Brindisi is the capital of the homonym Province of Brindisi. Located at the northern border of the Salento sub-region, the city and its fortune were built around its port, the most Oriental in Italy and one of the most beautiful and crowded in the Mediterranean Sea. The city is indeed better known for its port and is usually visited by travelers departing for or arriving from Greece, however it is a fascinating city rich in history and culture and it is worth a visit through its old city center.
According to a legend, it was founded by the Greek Diomede returning from the Trojan War but its origins most likely date back to 8th century BC when Messapian civilization settled in the area.
Brindisi has always played a major role trading with the East; it became the ‘City of Bronze’ (weapons and coins were produced here) and it can be considered the real Roman gateway between East and West. As most of the Puglian cities, Brindisi reached its cultural and economic peak during the Roman Empire: Romans took over the city, made it a colony which very soon became the main commercial and military port towards the East. Its port became the end point of the Appia Road and Traiana Road which Romans built to connect the city to Rome.
Romans also built temples, baths, amphitheater forum, barracks, academies and the aqueduct. With the fall of the Roman Empire (5th century), Brindisi suffered an inevitable decline and was repeatedly conquered and ruled by different civilizations. In 1869, with the opening of the Suez Canal, the port of Brindisi was chosen by the British as terminal point for the naval link up to Bombay which made the city a rich commercial emporium.
There are still few remains of the ancient glory days: the ancient defensive walls still surround the old city center along with the gates and the bastions. The Swabian Castle (also known as castle of land): it was built in 1227 by Emperor Frederick II who used it as his own residence, prison and arsenal. Since 1909 it has been used by the Navy and it is closed to the public; however it can be visited on organized tours.
The Alfonsino Castle (also known as castle of sea) which was built on the St. Andrew Island strategically placed at the entrance of the city port against the sea attacks. Characteristic is its small inner harbor the castle consists of a part called the Red Castle, due to the typical color of the stones used for its construction and one called Forte used as accommodation for the garrison.
The Monument to the Italian Sailor which was built in 1933 by Mussolini and was totally financed with concerts staged across the country; the giant monument (54m high) has the shape of a ship’s rudder and commemorates the lives of 6000 Italian sailors who lost their lives during World War I; their names are inscribed on the walls. The monument is open to public for visits.
The roman columns which were built by Romans to mark the end of the Appia road (It took over 150 years the Romans to build this road). Only one column is still present in Brindisi as one was given to the city of Lecce in 1666 in honor of the patron Saint Oronzo who had relieved Brindisi from the plague. Nearby the columns is a house where it is said that poet Virgilio lived and passed away after returning back from a journey to Greece.
The Cathedral located in the middle of the historical city center it was constructed in 12th century and rebuilt in 1743 after the earthquake. Here is where the Swabian Emperor Frederick II married Isabella of Brienne in 1225.
During the period of the Crusades the port became the crossroad for crusaders going to the Holy Land. Many buildings and residences were built to accommodate knights and the pilgrims, directed to the Sepulcher. The Porta dei Cavalieri Templari is today the only remain of the of Knights Templar’s imposing residence.
The Archaeological Museum is worth a visit, it holds thousands of Roman and Greek remains such as coins and sculpture; flagship of the museum is the Punta del Serrone bronzes, a collection of more than 3000 bronzes that have been recovered in the sea water just off the harbor.
The city has also a picturesque promenade: walking along this street you can enjoy the public gardens of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II and the monument dedicated to the poet Virgilio.
Photo Credits Per Sempre Brindisi