Are you looking for an authentic southern Italian experience? Then you must put Oria, Puglia on your map. It’s a town in the Brindisi region of Italy and it’s a charming place to visit.
Whenever you are visiting Puglia there is a great opportunity to see ‘old Italy’. As the region has always been a traditionally agricultural part of Italy it has not developed at the same rate as places like Rome or Tuscany.
Regardless, tourists realized that there are beautiful beaches in Puglia and started to travel the region. Nowadays Puglia is a popular beach destination where you can visit historic towns such as Oria in the Brindisi region.
We always love to discover small places like this. They are oozing with history and they often don’t get the love they deserve. Oria, Puglia is one of those places that many tourists miss from their radar. Let us tell you why you shouldn’t skip a visit.
Why you should visit Oria, Puglia?
You should consider Oria when you want to experience the local atmosphere. It’s a truly local town with old buildings and beautiful architecture. Everything from the shops to restaurants is mainly there for the locals as there isn’t an awful lot of tourism in this mainland area of Puglia.
This is without mentioning the historic city center. It’s a very nice place to walk in and try the authentic cuisine of the city. Let me tell you an example. Before I first visited I was looking around on google maps as I always do. I like to explore Streetview a little bit always before selecting a town to visit.
When I put down the little man the first time in Oria I ended up on a tiny street with an old Fiat 500 parked in front of the building. How can you get more Italian than that? I already knew it’s a place to see. You can try it too, the Fiat is still parked there on Google. Just drop the little man down behind the basilica and you’ll see.
Getting to Oria, Puglia
If you want to do a trip to Oria, Puglia you have multiple options for travel. First of all, you can do public transport. The town is very conveniently located on the Brinidis to Taranto train line. This means direct connections and frequent connections.
It’s about halfway between the two cities so the trip is around 30 minutes from both Brindisi and Taranto. Tickets cost as low as $4 dollars so this really is a budget option to consider. The only downside is that you will have to do walking. The train station at Oria is around 20 minutes of walking from the city center. As always, you can get tickets at ItaliaRail.
If you want to rent a car while you are in Puglia then it’s even easier to visit this town. It’s located near the highway SS-7 that goes between Brindisi and Taranto. You’ve got to exit the highway at Francavilla Fontana from where it’s a few minutes until you arrive at Oria, Puglia.
Brief history of Oria, Puglia
Oria is a truly ancient town. It was funded by the Messapian civilization. It was one of the more important Messapian cities and back then the name of the town was Hyria. We know that the town must have already existed and been an important landmark at 217 BC because it was already making its own coins at the time.
The town was later conquered by the Roman empire and became what is Oria today.
Things to see in Oria, Puglia
It’s time to take a look at some of the most famous tourist attractions in the city of Oria, Puglia. Let’s explore what it is that you can see and do in this town if you decide to visit.
1. Caslte of Oria
The Castle of Oria is the main attraction in town. It’s a huge castle from medieval times. It also has a unique shape. From the top, it looks like a triangle which is rather unusual for castles of this age.
The Castello Oria, as the locals call it, was a smaller castle in the beginning. In the 13th century, Frederick II Hohenstaufen became the owner of the castle. He must have taken a liking to it because after several modifications and additions he created the final version we can see today.
Only the two cylindrical bastions were added after this under the Angevine rule. Today the castle stands proud on the hill above Oria. It’s a very striking sight.
You can see it from the outside and even go inside with a guided tour. The tour guides are well prepared and will tell you the full story of this castle.
2. Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption
If the local castle is the primary attraction in Oria then the basilica must be the second most visited sight in the city.
In Italian, the cathedral is called Basilica Pontificia Cattedrale Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo and it’s the episcopal seat of the Diocese of Oria.
Construction of the current church was finished in the 1700s. The church you see today is built in Baroque style and it has an impressive exterior. The facade is very nicely decorated. Previously there was a small Romanesque church in its place, but after an earthquake, it was deemed unsafe to use. The cathedral was built in its place.
Whenever you visit we also recommend that you go inside. You will find that not only the church looks wonderful from the outside, but the interior is heavily decorated. There are paintings all the way from the 17th century.
3. Chiostro Parco Montalbano
Next to the castle, there’s an open park. You can enter through an old archway which poses as a nice photo spot.
The small square will lead you to a building with archways on the side, many people also love to take photos here. What we love is looking out to the right-hand side. There are no buildings and no walls there.
As you are high up on a hill you will be treated to amazing views of the city. Behind the city, you will also get a glimpse of the beautiful landscape. One of the best picturesque spots in Oria, Puglia.
4. Explore the historic center
Apart from the obvious sights, there are many hidden alleyways and beautiful old buildings in the whitewashed old town of Oria. Make sure that you spend time strolling around the streets and taking in the atmosphere.
As it is with many Italian towns, Oria in Puglia is filled with small and interesting churches. Try to visit as many as you can whenever you are in the town. One of them is Chiesa di Santa Maria al Tempio. It is so well hidden within the buildings that you will have a hard time even noticing there’s a church there.
Make sure that you don’t skip the Jewish quarter. It’s one of the oldest Jewish quarters in southern Italy and has many cute and interesting streets.
5. Visit the old city gates
We always love when a city has its old gates still standing. Back in medieval days, the city gate was a very important feature. Any city had to pay extra attention that their gates are fancy and highly decorated.
It is the first thing anyone entering the city will see after all. It sets the tone. Although today they don’t function as the city gates anymore you can still find two gates for Oria near the historic center.
One of them is the impressive Porta Manfredi leading into the heart of the old town in Oria, Puglia. It is a big gate that served as the main entry point of the town.
The other interesting gate you can see is called Porta degli Ebrei. Although it’s smaller in size it is just as well-decorated as the main gate. Walking through this gate will lead you to the ancient Jewish quarter of Oria.
6. Palazzo Martini
Palazzo Martini is an old palace inside the historic center. It’s a wonderful sight from the outside and if you want to go inside you will be please to learn there is a museum in it. It’s a museum dedicated to the Messapian culture.
We loved to visit this museum as the Messapians are not well known outside of this region. It is always a pleasure to learn about new cultures even if they are no longer around. You will find many traces of the Messapians all around Puglia and this museum is a great addition to the heritage.
7. Piazza Manfredi
Piazza Manfredi is the center of life in Oria, Puglia. It has some of the most frequented bars and restaurants in the city. If there is any resemblance to a touristy place this is one. But even then it’s very far from places like Rome. It can be bustling and touristy at the same time while maintaining the local feel. We absolutely love it.
8. Torneo dei Rioni
The tournament of the 4 districts. This is an exciting event to catch if you are nearby in August. It’s a traditional event like the famous horse races in Siena. Specifically, this event takes place on the second weekend of August.
It’s a local tradition as the districts decide who has the better horse riders. However, it’s not just horse racing. The whole town is dressed up in medieval decor and there are all kinds of shows and attractions to attend. A true spectacle if you can visit. Check their official site for more info and this year’s schedule.
How much time to spend in Oria, Puglia?
Are you wondering about the duration of your visit? Well, let us tell you that Oria is just perfect for a day trip. Due to the abundance of trains each day it’s easy to do even via public transport.
There is enough to see to keep you entertained and if you eat and maybe have a little wine you can easily spend a day here.
A quick visit can also be done in half a day. Let’s say you want to check out one more town on the Taranto to Brindisi line and you can do two towns in a day.
Staying in Oria is possible and it can be a nice choice for an off-season holiday. During the season it’s a little bit too far from the beach for our liking. However, due to the central location of Oria in Puglia, it’s good for exploring.
Where to eat in Oria?
Whether you visit for a short period or you plan to stay for longer you will need some recommendations on where to eat in Oria. Let’s see what’s in store for you in this magical town in Puglia.
Osteria Luce is one of the best restaurants in Oria, Puglia. It’s located at the main square, Piazza Manfredi. Might not be the cheapest one but it has pretty amazing food.
We recommend that you try the pasta as they make some excellent pasta in this restaurant. Our favorite was the shrimp pasta. Don’t forget to order dessert we promise you won’t regret it.
A budget option that’s a mix somewhere between what would be a pub in England and a proper restaurant. They serve simple local favorites that all taste well. Keep in mind the portions are huge here.
It’s on the street that leads to the train station so it’s one of those places where you can eat before you leave for the day, that is if you are doing a road trip via train.
One of the best street foods in Oria, Puglia. The only problem is that it’s a few minutes of walking from the center so you got to make an effort to visit.
You can order typical Italian street food like pizza, focaccia, and sandwiches. Great if you want a quick bite that actually tastes great.