Ostuni (Barese: Ostune; Salentino: Stune) is a city and comune, located about 8 km from the coast, in the province of Brindisi, region of Apulia, Italy. The town has a population of about 32,000 during the winter, but can swell to 100,000 inhabitants during summer, being among the main towns attracting tourists in Apulia. It also has a British and German immigrant community and an industrial zone. The region is a producer of high quality olive oil and wine.
The region around Ostuni has been inhabited since the Stone Age. The town is reputed to have been originally established by the Messapii, a pre-classic tribe, and was nearly completely destroyed by Hannibal during the Punic Wars. Later it was re-built by the Romans.
Little is also known about the etymology of the name Ostuni. According to one theory, the name could derive from Messapic. Others think it derives from the Greek Astu néon ("new town"). It could derive from the Latin Hostium Unio, which indicates "a group of people of different origins".
Sacked after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, in 996 AD the town became part of the Norman County of Lecce. The Normans built their medieval town around the summit of the hill (229 m), with a castle (only remains can be seen) and city walls with four gates. From 1300 to 1463 it was part of the Principality of Taranto and from 1507 (together with what is now the frazione of Villanova and Grottaglie) passed to Isabella, Duchess of Bari, wife of Gian Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan. Under Isabella's rule, Ostuni thrived during the Italian Renaissance. Isabella protected humanists and people of art and letters, including bishop Giovanni Bovio. She died in 1524 and Ostuni passed as a dowry to her daughter Bona Sforza, wife-to-be of Sigismund I of Poland, King of Poland. During Bona Sforza's government, Ostuni continued to enjoy a stable rule. In 1539 she had towers built along all the shoreline as protection against anticipated attacks from Turks who controlled the Balkans. These towers (still extant, including Pozzella Tower, the Pylon, Villanova and others), were garrisoned and communicated using fiery beacons.
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