Day trip 2 itinerary
Our second day trip took us to the tiny beach town of Torre Dell’Orso on the Adriatic Sea and then back to the pool at our masseria.
We drove ~25 miles (40 km) and spent about one hour in the car. Again, the speed limit was generally 50 kph / 30 mph and I was still foolishly abiding by country road speed limits. At times, I zoned out and imagined running faster than the car was traveling.
Torre Dell’Orso is a proper beach town and if you are living your best “van life,” touring around Puglia, or if you just really like beaches, then Torre Dell’Orso is a must-stop on your tour.
We parked directly behind the beach here. This car park was easy to access, free, and only a three-minute walk to the beach. We arrived at 11am and the car park was nearly full but we managed to get a spot between two trees. There was a queue to the car park and cars parked down the main road when we left Torre Dell’Orso around 1:30pm.
Admittedly, I am not a beach person but this beach was one of the nicest beaches I have visited. Sandy beaches can be difficult to find in Europe and big sandy beaches are even more elusive. This beach seemed to go on for days and there were hundreds of sun loungers, almost all of which were empty.
Our plan for Torre Dell’Orso was to visit the beach, take a few photos of Le Due Sorelle (two sisters), and eat lunch. I realized almost immediately that Torre Dell’Orso is really just a beach town and we were doing our visit all wrong.
We should have packed a beach bag and spent the day at the beach but for the majority of our time in Puglia, we were met with closed shops, restaurants, and cafes and I assumed beach kiosks would also be closed. Instead, they were open for business even though there were only a few people on the beach.
After walking down the beach and hiking up the steep rocky cliff at the end of the beach, we walked 15 minutes in the other direction to the town, found a small section of street art, and got a quick bite to eat before driving back to our masseria for one last afternoon of sunshine and warm weather.
Day trip 3 / transfer itinerary
On our third full day, we transferred from Otranto to Ostuni, stopping in Lecce and Ostuni before arriving at our masseria.
Lecce is the biggest city in the region and I was hesitant to stop there because I was scared to drive in Lecce but we had time to kill so to Lecce we went!
We parked at the train station which, in normal times, probably would not have been possible. I placed my bet on train station footfall being low due to the pandemic and there being places to park at the station and I was right.
The train station car park was fairly easy to access from the motorway and about a 10-minute walk to the centro storico. Getting back on the motorway was a more difficult task, however.
Our visit to Lecce was an extremely rainy one, lasting about 90 minutes and costing a few Euros to park. Half of our time was spent walking around the centro storico and the other half was spent standing in random doorways trying to stay as dry as possible while a huge thunderstorm rumbled overhead.
Our visit began at the Roman amphitheater located in the main piazza in the centro storico. The area was partly under construction but the structure was fully visible from many angles.
After the amphitheater, we carried on with the theme of our trip and randomly strolled the centro storico. We could hear the loud cracks of thunder in the distance and we watched as the sky slowly turned dark. We knew our time was limited.
Not too far from the amphitheater is the Cathedral of Maria Santissima Assunta. It’s a large cathedral in a very small square making it difficult to photograph. There were roughly 20 people in the square which was one of the highest concentrations of people we saw during our outings.
Around the corner from the cathedral was a narrow wall that contained the artwork below. I cannot be certain what its intended message is but to me, it’s a message about the ongoing European migrant/refugee crisis.
Since 1993, over 34,000 people have died trying to get to Europe. Most of the deaths have been drownings in the Mediterranean Sea when overcrowded vessels capsize and/or sink.
The migrant crisis ratcheted up in 2014-15 during our first stint living in the UK. Records indicate that the deadliest month was April 2015. It’s estimated that 1,500 people died that month, 800 of which died in a single capsize incident off of the coast of Libya.
In March 2019, the European Commission declared the migrant crisis to be “at the end” and although the number of deaths has decreased in recent years, it’s clear that there is still a crisis.
We hoped to eat lunch in Lecce but as was the case with almost all of our town visits, our timing was off. We were slightly too early for lunch and then the storm hit and the storm put a hard stop to our Lecce visit.
The photo below was one of the last photos I took before the storm hit. The blue thing on the bicyclist’s left arm is a disposable facemask – the most popular type of face mask worn in the region. “Storing” masks on forearms when not in use was a very popular thing to do.
Even though we had poor weather during our Lecce visit, I’d still recommend visiting it. Lecce is pretty and I’m sure it’s even more lovely when cafes, restaurants, public toilets, and shops are open for business.
We departed Lecce in the middle of the storm. It was dark, cold, and visibility was very low. I remember a lot of traffic and the roads, specifically near roundabouts, were flooded. The drive through Lecce to the motorway was kind of a blur – lots of random honking and lane-weaving to avoid large pools of water.
The further north we drove, the better the weather we got. We arrived in Ostuni a little after 1pm to warm temperatures and a cloudy sky.
The drive to Ostuni confirmed to us that the Puglia region is overwhelmingly flat and there are random hills scattered across the region (think extremely large anthills).
Many of the major towns in the region are built on top of the anthills and are visible for miles away. We could see Ostuni in the distance almost immediately after exiting the motorway yet it took us another 15 minutes to get there.
We parked (for a small fee) on the east side of Ostuni here. The car park was easy to get in and out of, however, our masseria was located west of Ostuni so having to drive around Ostuni to get to the car park was not ideal.
We ate lunch in the square in front of the Town Hall in the centro storico. I spent the time shoeing away pigeons and bees between sips of wine and bites of food. I’ve had more peaceful luncheons, I’ll just say that.
Note: My photos from Ostuni were taken on two different days, hence the different skies.
On the northeast side of Ostuni, there was a wide “terrace” (formally a ring road) with views of the Adriatic Sea and Ostuni’s urban sprawl.
The centro storico was similar to Otranto’s centro storico with [mostly] white walls and narrow alleys. There were pockets of tourists, mostly European retirees who arrived in coach buses, but, overall, Ostuni was deserted.
We spent a collective five hours in Ostuni over two visits. Both visits were during daylight hours by design. I was not keen on navigating the narrow country roads and traversing Ostuni (to the car park) in the dark but I do somewhat regret not seeing the town in the evening hours. It’s probably really pretty when the narrow alleys are lit by strings of lights strung across the alleys and old wall lanterns.