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The Roman Column rising over Brindisi’s harbour, which symbolizes the prominent role this Adriatic port played as a trade and transportation center in ancient times.
Over the centuries Brindisi has been through it all—splendor, invasions, victories, and aerial bombings in two World Wars. These days the Centro Storico appears as a quiet tangle of vias, where you can admire churches such as the Cathedral with its baroque interior, Saint Benedict’s with its medieval cloister, and the Romanesque 11th century St. John Sepulchre where Gandhi attended a conference in its unique horseshoe shaped chapel. Don’t miss a visit to the Museo Archeologico Provinciale that has an impressive collection of bronze Roman statues.
Brindisi’s pedestrian-only shopping street, (Corso Umberto that becomes Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi), is flanked by such glamorous boutiques as Luisa Spagnoli, Max Mara, Diego Abbigliamento, and Taitu for leather treasures. The first Sunday of every month, a part of this stretch becomes a bustling Antique Market, with enchanting displays of everything from second hand clothes, to linens, and furniture.
It’s fun in the mornings to wander around the lively Piazza Mercato, where baskets overflowing with fresh vegetables give you a sneak preview of what you’ll be served at Brindisi’s restaurants. For culinary souvenirs, check out Casa del Parmigiano’s excellent selection of cheeses.
Brindisi’s menus feature wonderful fresh fish, served in a variety of ways—from sushi, to steamed shellfish appetizers, in delicious soups, and pasta sauces. Pantagruele and L’Antica Marina are great for traditional fish dishes, while Hara Restaurant and Sushi Bar puts a contemporary spin on the classics.
For generous antipasti offerings and excellent homemade pasta, locals flock to Trattoria da Giuseppe and Trattoria da Vito, while the favorite pizzeria is the Neapolitan Sciue Sciue.
The counter of Pizzeria Romanelli is always a-buzz, serving scrumptious freshly fried fritelle (cheese stuffed turnovers). And Caffe Vertigo, on the waterfront, is a delicious spot for gelato.
There are lots of places to enjoy drinks in atmospheric settings, such as Vino e Dintorni, a rustic wine bar in an old stone building with vaulted ceilings. Or head to Betty’s Caffe at the waterfront for cocktails, apertivo, gelato, and pastries. Birra Gruit, in a former monastery, is choice for artiginale beer and pizza.
There’s a wonderful apertivo scene at C’est La Vie wine bar, and DJs get everybody dancing there on weekends. Also, L’Aragonese Pub, off the beaten track on the waterfront, is a cozy spot for cheap beer with the locals.
Brindisi’s best accommodations are B&Bs—gems include Zenthe, in a renovated 18th century building decorated in chic Zen style, and the more traditional Malvasia, where rooms come with balconies and gracious hosts. Hotels in town are lackluster. Best are the low-priced 4-stars, Palazzo Virgilio and Hotel Colonna, both located near the train station, that are modern, newly renovated, and well suited to business travelers. The Hostel Carpe Diem is decent, but inconveniently located, between the airport and harbor, though it does offer free shuttle service.
For luxury and comfort, stay out of town at the Villa Magnolia (10 minutes from Brindisi Airport), an eco-friendly 18th century renovated mansion, surrounded by olive and almond groves, tastefully decorated with antiques.
Join in with the locals for the delightful evening passeggiata (stroll) on Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi to the Viale Regina Margherita=seaside promenade. Or if you’re up for stair climbing, take a short ferry ride to the Italian Sailor Monument, a tower that commemorates the Italians who died in the WWI and II, where panoramic views reward you at the top.
A short drive (18km) out of town in your Brindisi Airport car rental takes you to the Torre Guaceto Marine Reserve, where you can hike amidst dunes and marshes and enjoy bird watching, either on your own or with a guided group tour.
Head to the magical hilltop town of Ostuni, where you can wander the dreamy vias of the White City, and lunch at Osteria del Tempo Perso, famous for its divine pastas.
Or explore Lecce, a city of baroque splendor, where you must reserve for dinner at the rustic Cucina Casareccia, that’s praised as one of Italy’s best eateries.
Alternatively, take a luxurious break in Savelletri di Fasano, where the 5-star Masseria Torre Coccaro (a converted farm estate) awaits. Check in for a night or two to enjoy the spa, wonderful restaurant, pool, and golf course. You may even hop on one of their bikes and ride it through wonderous olive groves to a private beach.
The Nuovo Teatro Verdi, which opened in 2006, is a unique theatre that’s built on stilts over Roman ruins, where opera, dance, and classical music concerts are presented.
Lots of bars have live music nights, especially in the summer, showcasing jazz, folk, and rock. Favorites include the Bohemian inspired La Cantina Ti L’Artisti, Big Ben (hosts live bands on Thursday), Gambrinus Music Pub, Caffellata (beloved for its Happy Hour/ apertivo), and Susumaniello, an enchanting wine bar/ristorante.
Getting lost in the historic center, which can easily happen if you get off the main drag. A good way to orient yourself is to know that if you’re heading downhill you’re walking toward the seafront.