“At the center of the two seas that bathe the Puglia, a majestic ancient and hospitable city where art, legends and traditions are woven into a history spanning three thousand years”
Early in May we set out for a day trip with friends Paola and Jim. Our intentions are to take a day trip every two weeks and discover parts of Puglia that we have not explored before. So, on the appointed day we set out for Oria, a town and comune in the province of Brindisi. We parked on the street close to the Centro Storico. Our first stop, of course, was for that all important morning coffee at the Caffe Deco – americano for me and cappucini for the others.
Suitably refreshed we stepped out, strolled up the street and entered the Centro Storico of Oria. It never ceases to amaze me that you can one minute be walking through an unremarkable town and then suddenly you find the magic of tiny cobbled streets, whitewashed walls, glorious flowers, fabulous architecture. And I also can’t believe that we are now in our fifth year in Puglia and we have never visited this charming little town.
We strolled up the tiny streets heading towards the castle and the cathedral. Our first stop was the early 13th century castle, Castello Svevo, still owned privately by the Martini family, currently being lovingly restored and, unfortunately for us, not open to the public at the time of our visit. Following the signs for the cathedral we reached the piazza in front of the cathedral from where, on a clear day you can see both the Adriatic and the Ionian sea.
The Cathedral Basilica was built in the mid 18th century over the ruins of pre-existing building that had been damaged by earthquake. The outside of the cathedral boasts a large polychrome dome. The interior is lavishly decorated and houses numerous paintings from the 17th to 20th century. By prior appointment with the bishop it is also possible to view the mummies housed in the cathedral.
Other sites to be seen in Oria include Gate of the Jews, the Bishops Palace, and at least four other churches. We were happy just to stroll through the sunny, pretty streets, admiring the architecture and soaking up the atmosphere. Our next stop was the Castello on Piazza D.Albanese for pre-lunch aperitivo, a tiny “pub, birreria, stuzzicheria” (stuzzicheria = appetizer). During our strolls we had spotted, or more accurately, our nostrils had twitched at the wonderful aromas as we passed by the Fuori Porta.
Retracing our steps we soon found our way back to the ristorante responsible for the tantalising aromas. The Alla Corte di Hyria is described in their publicity as being located on the most important route to Castello Svevo and providing an elegant dining room in which to enjoy fine Puglia cuisine. We lunched on antipasti followed by a primi piatti pasta course, skipping the secondi and moving on to dolce, accompanied by fine wine and better conversation!
After a lunch like that it is always necessary to stroll some more to try and walk off the damage – and of course wrap everything up with caffè.
From the official website of Oria we learn that Oria has a long history of Art, Culture and Traditions. It is believed that Oria was founded in 1200BC by a group of Cretan Minos who were shipwrecked on the Ionian coast and who created the original community then known as Hyria. Through the ages the town was subject to invasions, seiges and plunder.
Today the city is a plum tourist destination, not be be missed when you visit Puglia. Situated half way between Brindisi and Taranto, high on the hills with beautiful views of both coasts, monuments, artefacts and of course the restaurants and bars, we highly recommend a visit to this charming Puglia town during your Puglia holiday.
Oria is about 45 minutes from our Puglia holiday villas, take the Brindisi to Taranto superstrada (SS7) and before you reach Francavilla Fontana you will see the exit for Oria. Once you reach Oria follow the signs for the Centro Storico, you should be able to park on the streets just outside the Centro Storica.