Otranto (Italian pronunciation: [ˈɔːtranto]) (Salentino: Uṭṛàntu; Griko: Δερεντό, translit. Derentò; Ancient Greek: Ὑδροῦς, translit. Hudroûs; Latin: Hydruntum) is a town and comune in the province of Lecce (Apulia, Italy), in a fertile region once famous for its breed of horses.

It is located on the east coast of the Salento peninsula. The Strait of Otranto, to which the city gives its name, connects the Adriatic Sea with the Ionian Sea and separates Italy from Albania. The harbour is small and has little trade.

The lighthouse Faro della Palascìa, at approximately 5 kilometres (3 miles) southeast of Otranto, marks the most easterly point of the Italian mainland.

About 50 kilometres (31 mi) south lies the promontory of Santa Maria di Leuca (so called since ancient times from its white cliffs, leukos being Greek for white), the southeastern extremity of Italy, the ancient Promontorium lapygium or Sallentinum. The district between this promontory and Otranto is thickly populated and very fertile.

Comune di Otranto
Otranto seen from the castle
Otranto seen from the castle
Coat of arms of Otranto

Coat of arms
Location of Otranto
Otranto is located in Italy
Location of Otranto in Italy
Otranto is located in Apulia
Otranto (Apulia)
Coordinates: 40°09′N 18°29′E / 40.150°N 18.483°E
ProvinceLecce (LE)
FrazioniPorto Badisco, Conca Spellucchia
 • MayorPierpaolo Cariddi
 • Total77.2 km2 (29.8 sq mi)
15 m (49 ft)
 • Total5,799
 • Density75/km2 (190/sq mi)
Demonym(s)Idruntini or Otrantini
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
Dialing code0836
Patron saintBlessed Otrantine Martyrs
Saint dayAugust 14
WebsiteOfficial website


Otranto mura
The fortress
Otranto by Piri Reis
Historic map of Otranto by Piri Reis.

Otranto occupies the site of the ancient Hydrus (in Greek: Ὑδροῦς) or Hydruntum (in Latin), also known as Hydrunton, Hydronton, or Hydruntu. Otranto was a town of Greek origin, which, in the wars of Pyrrhus and of Hannibal sided against Rome.

In Roman times it was a city. As it is the nearest port to the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, it was perhaps more important than Brundisium (present Brindisi), under the Roman emperors as a point of embarkation for the East, as the distance to Apollonia was less than from Brundisium.

In the 8th century, it was for some time in the possession of duke Arechis II of Benevento. It remained in the hands of the Byzantine emperors until it was among the last cities of Apulia to surrender to the Norman Robert Guiscard in 1068, and then became part of the Principality of Taranto. In the Middle Ages the Jews had a school there.

Ottoman invasion

Otranto cathedral martyrs
Skulls of "Martyrs of Otranto" on display in Otranto cathedral.

In 1480, Mehmet the Conqueror sent an Ottoman fleet to invade Rome under the command of Gedik Ahmed Pasha. This force reached the shores of Apulia on 28 July 1480 and the city was captured in two weeks on 11 August 1480. Some 800 citizens, known as the "Martyrs of Otranto," were beheaded after refusing to convert to Islam. They were canonized by Pope Francis on 12 May 2013.[3]

Between August and September 1480, the Italian and European kingdoms failed to help King Ferdinand of Naples, except his cousin Ferdinand the Catholic, the Kingdom of Sicily and, later, the Republic of Genoa.[4] In 1481, the Pope, in panic, called for a crusade to be led by King Ferdinand of Naples, and was joined by troops of Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus. The Turks controlled the city for 13 months. Mehmet II died on his way to capture the rest of Italy.[5] His successor, Bayezid II, ordered Gedik Ahmed Pasha to be hanged and on 11 September 1481 the Turks abandoned the city.

In 1537, the famous Turkish corsair and Ottoman admiral Barbarossa recaptured Otranto and the Fortress of Castro, but the Turks were again repulsed from the city and from the rest of Apulia.

Napoleonic Wars

In 1804, the city was obliged to harbour a French garrison that was established there to watch the movements of the English fleet. Under the French name of Otrante it was created a duché grand-fief de l'Empire in the Napoleonic kingdom of Naples for Joseph Fouché, Napoleon's minister of Police (1809), the grandfather of Margareta Fouché. The family used the title of duc d'Otrante after Joseph Fouché's death.

Puglia Otranto1 tango7174
Sea front

World War I

During WWI the allied Italian-French-British Fleet organized the Otranto Barrage to control the Austro-Hungarian Fleet in the Adriatic Sea. The Austro-Hungarian Fleet led my captain Miklós Horthy attacked the Barrage (13th -15th May 1917) breaking it and sinking some British drifters (Battle of the Strait of Otranto (1917)).[6]

World War II

During WWII the British fleet raided the Otranto Channel (11th-12th November 1940) as a diversionary manoeuvre (Battle of the Strait of Otranto (1940) from the contemporary main attack on Taranto (Battle of Taranto)[7]



Otranto experiences a Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa) like much of Italy.

Main sights

Otranto BW 2016-10-18 16-31-00
The Cathedral of Otranto
Torre Sant'Emiliano (Otranto, LE)
Torre Sant'Emiliano, not far from the Palascìa lighthouse
Otranto harbor AvL
The harbor of Otranto seen from the historic center

Otranto main sights include:

  • The Castello Aragonese (Castle), reinforced by Emperor Frederick II and rebuilt by Alphonso II of Naples in 1485–98. It has an irregular plan with five sides, with a moat running along the entire perimeter. In origin it had a single entrance, reachable through a draw-bridge. Towers include three cylindrical ones and a bastion called Punta di Diamante ("Diamond's Head"). The entrance sports the coat of arms of Emperor Charles V.
  • The Cathedral, consecrated in 1088, a work of Count Roger I adorned later (about 1163), by Bishop Jonathas, with a mosaic floor; it has a rose window and side portal of 1481. The interior, a basilica with nave and two aisles, contains columns said to come from a temple of Minerva and a fine mosaic pavement of 1166, with interesting representations of the months, Old Testament subjects and others. Bones and relics of the Martyrs of Otranto, who perished in the 15th-century siege surround the high altar. The church has a crypt supported by 42 marble columns. The same Count Roger also founded a Basilian monastery here, which, under Abbot Nicetas, became a place of study; its library was nearly all bought by Bessarion.
  • The church of San Pietro, with Byzantine frescoes.
  • The catacombs of Torre Pinta.
  • Idro, a small river which the toponym Otranto stems from.


Otranto is the setting of Horace Walpole's book, The Castle of Otranto, which is generally held to be the first Gothic novel. Walpole had chosen the town from a map of the Kingdom of Naples because the name was "well sounding"; he was not aware that Otranto had a castle until 1786, some twenty-two years after the novel was first published under a pseudonym. The principal model for the castle was his villa in Strawberry Hill, London.[9]

Otranto is also mentioned in Bram Stoker's novel The Lady of the Shroud.

International relations

Twin towns – Sister cities

Otranto is twinned with:

See also

Sources and references

  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Otranto" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Otranto" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.
  • Heraldica.org- Napoleonic
  • GigaCatholic

External links


  1. ^ "Superficie di Comuni Province e Regioni italiane al 9 ottobre 2011". Istat. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Popolazione Residente al 1° Gennaio 2018". Istat. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Pope canonises 800 Italian Ottoman victims of Otranto". BBC. BBC. Retrieved May 12, 2013.
  4. ^ G. Conte, Una flotta siciliana ad Otranto (1480), in "Archivio Storico Pugliese", a. LXVII, 2014
  5. ^ http://www.yazaroku.com/fsanat-kultur/ilber-ortayli/07-08-2011/guney-italya-ve-osmanlilar/369717/.aspx
  6. ^ Carlo Stasi, Otranto e l'Inghilterra (episodi bellici in Puglia e nel Salento), in Note di Storia e Cultura Salentina, anno XV, pp. 127–159, (Argo, Lecce, 2003), Paul G. Halpern, The Battle of the Otranto Straits (controlling the Gateway to the Adriatic in WWI) (Bloomington, I.U.P. 2004).
  7. ^ Carlo Stasi, Otranto e l'Inghilterra (episodi bellici in Puglia e nel Salento), in Note di Storia e Cultura Salentina, anno XV, pp. 127–159, (Argo, Lecce, 2003), Carlo Stasi, Otranto nel Mondo. Dal "Castello" di Walpole al "Barone" di Voltaire (Editrice Salentina, Galatina 2018) ISBN 978-88-31964-06-7, Thomas P. Lowry, The Attack on Taranto (Stackpoole Books paperbacks, 2000)
  8. ^ Lecce-Galatina weather station Italian Ministry of Defence Retrieved 2009-06-02
  9. ^ Walpole, Horace; Clery, E.J. (2008) [1764]. Lewis, W.S. (ed.). The Castle of Otranto (Oxford World's Classics ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 117. ISBN 9780199537211., Carlo Stasi, Otranto nel Mondo. Dal "Castello" di Walpole al "Barone" di Voltaire (Editrice Salentina, Galatina 2018) ISBN 978-88-31964-06-7,
Battle of the Strait of Otranto (1917)

The 1917 Battle of the Strait of Otranto was the result of an Austro-Hungarian raid on the Otranto Barrage, an Allied naval blockade of the Strait of Otranto. The battle took place on 14–15 May 1917, and was the largest surface action in the Adriatic Sea during World War I. The Otranto Barrage was a fixed barrier, composed of lightly armed drifters with anti-submarine nets coupled with minefields and supported by Allied naval patrols.

The Austro-Hungarian navy planned to raid the Otranto Barrage with a force of three light cruisers and two destroyers under the command of Commander (later Admiral) Miklós Horthy, in an attempt to break the barrier to allow U-boats freer access to the Mediterranean, and Allied shipping. An Allied force composed of ships from three navies responded to the raid and in the ensuing battle, heavily damaged the Austro-Hungarian cruiser SMS Novara. However, the rapid approach of the Austro-Hungarian relief force persuaded Rear Admiral Acton, the Allied commander, to retreat.

Battle of the Strait of Otranto (1940)

The Battle of the Strait of Otranto was a minor naval skirmish on 12 November 1940 during the Battle of the Mediterranean in World War II. It took place in the Strait of Otranto in the Adriatic Sea, between Italy and Albania.

Deer Cave (Otranto)

The Deer Cave (Italian: Grotta dei Cervi - literally: Grotto of the stags) is a natural cave at the Salento coast near the town of Porto Badisco, around 8 km (5.0 mi) south of Otranto in Apulia, Italy. Unknown before 1970 it came to immediate international attention after the discovery of its impressive, innovative and enigmatic complex galleries of prehistoric parietal wall paintings.This complex of caves was discovered during an ongoing routine exploration of the local territory on February 1, 1970 by a team of speleologists of the Salento Speleological Group "Pasquale de Laurentiis" from Maglie. It was initially named Cave of Aeneas (Grotta di Enea) in reference to Virgil's Aeneid in which the Trojan hero Aeneas first landed in Italy precisely in Porto Badisco. The current name alludes to the omnipresence and significance of deer depictions among the cave's galleries. The location was soon closed to the public in order to not to disrupt the original environmental conditions essential for the conservation of the paintings. Access to the cave remains restricted to authorized personnel and researchers only.

Duke of Otranto

Duke of Otranto (French: Duc d'Otrante) is a hereditary title in the nobility of the First French Empire which was bestowed in 1809 by Emperor Napoleon I upon Joseph Fouché (1759-1820), a French statesman and Minister of Police. Fouché had been made a Count of the French Empire previously.

Gothic fiction

Gothic fiction, which is largely known by the subgenre of Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature and film that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance. Its origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled (in its second edition) "A Gothic Story". The effect of Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of Romantic literary pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole's novel. It originated in England in the second half of the 18th century where, following Walpole, it was further developed by Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, William Thomas Beckford and Matthew Lewis. The genre had much success in the 19th century, as witnessed in prose by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allan Poe as well as Charles Dickens with his novella, A Christmas Carol, and in poetry in the work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Lord Byron. Another well known novel in this genre, dating from the late Victorian era, is Bram Stoker's Dracula. The name Gothic, which originally referred to the Goths, and then came to mean "German", refers to the medieval Gothic architecture, in which many of these stories take place. This extreme form of Romanticism was very popular throughout Europe, especially among English- and German-language writers and artists. The English Gothic novel also led to new novel types such as the German Schauerroman and the French Roman Noir.

HMS Otranto

HMS Otranto was an armed merchant cruiser requisitioned by the Royal Navy when World War I began in 1914. Built before the war for the UK–Australia run as the SS Otranto, she was primarily used during the war to search for German commerce raiders. She played small roles in the Battle of Coronel in November 1914 when the German East Asia Squadron destroyed the British squadron searching for it and in the Battle of the Falklands the following month when a British squadron annihilated the Germans in turn.

Apart from brief refits in the UK, Canada and Australia, she remained on this duty until early 1918 when she became a troopship. During a severe storm off the Isle of Islay in late 1918, she was rammed by another troopship and forced ashore by the storm, killing 470 passengers, mainly American soldiers, and crewmen.

Lecce railway station

Lecce railway station (Italian: Stazione di Lecce) (IATA: LCZ) serves the city and comune of Lecce, in the region of Apulia, Southern Italy. Opened in 1866, it is the southern terminus of the Adriatic Railway (Ancona–Lecce), and is also the terminus of two regional lines, the Martina Franca–Lecce railway and the Lecce–Otranto railway.

The station is currently managed by Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (RFI). However, the commercial area of the passenger building is managed by Centostazioni. Train services on the Adriatic Railway are operated by or on behalf of Trenitalia. Each of these companies is a subsidiary of Ferrovie dello Stato (FS), Italy's state-owned rail company.

Services on the Martina Franca–Lecce railway and the Lecce–Otranto railway are operated by Ferrovie del Sud Est (FSE).

Martyrs of Otranto

St. Antonio Primaldo and his companion martyrs (Italian: I Santi Antonio Primaldo e compagni martiri), also known as the Martyrs of Otranto, were 813 inhabitants of the Salentine city of Otranto in southern Italy who were killed on 14 August 1480. The mass execution is often explained as taking place after the Otrantins refused to convert to Islam when the city fell to an Ottoman force under Gedik Ahmed Pasha.

Otranto, Iowa

Otranto is a census-designated place located in Otranto Township in northwestern portion of Mitchell County in the state of Iowa. As of the 2010 census the population was 27.It is located along the Cedar River about 4 miles (6 km) southwest of the community of Mona.

Otranto Barrage

The Otranto Barrage was an Allied naval blockade of the Otranto Straits between Brindisi in Italy and Corfu on the Greek side of the Adriatic Sea in the First World War. The blockade was intended to prevent the Austro-Hungarian Navy from escaping into the Mediterranean and threatening Allied operations there. The blockade, or rather the fleet capital ships in support of it, was effective in preventing surface ships from escaping the Adriatic, but it had little or no effect on the submarines based at Cattaro.

Ottoman invasion of Otranto

The Ottoman invasion of Otranto occurred between 1480 and 1481 at the Italian city of Otranto in Apulia, southern Italy. Forces of the Ottoman Empire invaded and laid siege to the city and its citadel. According to a traditional account, after capture more than 800 of its inhabitants were beheaded. The Martyrs of Otranto are still celebrated in Italy. A year later the Ottoman garrison surrendered the city following a siege by Christian forces and the intervention of Papal forces led by the Genoese Paolo Fregoso.

Portuguese expedition to Otranto

The Portuguese expedition to Otranto in 1481, which the Portuguese call the Turkish Crusade (Portuguese: Cruzada Turca), arrived too late to participate in any fighting. On 8 April 1481, Pope Sixtus IV issued the papal bull Cogimur iubente altissimo, in which he called for a crusade against the Turks, who occupied Otranto in southern Italy. The Pope's intention was that, after recapturing Otranto, the crusaders would cross the Adriatic and liberate Vlorë (Valona) as well.

Portugal decided to send a squadron into Otranto under command of the bishop of Évora, Garcia de Meneses. In a letter dated 27 August 1481 to Cardinal Paolo di Campofregoso, Sixtus wrote, "From Portugal there are twenty caravels and a cargo ship that we expect on the day at St Paul's, whose leader is a venerable brother Garcia, bishop of Évora." On 7 September he wrote to King Ferdinand I of Naples, informing him that "a fleet which we sent for proceeds to Otranto from Portugal. . . We hope it will be of great use in the assault on Otranto. . ." On 14 September, the very day the Ottomans surrendered Otranto, the Pope was writing from Bracciano to his vice-chamberlain, who had informed him of the slow progress of the Portuguese fleet. Sixtus was suspicious of Garcia's intentions. The next day (15 September), he wrote to the bishop, praising him for his diligence and caution, but urging him to take his fleet to Vlorë to oust the Turkish garrison there to do "something worthy of the Christian religion and your honor and that of your king", referring to the recently deceased King Afonso V. He also urged Garcia to take Andreas Palaiologos, the deposed despot of Morea, back to Greece to begin the reconquest of his lands.By the time the Portuguese reached Naples, the Ottomans had already withdrawn, because on May 3 the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed II, had died, and quarrels about his succession ensued.

RMS Otranto (1925)

RMS Otranto was an ocean liner that was built for the Orient Steam Navigation Company in 1925. The "RMS" prefix stands for Royal Mail Ship, as she carried overseas mail under a contract between Orient Line and Royal Mail. Otranto was in service until 1957, when she was sold for scrap.

The ship was named after the town of Otranto in Apulia in southern Italy. She was Orient Line's second ship of that name. The first was a 1909 passenger liner that in 1914 became the armed merchant cruiser HMS Otranto and in 1918 was lost as a result of a collision.

In the Second World War the second Otranto was converted into a troop ship and a Landing ship, infantry. She took part in the invasions of French North Africa (Operation Torch), Sicily (Operation Husky) and Italy (Operation Avalanche).

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Otranto

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Otranto (Latin: Archidioecesis Hydruntina) is a see of the Catholic Church in Italy. The seat of the diocese is at Otranto Cathedral in the city of Otranto, Apulia. It is a suffragan of the archdiocese of Lecce.The current Archbishop is Donato Negro.

SMS Novara (1913)

SMS Novara was a Novara-class scout cruiser of the Austro-Hungarian Navy which served during World War I. Built by the Danubius shipyard between December 1912 and January 1915, Novara was the third and final member of her class to enter service, some six months after the start of the war. She was armed with a battery of nine 10-centimeter (3.9 in) guns and had a top speed of 27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph).

The ship saw extensive service during World War I, owing to the cautious strategies adopted by the Austro-Hungarian fleet and their opponents in the Triple Entente. Novara was frequently used to raid enemy shipping and the Otranto Barrage, including a patrol in November 1915 where she destroyed a stranded French submarine. These operations culminated in the Battle of the Strait of Otranto in May 1917, the largest naval battle of the Adriatic Campaign. There, she and her two sisters sank fourteen drifters, though she was badly damaged by a British cruiser and had to be towed back to port. Novara was involved in the Cattaro Mutiny in January 1918 and led the loyalist vessels to safety.

Novara changed hands several times as the war ended, being transferred first to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, a successor state to Austria-Hungary, and then to France as a war prize under the terms of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Commissioned into the French fleet as Thionville, the ship served from 1920 to 1932 as a training ship, and from 1932 to 1941 as a barracks ship in Toulon before being broken up for scrap.

SM UB-53

SM UB-53 was a German Type UB III submarine or U-boat in the Imperial German Navy (German: Kaiserliche Marine) during World War I. She was commissioned into the Pola Flotilla of the German Imperial Navy on 21 August 1917 as SM UB-53.She operated as part of the Pola Flotilla based in Cattaro. UB-53 was sunk by mines of the Otranto Barrage on 3 August 1918 at 39°40′N 18°40′E in the Otranto Strait, 10 crew members died.SS Athenia (1914). On 7 April 1918 the submarine saw an airship catch fire accidentally and crash into the sea near the Strait of Otranto with the loss of all hands. It apparently is the German Navy Zeppelin L 59, modified for long-range flights, on the outbound leg of a flight from Yambol, Bulgaria, in an attempt to bomb the Royal Navy base at Malta.

Strait of Otranto

The Strait of Otranto (Albanian: Kanali i Otrantos; Italian: Canale d'Otranto; Croatian: Otranska Vrata) connects the Adriatic Sea with the Ionian Sea and separates Italy from Albania. Its width at Punta Palascìa, east of Salento is less than 72 kilometres (45 mi). The strait is named after the Italian city of Otranto.

The Castle of Otranto

The Castle of Otranto is a 1764 novel by Horace Walpole. It is generally regarded as the first gothic novel. In the second edition, Walpole applied the word 'Gothic' to the novel in the subtitle – "A Gothic Story". The novel merged medievalism and terror in a style that has endured ever since. The aesthetics of the book shaped modern-day gothic books, films, art, music and the goth subculture.The novel initiated a literary genre which would become extremely popular in the later 18th and early 19th century, with authors such as Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, William Thomas Beckford, Matthew Lewis, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson and George du Maurier.

Tragedy of Otranto

The Tragedy of Otranto took place on 28 March 1997 when the Albanian ship Kateri i Radës sank in a collision with the Italian naval vessel Sibilla in the Strait of Otranto and at least 57 Albanians, aged 3 months to 69 years, lost their lives. The emigrants had been part of a large migration of Albanians to Italy following a popular uprising, known as the Albanian Civil War, that began after the collapse of several large-scale pyramid schemes. In order to prevent the unauthorized entry of illegals migrants into Italy, the Italian Navy set up a procedure to board Albanian vessels whenever encountered, implementing a de facto blockade.

In proceeding to carry out a boarding, the Italian vessel Sibilla collided with Kater i Radës and capsized it, resulting in the Albanian deaths. The captains of both ships were held responsible for "shipwreck and multiple manslaughter". The event raised questions over the extent of power that a state may exercise to protect itself from unauthorized entry. Arguments were presented that a state must limit coercive actions that are disproportionate to the risk of unauthorized entry. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees criticized the Italian blockade as illegal since it had been established solely through an intergovernmental agreement with Albania.

Climate data for Otranto
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 20.3
Average low °C (°F) 18.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 44
Average precipitation days 2 2 5 1 2 2 2 1 2 1 2 1 23
Source: Italian Ministry of Defence[8]

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