Exploring Ostuni Italy: Top Things to do in Puglia’s White City
Ostuni, Italy is one of the most beautiful spots in Puglia. Perched on a hilltop and surrounded by oceans of olive trees, you’ll no doubt see Ostuni, Italy long before you arrive.
Famous for its white-washed buildings and labyrinth alleyways that snake across the historic center, Ostuni or the ‘White City’ (La Città Bianca) is the place to just lose yourself. It’s for those that are looking to slow down, stroll, and peer and those looking for simple, quintessential Italian moments.
The beauty of the white city lies in being open to finding your own, personalised experience, through wandering around and being present with what you might come across.
Having said that, however, Ostuni Italy does still have some pretty great things to do. From visiting the historic cathedral to visiting the squares and palaces and even doing a few local tours, there’s plenty here to fill your time.
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How to Get to Ostuni Italy
You’ll probably be visiting Ostuni from other, nearby Puglian towns or you’ll have driven in as part of your Puglia road trip itinerary. Either way getting to Ostuni Italy is fairly easy.
By car – Ostuni is located 52 miles southeast of Bari in the Itria Valley and takes about 70 minutes to drive. The drive could not be easier however you’ll want to use a GPS or Google Maps to better guide you.
If you want to get the most out of the area I highly recommend renting a car for total flexibility. I always use Auto Europe to rent a car in Italy. They have some of the best rates, especially in the summer high season. Find a rental car with Auto Europe here.
Once in Ostuni Italy, you’ll need to find parking outside of the ZTL (Limited Traffic Zone) which limits unauthorised traffic from passing through the historic center. The signs will tell you at which times you can pass through but I’d avoid it altogether as the fines are pretty nasty.
We parked here and the location couldn’t have been better- parking here is also free outside of the peak summer months.
By Train – Another way to reach Ostuni from Bari is by train. There are regular departures early in the morning and in the afternoon. The trip takes between 40-55 minutes depending on the train you take. Ostuni is also easily reachable by train from Polignano a Mare, Monopoli and Cisternino. It’s a little more complicated from Martina Franca, Alberobello and Locorotondo from where it’s easier to take a local bus.
Make sure to also note that Ostuni’s train station is a 30-minute walk from town. Alternatively, limited taxis and buses are available.
A good idea is to check the Tren Italia website here to plan your trip and buy tickets.
There are also some local bus options from nearby towns but in general public transport isn’t that great in Puglia and I encourage you to hire a car if you can.
Top Things to do in Ostuni Italy
Explore the ‘Centro Storico’ in Ostuni Italy
The historic center of Ostuni is a maze of narrow, stone alleyways, stairways leading to no-one-really-knows-where and viewpoints providing gorgeous views of the Itria Valley all the way to the sea. The center begs to be explored and it’s so easy to get lost in these labyrinth streets, but, that’s quite the point.
Exploring the streets, peeking into doorways and around corners, and taking turn after turn is part of the beauty of La Città Bianca and is one of the best things to do in Ostuni. You’ll soon find vibrant boutiques to head into or a terrace that’s perfect for grabbing a quick espresso before continuing.
Ostuni also has many white arches connecting the streets together and while you can’t walk over them, make sure to look up every once and a while.
Walk the Fortified City Walls
Around many points encompassing the historic center, you’ll find the old fortified city walls of Ostuni. While exploring you’ll most certainly be drawn downwards towards the outer walls that kept out invaders for so many years in the past.
The walls have some of the best views you can find in the city of the surrounding northern countryside and the coast. On a clear day, you can see the sea from here and this is also one of the best spots in the city for sunrise. There are one or two cafes on the walls – perfect for grabbing a coffee and admiring the gorgeous view for a while.
Visit Ostuni Cathedral
Sitting proudly at the top of the hill is Ostuni’s Duomo, Santa Maria Assunta, a 15th-century gothic cathedral whose first origins date back to 1000. It was rebuilt in the 15th Century in the Gothic style after an earthquake in 1456 damaged it.
The facade is fairly minimal, yet beautiful. All focus is on the stunning rose window in the center but you’ll really have to go inside to admire the ceiling frescos, dramatic altar and a number of significant artworks in its side chapels.
Shop for Local Produce at the Saturday Market
If you’re a foodie or an Italian gastronomy lover and you happen to be in Ostuni on a Saturday you’ll need to get yourself down to the Saturday Market. Located towards the outskirts of town on Via Nino Sansone, it’s here that you can wander around and have a more local experience. You’ll find a lot of second-hand clothing here as well as random knick-knacks but the best part is all the local, fresh produce.
Walking around you can learn more about Italian produce, local flavours and products as well as buy some regional snacks to take home. You’ll be able to try some fresh bread, cured meats, and local cheese but my advice is to go for the fresh Puglian olives.
If you’re staying in an Airbnb and self-catering then a visit here is a must to pick up some local olives, sundried tomatoes and bread for an impromptu aperitivo. Note that the market closes at 1 pm so it’s best to go early.
Relax on the Piazza della Libertà
Ostuni’s main square Piazza della Libertà is a beautiful space to stroll through or relax on for a while. You’ll find a number of restaurants and bars whose terraces spill out onto the piazza, the Colonna di Sant’Oronzo, an 18th Century monument to Ostuni’s Saint as well as the grandiose Palazzo Municipale. There really is nothing more quintessentially Italian than enjoying this spacious Piazza, probably one of the most beautiful in Puglia.
In the evening the square fills with locals and tourists alike, enjoying the warm evening and sipping wine or spritz. You might also be able to catch some local street performers or musicians.
Visit Ostuni’s Palaces
Ostuni Italy has a few noteworthy palaces or palazzos worthy of a glance as you explore. Their Baroque or neo-classical facades add grandeur and elegance to the focal points of the White City.
In the Piazza della Libertà, you’ll find the Palazzo Municipale which started out as a convent back in the 12th Century. The palace has seen numerous amounts of transformations and rebuilds over the years including a completely new Baroque facade. Today the palace functions as Ostuni’s town hall.
Two more palaces are located a little higher up on the Piazza Cattedrale- the same small square as the city’s cathedral. On one side you’ll find the Palazzo Vescovile and opposite Palazzo del Seminario. The two are joined together by an arched loggia which is quite elaborately decorated from the outside.
Right next door you’ll also find the Museo Diocesano di Ostuni which has some pretty interesting artefacts from the local area.
Spend Some Time Eating
It’s no lie that Ostuni has some of the best restaurants in Puglia so you’re going to want to assign some quality time and stomach space for gorging on some deliciousness. We ate some of the best food of our whole trip here.
There’s also a real variety of food in Ostuni compared with other small Puglian towns. Here you’ll be able to find fine dining as well as local trattorias, traditional Puglian fare as well as more creative Italian cuisine. There’s amazing antipasti, pizza, gelato, sandwich joints, scenic spots for Aperol, and the list goes on.
Like most spots in Puglia, there aren’t many exclusive vegetarian or plant-based restaurants but Ostuni is quite forward-thinking when it comes to this. Many restaurants and cafes serve traditional Puglian dishes that are naturally vegetarian as well as some other vegetarian fare aimed at vegetarians.
READ MORE: Unmissable Wineries in Puglia for Your Next Trip
Visit the Viewpoint in Ostuni Italy
Ok, so there might be viewpoints all over Ostuni Italy, but I’m thinking about one incredible viewpoint in particular.
While walking around the centro storico will give you stunning views of the countryside you’ll need to head to this viewpoint for views of Ostuni itself. The viewpoint is called ‘Piazzetta Martiri delle Foibe – Belvedere di Ostuni’ on Google Maps and it takes about 10 minutes to walk here from the center of town.
Getting to the Belvedere di Ostuni, or Ostuni Viewpoint is really easy. Start at Piazza della Libertà, walk past the Colonna di Sant’Oronzo and follow Corso Vittorio Emanuele II street all the way around and to the viewpoint. The viewpoint is just off this street and it’s easy to notice once you arrive.
Note that you could drive here too, or stop on your way in or out of Ostuni, however, there is only street parking and it’s extremely limited.
Do a Walking Tour
One of the best ways to see the city, navigate the alleys and learn a little more while doing so is by taking a guided walking tour. Knowledgeable guides will take you to Ostuni’s most significant spots, to the most historic buildings while also telling you all about the history of the ‘white city’ and this area of Puglia.
Not only that, but you’ll also be able to have your questions answered and local guides can also give you their own, local recommendations allowing you to explore the town’s more secret spots.
I always use Get Your Guide when booking tours as they always have the best tours and guides. Click here for the best Ostuni Walking Tour.
Take a Day Trip from Ostuni Italy
Ostuni is just one of the many stunning towns in the surrounding Itria Valley and I highly recommend getting out and exploring by doing a few day trips. From Ostuni you can easily get to Ceglie Messapica, Cisternino, Locorotondo, Alberobello and Martina Franca if you have a car. If you’re travelling by train it’s also easy to get to Monopoli or Polignano a Mare which make perfect day trip destinations if you’re craving some beach time.
All these incredible little Puglian towns have a lot to offer, from extremely local experiences in Ceglie Messapica, seaside resort and incredible views in Polignano a Mare, unique trulli architecture in Alberobello and Baroque architecture in Martina Franca.
If you have time I encourage you to visit them all even if just for a few hours. Due to the size of most of the towns, you can easily visit two or three of them in a day.
READ MORE: A Mini Guide to Alberobello Italy: The Famed Trulli Town
Go to the Beach
For those craving some beach time and a chance to cool off in the turquoise Puglian waters there’s a whole coast waiting to be explored just 15 minutes drive from Ostuni.
The nearest beach town in Villanova, directly north of Ostuni which has a few nice swimming spots, small beaches and some local restaurants. Savelletri is also worth visiting for some beach time and a wander on its picturesque lungomare.
Some other beaches to consider in the area are Spiaggia di Rosa Marina, Spiaggia di Torre Pozzelle and Spiaggia di Lamaforca which have so good sandy spots and beautiful turquoise water.
Monopoli and Polignano a Mare, some of the area’s most famous and most beautiful coastal beach towns are also only a short drive or train ride away. Here you can combine some beach time with exploring the beautiful clifftop towns and their historic centres.
READ MORE: Polignano a Mare Beaches: Uncovering the Resort Town’s Top Beaches
Go for a Sunset Aperitif
There’s no better way to end the day than perched on a stool, aperitif in hand, beautiful view in front of you as the sun shrouds everything in golden light. If there’s one place in Puglia to go out for a drink at sunset it’s Ostuni.
There are many spots around town to grab a drink from wide, open terraces, piazzas or even on the winding, old town streets themselves.
My personal favourite choice is Borgo Antico Bistrot, a restaurant which snakes down a winding street in the historic center. The views, food and drinks and vibes are on point but make sure to come early as this is everyone’s favourite spot and getting a table here after 7 pm is difficult. More on Borgo Antico Bistrot in the ‘where to eat’ section below.
Take an Ape Tour
The Piaggio Ape is the quintessential vehicle of Puglia and you’ll no doubt see it all over the area. It’s a three-wheeled light commercial vehicle, slightly resembling a larger, wider and more industrial Vespa- a very Italian tuk-tuk. Apes are the perfect-sized vehicles to zip through Ostuni’s narrow alleys, not to mention they are also fun and practical.
An ape tour is one of the best ways not only to experience the vehicle but to also get to know Ostuni Italy a little better.
A knowledgeable driver guide will take you around the city and you’ll learn about its history and culture. I love the Ostuni Old Town Tour on an Eco-Friendly Ape Calessino for their great guides and environmentally friendly approaches.
Go Olive Oil Tasting
Much of Italy’s olive oil production comes from Puglia and given the number of olive trees you’ll see in the countryside around Ostuni, this is probably true. Due to the varying characteristics of the soil around Ostuni, farmers here can cultivate different types of olives which lead to different flavour profiles in the oil.
In town you’ll see a number of shops selling local olive oil and while it’s a good idea to buy a bottle to take home, why not learn about it and try it first before committing?
This Olive Oil Tour in Ostuni allows you to learn more about the production of olive oil in the area as well as taste three different kinds of local olive oils. You’ll also get a chance to visit an ancient masseria (luxury farmhouse) which is a must when in Puglia.
This is a great tour for anyone interested in learning more about the local culture and gastronomy of the area.
Where to Stay in Ostuni, Italy
Ostuni has amazing accommodation for every budget, from grand, luxury masserias in the countryside just outside town to budget apartments in the city center. Expect to pay quite a bit more for accommodation in the summer high season as prices tend to almost double at this time. If you are looking for more affordable options one of the best travel tips I can give is to travel outside the season in May, early June or September.
Here are some of the best places to stay in and near Ostuni Italy.
Masseria Il Frantoio – Located in the countryside outside Ostuni, this masseria isn’t cheap but it’s totally worth it for a luxury, authentic masseria experience. With beautifully and traditionally decorated rooms make sure to stay in one of their few suites to get the most out of the Puglian countryside.
There’s also a lovely pool area and their restaurant is well-known as being one of the best in the area. Make sure to have dinner there at least once. Check rates and availability here.
La Sommità Relais & Chateaux – If you’re looking for real luxury in Ostuni, it doesn’t get better than this. Hidden in the center of the white city, this 5-star property has everything you need for a decadent stay. Chic rooms, beautiful pool and garden area, friendly service and a delicious breakfast. This option isn’t cheap either but if you’ve been waiting for an excuse to splurge, this is it. Check rates and availability here.
Casa Vico Melles – A well-decorated, comfortable apartment rental option in a great location in the historic center. It’s grand and spacious for two with a split-level setup. We loved the exposed stone all over this chic apartment. Make sure to get up for sunrise as the golden, country views from the window are gorgeous. Check rates and availability.
Masseria Donna Nina – Located just a few miles outside Ostuni, this brilliant-white masseria makes the perfect base for a few days. Located in the middle of the countryside with verdant olive groves all around, this masseria provides the perfect escape into nature.
Relax by the pool in the evening after exploring Ostuni or take a seat in the gorgeous garden with a glass of wine. Their breakfast buffets are delicious (and include gluten-free options) and service is spot-on. Check rates and availability here.
Where to Eat in Ostuni, Italy
As mentioned previously, eating is definitely one of the best things to do in Ostuni. With so many amazing restaurant options, you could easily stay here for a week to sample them all. Here are some of the best options that you simply can’t pass up.
Osteria del Tiempo Perso– One of the best restaurants in town for a seriously special meal. Both the setting and the food here are amazing with a cave-like atmosphere with stone walls and ceilings. Dishes include delicious local pasta like orecchiette with turnip greens but they also have fish and meats for mains. The best thing here however is the buffalo milk pistachio and berry cheesecake so make sure to leave room for dessert. Trust me, if you’re not strictly vegan, order it and thank me later.
Drogheria Pugliese– A great casual lunch spot in Piazza Libertà this simple restaurant serves creative, modern food like Italian-style poke bowls, antipasti, panini and sandwiches. It’s plant-based friendly with many vegan options and it’s also a relaxed spot for drinks.
Il Posto Affianco– A great spot for good Napolitan style pizzas.
Borgo Antico Bistrot– One of the hottest places to go for apertivos and dinner, this spot is really popular and for good reason. With a sublime hilltop location on one of Ostuni’s alleyways, this is the place to go for sunset drinks. Order an Aperol and one of their sharing platters and watch the sun go down over the Itria Valley. It’s a good idea to make a reservation if they take them or if not come early as it fills up fast.
Osteria Piazzetta Cattedrale- Another beautiful osteria experience this restaurant is tiny so make sure to reserve ahead. Serving all the Puglian classics, this is one of Ostuni’s best restaurants for a more fancy dinner.
Trattoria Fave e Fogghje- A great spot for lunch and dinner, serving local cuisine. It’s also one of the better options for vegetarians and plant-based eaters.
Ristorante Taverna della Gelosia – Located hidden down some steep stairs this romantic restaurant is one of the best in the city. While we didn’t have time to eat here it came heavily recommended by quite a few locals.
Gelateria Borgo Antico – One of the best spots for gelato in town, located right on Piazzetta Cattedrale.
How Long Do you Need to Visit Ostuni?
We stayed in Ostuni for 2 nights as part of our 10-day Puglia road trip itinerary using it as a base to explore the local area. While we did stay 2 nights we probably spent about 24 hours in Ostuni which I personally think is enough time. Ostuni is a small city and while the centro storico is the most interesting part of town, it doesn’t take long to get around.
With just 24 hours you’ll be able to get through almost all of the things to do in Ostuni in this guide.
What are the Best Free Things to do in Ostuni?
You don’t need to spend much money, or any money at all to appreciate the beauty of Ostuni, Italy. There are plenty of free things to do in Ostuni that have no costs or charges associated with them.
Exploring and strolling around the historic centre is free and so is visiting Ostuni’s Cathedral. Walking to the town’s viewpoint is also free and so is relaxing with locals at the Piazza della Liberta. Watching the sunrise and walking along the city walls is also free. In fact, most of the things to do in Ostuni are free, minus the ones that involve tours or consumption in bars and restaurants.
Is Ostuni safe to visit?
The short answer is yes. Ostuni is safe to visit, even for solo female travellers as I never felt unsafe at any moment during my time there. However, it’s always a good idea to exercise caution and common sense, tell people about where you’re going and not walk around late at night by yourself. Locals in Ostuni are generally very welcome, helpful and pleasant.
Find some more great things to do in Ostuni below
Ready to plan your trip to Ostuni Italy? Let me know your questions and comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
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Rentalcars.com and Auto Europe for quick and easy car rentals worldwide
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