I’m writing this with reality snapping at my heels, grasping at my relaxed self, trying to pull me back to the nine to five grind. There are emails to answer, bills to pay and dickheads to deal with. But… before I leave… Before the portal closes. Let me tell you about Ostuni, ‘The White City’.
I visited Ostuni on my second last day in Puglia. It’s called the ‘white city’ and considered one of Southern Italy’s most beautiful cities because of its whitewashed stone walls and classic Mediterranean architecture. However, what they don’t tell you in the guidebooks is that the Ostuni train station is a long way from the township itself. I got off the train and did what you normally do in Italian towns, and that is to walk out the front of the station and start walking straight ahead which normally leads you into one of the main Piazzas. I did this, following three other girls, and one possibly German backpacker who seemed so exhausted with his giant pack that it looked like he’d walked all the way from Rome. We crossed the road and walked down an alley, only to discover it was a dead end. Everyone turned around. The girls knew someone else so got into a car, and the German well, disappeared… Probably evaporated from heat exhaustion. So I began to follow the main road and decided to just walk into town. In the distance, I could see a white cluster perched on top of a mountain. It was indeed the ‘white city’.
Like everything in Puglia, it is precariously perched right on the mountains edge. It’s bell tower sticking up in the very centre like a mast as the giant white ship rides the crest, reflecting the Adriatic sun. I began the trek up the hill, along roads not at all designed for pedestrians. I dodged olive tree branches that stuck out on to the road from neighbouring farms and was ever conscious of the passing Vespas and cars. I thought they’re probably looking at me thinking “look at this idiot… Tourists!”. After navigating roundabouts with no footpath and walking through what could be best described as an industrial area, I began a steeper hike towards the white cluster. Sweating and gasping I made it to ‘Porta Nouva’ (new gate), which is anything but new… Especially by Australian standards. You’d be forgiven for believing on the other side was a dead end, as immediately began a rabbit warren maze of bleached white asymmetrical alleyways up and down.
Like some town from ‘The Never Ending Story’ or another fantasy movie it has four levels, and you wind your way to the top. Passing down narrow ‘streets’ you glimpse the bright blue ocean which peers at you through gaps in the buildings. Sometimes you get stuck behind and ‘Ape’ (a small 3 wheeled truck – essentially a Vespa with a box around it and a tray on it) and there’s simply no room to pass, so, like in a video game, you have to go back and find another way out.
It’s so sensational, that you honestly forget that people actually live here until you see someone sitting on their stairs pulling the stems off a bunch of green beans for lunch, or you get dripped on by someone’s laundry hanging above you. Eventually, I turn a corner and see a group of people perched on bright green beanbags on a staircase leading into a narrow alley. I get closer and see that the view from the stairs is sensational. Between a narrow gap in the tightly wrapped town, you can see the surrounding countryside and the Adriatic sea. I hear music and notice they’re drinking wine. Like spilt drops of paint, the alleyway is dotted with green bean bags. People are drinking, some eating bruschetta and other appetising ‘antipasti’. I immediately grab a beanbag facing the ocean and order a vino rosso and a plate of bruschetta with mixed salami. The food, wine, view and location are fantastic.
In summary, the trick to Ostuni, as always, is to get lost and wander the alleyways. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Greece. I’m now back in Rome for my last night in Italy before heading to London tomorrow evening for a work conference. End of vacanza e ritorno di realita… As always, see below for my gallery of Ostuni.
Where: Ostuni is in Puglia in Southern Italy
How to get there: Train runs from Bari Centrale to Ostuni stopping all stations. You can reach Bari Centrale from Roma Termini. Do not attempt to walk from Ostuni station! Wait for the bus that will drop you in the main Piazza. From the station, tickets can be purchased on the bus. Coming back, buy tickets from the ‘Tabbacheria’ at the bus stop in the main piazza – Piazza Della Liberta.
Good places to eat & Drink: – Bean bag bar: ‘Mela Bacata’ – Via Scipione Petrarolo, Ostuni – L’Angolo Divino – Great beers on tap and restaurante in beatiful old building. Piazza Della Liberta. 57