the village of Otranto (Derentò in greek salentino, Hydroûs in Greek and Hydruntum in Latin), greek center-Messapian and Roman, Byzantine then and later aragonese, develops around the imposing castle and the Norman cathedral. Capo d'Otranto, or Palascìa tip, is the point closest to the east of Italy, place of separation between the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Sea. Site in Valle dell'Idro, its Latin name refers also to a strong bond with the water. The territory was inhabited since the Palaeolithic and then populated by the Messapi, Greeks and finally by the Romans, who elected him a municipium. Otranto became one of the roman city most important of Puglia.
The merchant work and local craft was very flourishing, especially in the Processing of purple and tissues and also record the presence of a Jewish community since the ninth century, who expressed refined poets like Meiuchas Shabbatai and from Otranto. The Community was known throughout the Mediterranean and in reference to its prestige was coined the said 'din Bari will exit the law and the word of the Lord from Otranto'. At the beginning of the XIII century lived in Otranto the Jewish poet Anatoli, which therein composed a splendid dialog between the body and the mind after death.
The importance of its port did assume the role of a bridge between east and west. Otranto was Byzantine center and Gothic, then Norman, Swabian, Angevin and Aragonese. In his Cathedral, built between 1080 and 1088, in 1095 was imparted the blessing to twelve thousand Crusaders who, under the command of the prince Boemondo d'Altavilla (1050-1111), it starts to release and to protect the Holy Sepulchre. In 1480 the city was conquered by the Turks (Muhammad II), which slew of the population during the Battle of Otranto, killing 800 people: this is the Holy Martyrs idruntini. The Turks destroyed even the monastery of San Nicola di Casole (just south of Otranto). In it the Basilian monks had constituted the most extensive library of the then West besides having established the first form of college in history that hosted students from all over Europe who went to Otranto to study. It was one of these monks, Pantaleone, the author of the monumental mosaic floor (the largest in Europe) content in the cathedral. The product codes in this monastery are now preserved in the best libraries of Europe, from Paris to London, from Berlin to Moscow.
Starting from the second half of the Seventeenth Century Otranto lived a sharp decline of its importance. The trade was subject to a stop and cultural manifestations were almost non existent. Many of the inhabitants of Otranto, now exhausted and frightened by the continuous incursions by sea, decided to leave the country and move to safer places. So it was that the city lost that primary place they occupied in the Salento. The Eighteenth century was the century of a moderate recovery, thanks to the presence of some families of other centers of Terra d'Otranto that moved in the village. In the nineteenth century the otrantina campaign that surrounded the Alimini lakes was shabby and desert. There were only a few farms, some of which were inhabited only in some seasons of the year. In this area, the risk of contracting diseases was very high in the summer period, when occurred the drainage of swampy areas. The first reclamation project was drafted in 1868 and soon the marshes left the place to cultivated land. In the napoleonic period Otranto became a duchy of the Kingdom of Naples and enjoyed a decisive recovery.
Certainly deserve a visit to the cathedral of Otranto with its mosaic floor, work of Pantaleone. The church of San Pietro is the most ancient place of cult of the village and represents one of the greatest expressions of Byzantine art of the whole puglia. The church of the Madonna of the Altomare preserves a mosaic floor and decorations reminiscent of the seafaring tradition. The foundation of the monastery of San Nicola di Casole dates back to 1098 and was one of the most important places of the Salento from the point of view of historical, cultural and artistic. Very active cultural center, preserved for long centuries numerous volumes Latin and Greek, which made it one of the libraries the richest in Europe. Destroyed in 1480 following the devastation of the Turks, it remain today only ruins.
In the surroundings of Otranto there are also numerous crypts and rupestrian churches very interesting as the crypt of San Nicola, situated in the Valley of the memories where stood an ancient rock village, with fragments of byzantine frescoes and frescoes in the Greek language. Near the hill of Minerva, instead, is located in the crypt of the Padreterno entirely carved into the rock, along whose walls, entirely frescoed, distributes the stone seat for the faithful. On the hill of San Giovanni is accessing an interesting underground complex of paleochristian catacombs.