Castello di Otranto

Castello Aragonese - Castello Aragonese di Otranto

Useful Information

Location: Piazza Castello, 73028 Otranto LE.
(40.144506, 18.492404)
Open: All year daily 10-13, 15-18.
Fee: Adults EUR 3, Children (-18) EUR 2, Residents EUR 2.
Groups (12+): Adults EUR 2.
Classification: SubterraneaSubterranea Museum
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: A=10 m asl.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Horace Walpole (1764): The Castle of Otranto,
Carmine Mitello, Giovanna Muscatello (2020): La cinta muraria ed i fossati della città di Otranto. Il rilievo tridimensionale integrato per la conoscenza delle evidenze architettoniche ed archeologiche, (The walls and moats of the city of Otranto. An integrated three-dimensional survey for studying the architectural and archaeological evidence) Defensive Architecture of the Mediterranean / Vol X / Navarro Palazón, García-Pulido (eds.). online DOI
Address: Castello Aragonese, Piazza Castello, 73028 Otranto LE, Tel: +39-0836-212745. E-mail:
City of Otranto Province of Lecce, Piazza De Gasperi n°1, 73028 Otranto (Le), Tel: +39-0836-871301. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1480 destroyed by the Turkish Horde.
1485-1498 castle rebuilt by Alfonso of Arago.


The Castello di Otranto (Otranto Castle), locally called Castello Aragonese (Aragonese Castle) was built in the late 15th century. The former castle was destroyed in 1480 by the Turkish Horde, it was rebuilt by the Duke of Calabria, Alfonso of Arago. Hence, it is named Castello Aragonese. It has the form of a trapezium with a round tower at all four corners. The one facing the sea had a more protruding position. There were continuous modifications throughout the 16th century, caused by the continuous evolution and improvement of firearms. The tower facing the sea was transformed into a bastion of triangular shape.

The castle also has a series of underground tunnels, galleries and small rooms, which were erected with the castle. But unlike the above ground parts they were only slightly modified. There are circular rooms covered by hemispherical domes in carparo stone, in which bombards and cannons were placed.

On their way to Brindisi, the Turkish fleet led by Mechmèt Pasha on behalf of Sultan Mohammed II, was stranded beforehand because of strong winds. The Turks landed in Otranto and assaulted the city. The Count of Conversano, Giulio Antonio Acquaviva, who lived in Sternatìa, moved without delay at the head of a small army to help his neighbouring friends. After fighting valiantly, a scimitar cut off his head, his horse returned to Sternatìa in panic, where the head finally fell to the bare earth. His ghost with the severed head riding a horse, haunts the castle especially on hot summer nights. It walks the circuit of the moat and wanders right into the dungeon.

Alfonso il Benigno, who was prince of Otranto, is mentioned in the first Gothic novel in world literature, The Castle of Otranto of 1765. It was written by the Englishman Horace Walpole (*1717-✝1797). Conrad, the favourite son of King Manfred of Swabia, met his death when the heavy helmet of the marble statue that portrayed him fell down and hit him. King Manfred of Swabia needed a heir and attempted to marry the noblewoman who was supposed to marry his son, Isabella, daughter of the Marquis of Vicenza, himself. But the ghost of Alfonso il Benigno appeared to block his way. While the sovereign was abgelenkt Isabella fled through a secret passageway which connected the manor house with the Abbey of San Nicola di Casole. So the unfortunate woman managed to escape to faraway Leuca.

“Qui giace un esempio di pudicizia e un modello di onestà, dall’aspetto di una dea (oh, quale dolore!), donna Teresia de Azvedo. Discendente di una nobilissima famiglia spagnola, venne improvvisamente rapita dalla morte il settimo giorno delle calende di marzo 1707. Il suo dilettissimo marito, don Alfonso de la Serna e Molina (proprietario regio e prefetto del Castello), pose qui questa lapide sepolcrale. Egli spera che al momento della sua morte seguirà la sua degnissima moglie, come in terra così in cielo”
"Here lies an example of modesty and a model of honesty, with the appearance of a goddess (oh, what pain!), donna Teresia de Azvedo. Descendant of a very noble Spanish family, she was suddenly taken by death on the seventh day of the calends of March 1707. Her beloved husband, Don Alfonso de la Serna e Molina (royal owner and prefect of the castle), placed this tombstone here. He hopes that at the moment of his death he will follow his most worthy wife, as on earth so in heaven."
Epitaph engraved on an 18th-century sepulchral monument in Lecce stone. Donna Teresa De Azevedo, wife of Don Francesco de la Serna and Molina, died on 23-FEB-1707.

The underground was used during the Second World War, by the fascists, and there are several inscriptions praising the Duce Mussolini. Later they were forgotten. The underground tunnels were renovated very thoroughly. They even avoided to cut canals for the electric cables into the walls, to not damage them. The result was awarded. Today it is open to the public, but not part of the normal visit, they can only be visited on special tours. The passages are partly narrow and low, and visitors are equipped with a helmet.