the patron saint of Ostuni, Sant’Oronzo, with a blessing statue on its top. Behind the spire on a hill, going up Via Roma, the beautiful Church of Santo Spirito appears with its rich Renaissance portal. From Piazza della Libertà it departs Via Cattedrale that enters the intricate and labyrinthine old town, with its steep ups and downs attenuated by the many connecting stairs.
The Sanctuary of Saint Biagio
The small hermitage,
built by Eastern Greek monks, perhaps Basilians, dates back to the twelfth century AD, as evidenced by some ancient parchments. It is accessed by following a path with a marvelous panorama that overlooks the esplanade of hundreds year old olive trees framed by the blue of the sea. The site is protected by a steep rocky wall and overlooks a ravine rich in spontaneous and bushy vegetation. A few steps away from the Church, there are two wells dug into the rock for the collection of rainwater, a large fovea used for food storage and the entrance to a grave, a vertical natural cave probably used by the same monks as an extreme refuge.