The harbour of Otranto lies on the Adriatic coat of Italy 30 miles N of the ‘heel’ of the Italian peninsula,
where the Ionian and Adriatic seas meet.
Originally a Greek settlement, Otranto became a Roman port following the defeat of its Carthaginian allies during the Second Punic War (203 - 201 BC). Although the completion of the Via Appia to Brundisium (Brindisi) in 264 BC had turned the latter into Rome’s most important port of embarkation for the East, Otranto’s proximity to the province of Illyria on the eastern Adriatic coast made it at least as important during the Imperial period. The town and its strategically sited harbour subsequently passed through Byzantine and Norman hands.
Its use as an embarkation point for generations of Crusaders made Otranto a target for the Ottoman rulers, who briefly captured the town in 1480 (when most of its inhabitants were slaughtered) and again in 1537. Traces of Otranto’s former occupiers are still to be found in the town, including a monumental Norman cathedral and the castle, rebuilt under Aragonese rule in the 15th century. Today, the harbour is a popular port of call for yachts cruising the Adriatic coast of Italy or crossing the Adriatic Sea en route to Greece or Croatia.