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Brindisi - Italy's gateway to the east

AN INTRODUCTION TO BRINDISI, PUGLIA

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For most people visiting Puglia, Brindisi is merely a point of arrival and departure, thanks to its being home to one of Puglia’s two main airports. But if you're staying in the area, or are looking for somewhere to spend a few hours before catching your flight home, Brindisi is worth a visit.

Like many of the other towns on Puglia’s Adriatic coast, Brindisi’s history is inextricably linked to the lands that lie across the sea to the east. 

Thanks to its large natural harbour, the city has always been, and continues to be, one of Italy’s most important ports.

Today it is the major departure point for car ferries loaded with tourists heading to Greece and the Balkans, but during Greek and in particular Roman times and in the Middle Ages, it served other purposes.

The Romans, who took the town from the Greeks in the middle of the 3rd century BC, set about maximising the town’s potential. Two columns (one of which still remains above the port) were erected to identify Brundisium as the end of the Appian Way, a road which had been built to facilitate the movement of goods and troops between the centre of the empire and the east Mediterranean. With the constant comings and goings of legions, the navy and trade ships, Brindisi quickly grew in size and soon had a population of some 100,000.

With the fall of the Roman Empire, Brindisi passed into the hands of the Ostrogoths, the Byzantines, the Lombards, the Saracens and then the Normans, who arrived in 1070. It was during their rule that the Crusades began leaving from Brindisi, and in 1228 Emperor Frederick II Stupor Mundi chose the town as his port of departure for the successful Sixth Crusade, during which he reclaimed Jerusalem for the Christian world.

Badly bombed during the Second World War, Brindisi spent many years rebuilding, and, especially in the last decade, the city has undergone a significant makeover. The centre is home to wide, palm-tree lined boulevards, a revamped seafront promenade with restaurants and bars, a great many winding streets, some fine Baroque churches (including the cathedral) and, last but not least, the mightily impressive fortress built by… yes, you guessed it… Emperor Frederick II!

So, if you have a few hours to spare, why not make a visit to Italy's gateway to the east?

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