A beguiling historic town near Ostuni, Ceglie Messapica is often overlooked by those bee-lining for the beaches. That's a shame because this is one of the oldest towns in Puglia, dating back to the 15th century BC. It also has one of the largest historic centers, which is amazingly well preserved.
Known by the Greeks as Kailia Messapi as a homage to the Cretan colony who settled here and the native tribe that inhabited this land between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Ceglie Messapica is wedged between the low Puglian hills and the plains of the Salento, about halfway between Brindisi and Taranto. It's near the popular towns of Ostunia and Martina Franca, centers of the famous trulli structures. But Ceglie Messapica has a different look altogether; it has an almost Moorish style to it. There are a plethora of palazzi and a smattering of ancient churches, along with the defining feature, the Ducal Castle that dominates the skyline. There are loads of intriguing narrow lanes to explore. Outside town, there are numerous grottoes and caves. Overall, it's an alluring place.
Come in autumn and enjoy the festival called Giovedi Settembre (September Thursday), which is a country-type party of food, drink and dance. It's purpose is to empty the barrels of the "old" wine to make room for the upcoming grape harvest and new wine. Ceglie Messapica also has a reputation as a gastronomic center, so there are some great restaurants where you can enjoy the local fare.
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Explore nearby towns
In Puglia's sunny Salento zone, the charming town of San Michele Salentino sits in reach of the region's best cities and sights.
Ostuni gleams like a beacon on its prominent hilltop overlooking the olive groves of the trulli country and the azure sea where the Salento region begins.
The white-washed city of Cisternino sits on the undulating plains of Puglia.