Ostuni, Apulia


In a region renowned for its whitewashed towns, Ostuni "La Citta` Bianca" gleams brightest of all. "The White City" is a low spiral of brilliantly white houses atop a hill surrounded by terraced vineyards, its old center a concentric maze of bleached alleys, outdoor stairwells, and blindingly white houses, interrupted by the occasional roccoco door portal set into a wall.

The White City's maze of alleys that are far too narrow for even Italy's miniscule cars. The edges and corners of Ostuni's buildings have been softened and rounded by so many centuries worth of whitewash layers that parts of the town look sculpted from meringue. Some streets are so steep they become outdoor staircases, creating gaps between the buildings that reveal peek-a-boo views over the terraced vineyards and olive groves ringing this hilltop city and out to the Adriatic Sea less than three miles away.

Tonight was a rather strange evening in this town as regards its outdoor summer life, one that oddly mixed the religious and the secular, the holy and the profane, quite literally good and evil. After I watched them set up a stage on the main piazza for a nighttime fashion show, I noticed masses of torches descending from an uphill street. Literally hundreds, if not over a thousand, tonwsfolk then filed past the main piazza and its makeshift catwalk, and while the fashion show techs tested colored lights and the sound system, the locals young and old alike sang hymns and marched with their candles-on-a-stick right past, seemingly oblivious. The rear of the procession was brought up by a priest with a microphone and six men in white robes trimmed with red who bore on their shoulders a bier supporting a statue of the Madonna. So where's the evil, you ask? Tonight's 'movie under the stars' at the local theater is the Keanu Reeves/Al Pacino film "The Devil's Advocate." That and the fact that I am writing this e-mail while sitting in a pub/pizzeria called "The 7 Deadly Sins." (when my room's too hot to write in, I look for an air-conditioned spot to crack open the old portable computer and write some restaurant reviews).

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Apulia tourism info: www.viaggiareinpuglia.it

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