Ostuni is one of Puglia’s most beautiful cities, a tumble of white-washed buildings perched strategically atop a hill with views of the endless olive trees in the Valle d’Itria countryside, and the glimmering Adriatic Sea just 8 km away, home to some of the region’s most exclusive resorts.
The medieval walled city was built without a plan, and it shows. The web of streets is confusing, a maze of alleyways, staircases and arches. Buildings were built on top of each other, and the archways support the houses they connect, making up for the lack of strong foundations. You turn one way and find a dead end, another and get a glimpse of the sapphire sea. Puglia has seen a stream of invaders—Greeks, Romans, Goths, Byzantines, Normans—and the labyrinth of Ostuni is the perfect way to confuse the enemy.
The stark white buildings are dazzling in the southern sun and are brightened by vivid green and blue wooden doors, pots of red geraniums and cacti.
In the 17th century a plague killed millions in the area and infected houses were painted white by mixing limestone dust with water. Locals noticed that there was less illness around the white houses and attributed it to a miracle; most likely it was the antibacterial effect of the calcium carbonate. Nowadays the white houses attract tourists and the local government encourages everyone to repaint every two years by paying for half the cost.