Exploring Ostuni, Puglia’s White City

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Ostuni is one of Puglia’s most beautiful cities, a tumble of white-washed buildings perched strategically atop a hill.

It has 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.

View of olive trees and the Adriatic sea from Ostuni
View of olive trees and the Adriatic sea from Ostuni

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.

Ostuni archway

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.

Blue door Ostuni, Puglia
Flowers on stairs, Ostuni, Puglia
Ostuni, Puglia

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.

Ostuni's main street
Ostuni’s main street

The main street in Ostuni is lined with boutiques and souvenir shops selling local olive oil and Salentino sandals, but the best way to experience the town is by diving down the narrow side streets and like the invaders once did, getting lost.

We came across this craftsman in his workshop, making kitchen spoons out of olive wood. He’s been crafting them by hand for 40 years and was proud to show them off.

Olive wood workshop in Ostuni
Olive wood workshop

At Ostuni’s highest point you’ll find the Cathedral, built in the 15th century in the late Gothic style, rare in Puglia where most of the churches are austere Romanesque or ornate Baroque.

Its graceful lines lead to the sky and there’s a magnificent rose window with Christ at the centre surrounded by 24 finely carved columns representing the hours of the day.

Ostuni Cathedral
Ostuni Cathedral

Ostuni Market

We visited on a Saturday, Ostuni’s market day. It’s very much a local place—most tourists don’t make it here on the edge of town—and is foodie heaven.

Ostuni market
Ostuni market (L:R): Lupini beans, round cucumbers, tomatoes, caciocavallo cheese

We browsed the stalls of bulbous round cucumbers, fresh almonds in brine, dried figs, piles of walnuts, aromatic bunches of oregano, twin balls of caciocavallo cheese dangling from string, trays of snails, entire octopus, and mounds of vibrant red chiles, sweet and spicy, round, bell-shaped and long.

Chiles at Ostuni market

One vendor encouraged us to try his home-made taralli, crunchy bread stick rings that are a typical local snack. He had them in all different flavours including fennel, chile, onion, pizza, and bacon.

We also tried lupini for the first time, a yellow bean pickled in brine that you eat by piercing the skin with your teeth and pushing the bean into your mouth.

Taralli at Ostuni market

We were amazed by the variety of fresh local produce on offer and at such low prices—most things were under €1 a kilo, grapes were €0.50 a kilo, and giant watermelon just €0.25 a kilo. We wished we were staying longer and had a kitchen to take advantage of the riches.

Where is Ostuni in Italy?

Ostuni is located in the heart of Puglia, a region in southern Italy (the heel of the boot).

It’s in the province of Brindisi and the port city of Brindisi is 42km away (about a 30 minute drive). This is also where the nearest airport is located.

Bari (north of Ostuni) and Lecce (south) are both about a one hour drive away.

The trulli town of Alberobello is a 40 minute drive from Ostuni.

How to Get to Ostuni

Ostuni is best reached by car so that you’ll have your own transport to visit the nearby beaches and hill towns.

That said, parking can be a challenge. The historic centre is on a steep hill and the car parks are located at the bottom. If you want to be able to park right outside your accommodation, it’s best to stay just outside the centre.

Visiting Ostuni by public transport is possible with some patience. It’s on the Trenitalia train line with direct connections to Bari, Polignano a Mare, Monopoli, Cisternino, Brindisi, and Lecce.

The train station is a 30 minute walk from the historic centre of Ostuni, though.

Where to Stay in Ostuni

Courtyard at Masseria Il Frantoio, Ostuni
Masseria il Frantoio is our favourite place to stay near Ostuni (and all of Puglia!).

Ostuni makes a fabulous base for exploring the Valle d’Itria’s trulli (conical stone huts), olive groves, coastline, and many charming Puglia towns like Locorotondo, Alberobello and Cisternino.

In the Countryside Near Ostuni

If you have a car, staying in a masseria (fortified farmhouse) in the surrounding countryside is a wonderful option. On our last visit we stayed at Masseria Il Frantoio, a 500-year-old organic olive farm 10 minutes outside Ostuni, and it was magical.

The old stables and grain mill have been lovingly restored and converted to 16 comfortable guest rooms.

The beautiful grounds and pool are perfect for relaxing and the tasting menus using produce and oil from the farm are incredible. Read more about it in our Masseria Il Frantoio review.

In The Centre of Ostuni

If you want to stay in the centre of Ostuni, Biancadamari is a stylish B&B with stunning views of the old town and sea.

You can find more places to stay in Ostuni here.


La Città Bianca, the white city of Ostuni, is one of Puglia’s highlights and shouldn’t be missed on a trip to this beautiful region of Italy. 

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Ostuni, Puglia is one of the most beautiful towns in Italy with a maze of whitewashed buildings perched on a hilltop and views of olive groves and the sea. Click through for more Ostuni photos and travel tips.


  1. Hello I will be traveling for photoshoot and wanted to see where I can find the location of the blue door image as well as the first archway image in Ostuni? Thank you

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  2. We will be taking a day trip to Ostuni from Polignano A Mare in June, 2022. How do we get from the train station in Ostuni to the center of town? We don’t want to walk and would prefer a bus over a cab. Do the busses stop at the train station? What line and where can I find the bus schedules? Thank you in advance. Bernie Clark

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  3. Hi, can get cheap flights at the moment to Brindisi, but my partner and I don’t like to drive when on holiday. Could you let me know if we can get around easily without one or is it a must in this part of Italy

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  4. Hi,

    Just wanted to thanks for such a good post. Me and my family (3 of us) are traveling to Ostuni in June from Los Angeles. Originally I was thinking of getting an apartment in the Old Centre. Before I pull the trigger on one, I wanted to know how it is just outside of the Old center around Piazza Libertad (excuse my spelling). Is it old and charming there as well with restaurants and lots of alleyways? We will be driving in and road tripping each day, but wanted to be right in the middle of things when at an apartment.

    Also, we will be taking a train from Rome and then either renting a car in Bari or Brindisi, than driving to Ostuni. Which city would you recommend taking the train into and renting a car from?

    Looking forward to any and all advice you may have.

    Reply ↓

    • Piazza della Libertà is just steps from the winding alleyways of the old town that lead up the hill, so I think it’d be a good location. You’ll be able to get parked closer as well so it’d probably be easier for day trips.

      Brindisi train station is closer to Ostuni (30 mins vs an hour) so ideally take the train there. You might want to compare car hire prices in both areas though.

      Have a fantastic trip!

      Reply ↓

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