Sunlit tiny white-washed houses clustered atop a hill, overlooking farmland which stretches out to the glittering sea. Sounds like a fairytale doesn’t it? Well, in Puglia fairytale dreams do come true – and the little town of Ostuni, otherwise known as 'The White City’, is perfect proof of it.
Having managed to stay under the radar for somewhat longer than most of its beautiful European town and village counterparts, Ostuni has now started to slowly creep into the travel spotlight. A position undeniably much deserved, but one which means that there’s probably merely a couple of years left before its streets become ram packed in summer.
Never fear though – it’s not quite there yet. And, even when it is, those willing to travel in the off or shoulder season are sure to capture its original charm without the crowds.
So, if you’re not staying within its stone walls, how do you make the most of spending a day in this charming and magical place? Here are my top tips:
BORGO ANTICO BISTROT
Highlight: Puglian taster boards served up with panormas to die for
If I told you that you could taste Puglia’s best foodie offerings with views to die for, would you believe me? Well, I never tell a lie. Head over to Borgo Antico Bistrot for outstanding views which extend as far as the eye can see, coupled with Puglian plates that will get even the pickiest of eates' mouths watering. At sundown, this is the place to be, so going just before prime lunchtime is a better bet to secure a spot – just make sure to ask for one in the shade so that you don’t get fried in the midday sun.
You probably won’t go wrong with anything on the menu here, but to not order one of their Puglia tasting platters would be a mistake. Once having ordered, you may disappointed when you see the waiter bringing out a little white plate filled with a few tiny canapés. But, never fear, this is merely the entrée to the feast which is about to come your way. Puglia is famous for its crispy, fried vegetable snacks – and the ones here are decidedly moreish (and yes, you’ll convince yourself many times that it’s ok because it’s only vegetables inside). Take your time and enjoy the experience by doing lunch the Italian way – taking 2 hours minimum – and the waiters will likely thank you, because for Italians there’s surely nothing worse than hurriedly devouring these little pieces of Puglian heaven. Savour it all and soak up the views while doing so.
THE TOWN FROM ONE OF ITS PANORAMIC SPOTS
It’s hard to get a grasp on the true extent of Ostuni’s beauty by just experiencing it from within its walls. But, don’t worry, there are several panoramic viewpoints from which you can gaze at it in all its magnificent splendour. One such spot is located on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II street, just up from Piazza della Libertà. A little further up, you'll find a platform-like area. This belongs to nearby Dish restaurant, and it's the perfect spot for an Ostuni sundowner.
THE LITTLE STREETS WHILE THEY ARE SILENT
I’d never advocate getting sun / heat stroke, but the best way to experience Ostuni’s little streets during summer without as many people, is to roam them during the siesta time. Either that or be the earliest bird you can. If opting for the former, be sure to have a hat, suncream and plenty of water – and please don’t stay out in it too long, just long enough to experience its streets in a little silence. And this silence is a truly special experience, because it’s as if this pretty little place belongs to you, and you alone.
GRAB A GRANITA IN THE HILLTOP SQUARE
After wandering your way up the hilltop, you’ll be ready – and more than entitled to – a little refresher. If you haven’t discovered the wonders of granita yet, now’s the time. Granita is a popular piece of southern Italian summertime life and it varies across the different regions. It’s essentially granulated ice combined with coffee or fruity flavours. It may sound similar to what most Western Europeans would know as a ‘slushie’ - but to draw a direct comparison would be sacrilege, because this Italian summer drink is streaks ahead of the blue artificial concoctions than can usually be found in cinema ice machines. At Gelateria Borgo Antico the coffee granita is the perfect pick me up on a hot summer’s day because it has less of a milky texture and more of an icy consistency. You can get it to go, but such things should really be savoured – particularly on a dolce vita Italian break – so pull up a chair and write a few postcards, or simply watch the world go by.
TAKE THE TRAIN, PLUS BUS
Solo travelers are most likely going to be venturing to Ostuni without a car – and in this case, it really is a benefit to avoid the less-than-fun experience of finding a parking spot. Puglia’s trains are the perfect mode of transport to get around the region with ease: but more on that in another article. When arriving in Ostuni by train, you’ll pull in at the bottom of the hill. Be sure to take the bus to the top though, because even if you’re an avid rambler, there isn’t really a safe or easy way for walkers – so you’d be battling on the side of the road against unruly coach drivers. The buses are usually timed with the trains and a ticket can be bought from the little Tabaccheria inside the station. A word of warning though: buy a return ticket because with Puglia’s long siesta session in the afternoon, places in the town are likely to be closed when you opt to make you way back. And a little tip from one wanderer to another: the return bus leaves from the stop just up from the police station and not in the village centre, or where you were dropped off (yes, I learnt that the hard way!)