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THE MESSAPIAN CIVILISATION HAS SCULPTED THE VINEYARDS OF THE OSTUNI PDO

Ostuni, the white city, is the starting point for a tour of the heart of the land of the Messapi, with the indigenous Impigno and Ottavianello vines and the PDO that takes its name from them.

Ostuni gives its name to the white wine made from the indigenous Impigno grape variety, but also to the red wine ‘Ostuni Ottavianello’. Together with the white city, the PDO territory of this wine includes the municipalities of Carovigno, San Vito dei Normanni, San Michele Salentino, Latiano and Ceglie Messapica.

We begin in Ostuni and its exclusive centre, Libertà Square, with the column of Sant’Oronzo. From here, the road climbs up to the co-cathedral, which stands in front of the monumental suspended corridor of the Episcopio. In Gothic-Romanesque style and recently awarded the title of minor basilica, it is one of the most beautiful in Apulia, boasting an enchanting façade with three rose windows.

Strolling through the alleyways and palaces, you can see the blue line of the sea where the the Regional National Park of the Coastal Dunes stretches out, and between the sea and the village, the terraced fields and vegetable gardens crossed by canals conveying rainwater that, starting in the Middle Ages, developed on the remains of a Messapian necropolis near the Madonna della Grata, where different varieties of cereals and vegetables of ancient production are now planted.

The historic centre of Carovigno is also candid, with the Dentice di Frasso Castle at its highest point. The original Norman fortification was later rebuild and in 1400 the almond-shaped tower was added, perhaps designed by the Sienese military architect Francesco De Giorgio Martini.

The silvery sea of olive trees separates the village from the coast, on which the star-shaped Torre di Santa Sabina stands out, while walking along the rocks towards Mezzaluna beach, under the surface of the water, you can find wrecks that testify to the strategic position of the landing place connected to the Greek coast. The other, Torre Guaceto, is square and emerges in the Protected Marine Area and State Natural Reserve a precious stretch of unspoilt coastline between the territories of Carovigno and Brindisi, which represents one of the most important habitats for the conservation of biodiversity and which also houses the Luigi Cantoro sea turtle recovery centre.

The Dentice di Frasso family also built the castle of San Vito dei Normanni, while San Michele Salentino, a village founded in the 17th century by the Count of Mola Michele Vaaz de Andrada, owes its foundation to Prince Francesco of the same family but only became an independent municipality in 1928. Today it is renowned for the ‘fico mandorlato di San Michele Salentino’, a traditional sweet made with local almonds.

Latiano has ancient Messapian origins and was later linked to the Imperiali family of Francavilla Fontana; it is a village strongly attached to its rural traditions. The Museum of the Arts and Traditions of Apulia is interesting, with reconstructions of typical Apulian homes.

Ceglie Messapica, which today boasts the title of city of art and land of gastronomy, betrays in its name its origins, which are traditionally linked to the arrival in Italy of the Messapians. The beating heart of the town is Plebiscito Square with its Clock Tower, while the symbol of the town is the square tower, part of the Norman fortress. Here a gourmet stop is obligatory to taste the typical dishes and the biscuit of Ceglie, a Slow Food Presidium that is distinguished by the use of fine local varieties of almonds.