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Otranto, also called the "Door to the East", is located on the southern part of the Adriatic Sea, on the easternmost point of Italy, facing out upon the straits which have taken its name, the Channel of Otranto. The ancient capital of the Otranto territory, which encompasses the present day provinces of Lecce, Brindisi and Taranto, it preserves even today the characteristic appearance of the ancient commercial cities which overlooked the Mediterranean Sea. Evidence of the various peoples who passed through here in transit has lent this ancient fishing village a special charm. Considered the jewel of the Mediterranean, in the year 1480, Otranto was besieged by the Turks who carried out a massacre, beheading 800 inhabitants.
The medieval nucleus of Otranto may be reached through the Porta Alfonsina, a gate built at the same time as the castle, in 1485, by Ferdinando of Aragona. The jewel of the city is its Cathedral, dedicated to Our Lady of the Annunciation, which contains the bones of martyrs. Its mosaic floor, rich in various scenes, is the work of Pantaleone and still bears the sign of the Turks passage into the church on horseback. Climbing the hill named "Colle della Minerva", located just outside the city walls, one reaches a small chapel erected on the site where the martyrs were beheaded, and, finally, there is the Church of S. Francesco di Pola, constructed by Alfonso of Aragona in commemoration of the slaughter. The whole of Otranto's historical centre is full of corners opening up upon small squares and interesting little niches, in an intersection of lanes and shops always brimming with life.
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