We didn't pick Castro as much as we picked a villa that happened to be in Castro. Call it a stroke of dumb luck because Castro went down a treat even though it was pure happenstance that we landed there. Further, the more time we spent there, the more we realized how much it has to offer.
Castro is an ancient city with a very Greek background. History suggests that Castro was originally inhabited by the Romans in 123 BC who built a temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva - the ruins can still be see in Castro. - In Virgil’s Aenied, Trojan hero Aeneas was said to escape Troy and first landed in Castro, after he spotted the temple dedicated to Minerva from the sea. Today, in Armando Perotti Piazzia, in the town's center and the site of an old Aragonese Castle, there is a small statue of the Goddess Athena, the Greek equivalent to Minerva.
Today, Castro is a bustling small town of 2,500 inhabitants (and you haven't lived until you see 2,500 people bustle). It has over a dozen restaurants, a lovely marina where you can rent a boat and tour the shoreline and a disco - somewhere in the hills - that attracts 1000’s for the weekend's outdoor rave. The disco seems out of place, on one hand, and on the other, speaks to Castro’s wide appeal.
We dined twice at Ristorante Da Amedeo, a quaint seafood restaurant lovingly looked after by Maria and her daughter, Elisabetta. The restaurant has been in their family for 70 years and we highly recommend Da Amedeo. We also had lunch at Hotel La Roccia which was excellent. It overlooks the marina and it’s a perfect place to spend an afternoon with an Aperol Spritz in one hand. One restaurant that we dined at, Grotta del Conte, was the largest disappointment of the trip and our last meal in Puglia. The setting is magnificent but the facility also seems to be a wedding factory and the restaurant appears to come in at second place when the banquet hall is full. Their worst offense was passing frozen swordfish off as fresh. That is a no-no for me. Another restaurant that we wanted to visit but didn’t was Trattoria La Pizzica. We didn’t dine there because it was always full - a good sign for those lucky diners, not so good for us. Next time.
The town’s largest attraction is Grotta Zinzulusa. It is a natural cave structure that goes deep into a seaside cliff for about 330 feet until you get to the cathedral part of the cavern which majestically opens up removing any claustrophobic fears you might have had. It can get crowded, especially during the summer months, and your best bet is to arrive early. Also, spend the few extra Euro to take the boat ride upon completion of the cavern tour. It’s a short, perhaps 15 minute, ride that will clear your mind of the stale grotto air.
Just like Otranto, Castro is a viable and enjoyable place to base your Puglia holiday. In retrospect, I miss Castro. It's a simple place with much beauty and charm but there’s still plenty to do even if you don’t want to leave the town and it is central enough for you if you'd like to explore the area.