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Greek pot in the museum at Brindisi


Duomo in Brindisi


Swabian Castle in Brindisi
built by Frederick II in the 13th century

Welcome to Brindisi
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 91,664 (2001)
Official site: Brindisi
Wikipedia:  Brindisi
Map: Mapquest

Legend has it that Brindisi was founded by the legendary Greek hero Diomedes, but, in fact, the city has more prosaic origins.  The Adriatic harbour of Brindisi, now a busy ferry and fishing port, has two inlets, on the east, the Seno di Levante, and on the west, the Seno di Ponente.  Although its earliest inhabitants appear to have been Illyrians in the 8th century BC, the city's name seems to have been derived from a Massapi word, "Brunda", their word for the head of a deer, reflecting the antler-head shape of the port.  The surrounding area is agriculturally fertile, adding to city's importance, now as in its earliest days.

Not much is known of Brindisi's earliest days except that it had belligerent relations with Taranto and friendly relations with Thurii.  The Romans conquered the city in the 3rd century BC (some say in 267, some say in 245) and named it Brindisium.  But, even in Roman times, Brindisi's fortunes oscillated wildly through the ups and downs of war and peace because of its role as a strategic asset; it was the principal port for movement to and from Greece and the Levant and it  was on two major roads connecting it with Rome (the Via Traiano through Benevento and the Via Appia).

The city, whose population swelled to over 100,000, had been made a Roman "municipium" after the Social War (War with the allies or "Socii") in 91 BC, and shortly after, having remained loyal to Rome, it was declared a "free port" by the Emperor Sulla.  But, Brindisi  opposed the ascension of Julius Caesar, and found itself at the receiving end of his legions' weapons in 49 BC, and then again in 42 and 40 BC. 

The Middle Ages proved eventful for the City.  After the fall of Rome, Brindisi was conquered by the Ostrogoths, re-conquered by the Byzantines (6th century AD), then, in 674 AD, raised to the ground by the Lombards under Romuald I, whose seat of power was in Benevento.  After a succession of devastating  raids by piratical Saracens, the Byzantines retook Brindisi and held it until the Normans established their supremacy in 1070 AD and made it part of the Kingdom of Sicily which they ruled from their Court in Palermo.  During the Crusades, the port of Brindisi was a major point of embarcation and return for armies going to and from the Crusades.

Later, the Venetians took the city by arms, but in time, they were displaced by the Arogonese (Spanish), who had conquered the Kingdom of Sicily from the Normans.  The Austrians took the city and ruled between 1707 and 1734 AD, but it fell to the Bourbons later.

Ultimately, in 1860, the entire south of Italy, Puglia included, was incorporated into the new country of Italy.  Brindisi's importance as a port increased with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.  The city was an important naval station during WW1    and during WW2, with Rome under attack,  Brinidisi served as the temporary capital of Italy (1943-1944).

Its complicated, multi-layered past notwithstanding, there are not many ancient buildings or monuments left standing in Brindisi today, although there are a number of antiquities from times past on display in local civic and church museums.  Two major exceptions are a Roman column with an ornate capital which, with another column since removed to Taranto, marked the terminus of the Via Appia, and the impressive Swabian Castle built by Frederick II in the 13th century that overlooks the Seno di Ponente.  Towers and other defences were added to by the Aragonese.  The castle has served military and penal purposes, but it was also the home of King Vittorio Emanuele III during the 2nd World War when Brindisi served as the Italian capital.

Brindisi's cathedral - duomo - with its simple Romanesque facade dating from the 12th century - is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist.  Most of the cathedral - not its facade - was rebuilt during the 18th century and features a few Baroque stylings.  The interior houses relics of Brindisi's patron saint, St. Theodor and a 16th century wooden choir.  The mosaic floor is similar to that in the cathedral at Otranto, suggesting it was done by the same artisans.

Today Brindisi is a large, busy fishing and ferry port, boasting a significant amount of industrial activity, particularly petrochemicals, plastics and food products.  For the casual tourist, the city's street layout is confusing, making the discovery of its ancient charms difficult.  Brindisi is also a city that requires the visitor to remain vigilant.  Pickpockets and petty thieves abound, and even legitimate operators like taxi drivers do not hesitate to take advantage of the unwary.  If, for instance you want to go from the train station to the port to catch a ferry, a distance of less than 2 kilometers, ask the driver to agree to the fare first, otherwise you might be taken by surprise with a demand for 50 Euros or more.  The best solution is to take the city bus.

If you are an avid sleuth of history, architecture or religious buildings and monuments, Brindisi may frustrate you but it won't disappoint. And, the city compensates for its deficiencies with a number of very good restaurants serving up good Pugliese food and a pleasing array of good shops and boutiques.  All in all, that Brindisi is definitely worth paying a visit if you are in the neighborhood.

Added by Vian Andrews on August 6th, 2006

Puglia Region

4038′N 1756′E

 

Distances

Lecce - 38km
Taranto - 72 km;  Bari - 115 km; Foggia - 245 km; Pescara - 424 km

Directory


Brindisi Coat of Arms


Roman Column (19 meters) marking the end of the Appian Way in Brindisi

 

The poet Pacuvius was born in Brindisi  about 220 BC, and Vergil, an even more important poet, died here in 19 BC.

 
The Papola-Casale Airport, located about 6 km outside the city's center.
 
Lest one think that war was the only source of mayhem in Brindisi (and the rest of Puglia) during the Middle Ages, note that plague decimated the population in 1348 AD and a deadly earthquake struck in 1456 AD.