Geology and climate
The area of Otranto has different geological features: conchiferous tufa dating from Pliocene in the inland, large terraces with marked level differences and rocky cliffs of karst origin along the coastline.
The climate is rather mild throughout the year, with the lowest temperature in the month of January (on average 6°-10°) and the highest in the months of July and August (on average 25°-30°). Annual rainfall generally averages from 700 to 800 mm. Otranto is almost swept by quite strong and humid winds.
The river Idro has its source in the Carlo Magno spring (provincial road Otranto-Uggiano La Chiesa), it crosses the valley for about 3 km going past Monte Cavallo, and it flows into the sea near the public gardens. The river has an average flow of 600 lt/sec. It is one of the examples of surface hydrography in the area of Otranto, along with other surface fresh water springs, such as Fontanelle, S. Stefano, S. Andrea and Specchiulla. The aquifer is deeper, with little flow and the highest salinity in the south; less deep, with more flow and fair salty in the north.
The harbour of the little town draws a boundary line between two different kinds of coastline. The coast south of Cape of Otranto up to the small harbour of Porto Badisco features high cliffs dropping sheer to the sea and enchanting creeks, whereas the coast north of Cape of Otranto is low and sandy. The area of Otranto also boasts two basins, Laghi Alimini. They have different origins: Fontanelle wells up from a subterranean spring of fresh water; the brackish waters of Alimini Grande are fed by a canal linked to Fontanelle.
The whole area has lush vegetation. The most common species, in particular in the area of Laghi Alimini, is undoubtedly the cluster pine (Pinus pinaster). There are also the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) and the umbrella pine (Pinus pinea). In the undergrowth of the many pinewoods you can see the Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa), the thyme (Thymus capitatus) and the trilobate sage (Salvia triloba). In the area there is widespread Mediterranean maquis of thick evergreen shrubby vegetation, including lentisk, myrtle, lianes, thyme, as well as clover meadows, field bindweed, cotton thistle and orchids. There are also swamp areas where sedges grow. Plants with coloured flowers are noteworthy as well: gorses, myrtles, strawflower and the garrigue. The old sand dunes which originated in the Alimini area are now the natural habitat of rosemary, tamarisk, juniper, lentisk, myrtle and psammophylous. The endemic flora is mainly made up of some endemisms (Teucrium japygicum, Centaurea japygica, Thymus spinulosus, Crocus Thomasii, Anthemis hydruntina).
There are many other Salentino native species in the area, such as the caper, the tassel hyacinth, the squirting cucumber, the bramble, the corn poppy, the daisy, the oregano, the nettle, the shepherd's purse, the Bermuda grass, the wall racket, the water mint, the sage, the liane, the thyme. Among the evergreen species there are the wild pear, the holm-oak and the arbutus.
However, the emblem of the whole area is the olive tree, not to mention the mulberry and the fig-tree. The soil is suitable for the spontaneous growth of mushrooms, like the morel, saffron milk-cap, blood-stained milk-cap, European white egg, St. Georges mushroom, the fly agaric, panther cap, livid pinkgill, the gill fungus.
As far as quadrupedes are concerned, the fox and the hare are quite present in the area of Otranto. The weasel, the hedgehog and the stone marten are also noteworthy and sometimes you can see some specimen of badger and wildcat, too. Among the Sauria reptiles there are the lizard, the grass snake, the green lizard, the salamandre and the gecko; four-lined snake and the viper are poisonous reptiles. There are many beetle specimens as well.
The habitat of Laghi Alimini can boast different birds and water fauna specimens: sparrows, magpies, quails, woodcocks, turtle doves, thrushes, coots, pheasants, ducks, cormorants, herons, garganeys, African grey parrots, stilts, common mallard and starlings.