Our first official stop on our family Italy tour was Otranto, Italy. When Scott was planning our itinerary, he read about SO many different parts of Italy because one might say he’s obsessed with the topic. He wisely knew that after a couple of days of travel, we would need a low-key town where we could just enjoy the beaches and chill, as he noted in the Italianary he created. (Sorry ladies, this funny guy is taken.)
Unfortunately, our stay was cut short by one night due to the whole Heathrow missed flight situation. But we had two full days to enjoy the amazing town.
As we got closer to the trip, Scott started to get a little nervous that Otranto might be unsuccessful. There wasn’t nearly as much information on the little town as there is about other coastal destinations. But once we arrived, we knew it was the perfect spot.
Though the town is definitely touristy, it feels much more like local Italian tourism than the oversized crowds you’ll find in Positano or other beachside towns.
It also didn’t hurt that we had this incredible view from the balcony in our apartment.
Google Translate to the Rescue
The man who greeted us and let us into the apartment was named Antonio. He didn’t speak a word of English (which was fine, of course, considering we’re in Italy for cryin’ out loud!), but he was very handy with Google Translate. Antonio spoke into it and I would read the English translation on his phone, and THEN respond back so the phone to translate it for him. It was pretty amazing, and he also had the stereotyped Italian gestures down PAT. With a shrug of his shoulders and his palms raised upward toward the ceiling, Antonio quickly charmed his way into our memories.
The translation bit was fun, but when it came to the broken window above the patio door, I wish we could have communicated more directly. He showed us how to open it, and in doing so, a little chunk fell off the latching mechanism.
Antonio spoke into his phone to translate to me that the window was broken (yeah, we saw that…) and to be very careful because it was not reliable.
The next day, while Annie slept in until noon (can anyone say jet lag?), the wind started to blow like crazy. Even though Antonio had warned me, I still stood in the doorway of the patio like a fool.
So when the window blew off its latch and slammed into the door underneath, it scared the pants off of me. Fortunately, it didn’t hit me and no glass broke. It just hung open, creating a giant gaping hole twelve feet overhead and allowing all the Otranto sea air to blow right in.
Antonio couldn’t come until that evening, and the window was blocking the door to the patio. The balcony was the best feature of the apartment, so Scott jerry-rigged the window with some wire, nails, and a super tall ladder. I’m very glad I married a handy guy.
That evening, Antonio came over to see the situation. He seemed pretty impressed with Scott’s fix and just added a little more support. It was definitely a crude contraption but it did the job and allowed us to continue using the patio over the weekend, while no one was available to fix the window. We bid Antionio goodbye and thanked him for his help.
The Beaches in Otranto, Italy
Remember, BEACHES AND CHILL was the main goal for Otranto. So we put on our suits, grabbed a few towels, and left for the beach on both afternoons.
Before we left home, I’d seen pictures of a pretty little channel in the town and I really wanted to take a dip in it — mainly, to say I did. It was incredibly close to our apartment, but barely anyone seemed to be swimming there. Everyone else was on the sandy beaches.
My old self would have continued thinking, “Maybe there’s a reason no one is in this water — I probably shouldn’t either,” but instead, I put on my suit, made the family wait for me, and took a dip! I’m so glad I did because it was a nice spot — plus, I did something I had almost talked myself out of simply for fear of doing the wrong thing. Hoo boy, do we get in our own way sometimes, right?
There are also sections of the beach where you could rent umbrellas, beach chairs, and towels. We weren’t really aware of this yet because we were Southern Italy newbs, so we just parked ourselves on the same beach but with the mismatchy gear we’d brought from Antionio’s apartment.
Coming from the Pacific Northwest, a swim in salt water usually means high-pitched screeching about how cold the water is — but the Mediterranean was refreshing and a nice cool temperature.
We also had our first gelato of the trip, from a place called Gelateria Cavour and I highly recommend it if you ever go to Otranto. Annie discovered her favorite flavor — Fior di Latte, which is basically sweet cream. She has gotten it many times since! Yum.
We loved Otranto and were sad to leave, but it definitely helped that we had so many more amazing places to go.
Next Stop: The magical city of Matera, Italy — very possibly one of the major highlights of our trip.
This is part of a series about our family travels this summer through Italy — and beyond. You can start from the beginning of the blog series here or follow along on Instagram.