With only two hours of sleep, I arrived in Brindisi, Italy at 6am on a night train. Brindisi, located in southeast Italy, is one the final stops on the Train Italia rail system, with Lecce being the only major city further south. Having a large, natural port on the Adriatic Sea, Brindisi has a significant history filled with accounts of Turkish pirates, highway robbery, and Byzantine battles. It was originally a Greek settlement, and it is where the famous Greek writer, Virgil, died. At 6am, few of these facts stuck in my mind, but I did discover that Brindisi serves excellent chocolate cornetti (croissants).
Interestingly, the name “Brindisi” serves as a “cheers” interjection when toasting. It means, roughly, good luck or good fortune. Travelers have passed through Brindisi for thousands of years and the port is highly active, with multiple ferry companies. Only a few companies, however, operate year round, notably Endeavor Lines and Agoudimos Lines. The most popular destinations are Greece (the Greek Island of Corfu), Croatia and Albania. Albania is less than 100 miles across the Adriatic from Brindisi. The name “Brindisi” became a cheers toast—as the story goes—because the city was the gateway between Italy and the highly-regarded universities in Greece and was synonymous with the journey made by Italy’s best scholars to these institutes of higher learning.
When I visited Brindisi, my plan was to stay a few days, then head off to Athens by way of the Greek port-city, Patras. Brindisi is particularly easy to navigate because a large main street goes straight from the train station to the port. The walk takes about fifteen minutes. If you wander off of the main street, it is easy to get turned around, however the city center is not so large that you will be lost for long.
Because Brindisi has more of an industrial or business-oriented feel, I find that the city’s main attributes are its ferries, port-side walks, and wine. Its architecture—churches, statues, and castle—are certainly worth a look, but likely won’t interest visitors for long. The Castello Syeyo or Castello Grande has walls that run through the city itself, but the majority of the old fort is used by the Italian Navy, and is off-limits to visitors. The Duomo and the Church of Santa Maria del Casale feature beautiful statues and mosaics. The Church of the Santissima Trinità or the Church of Santa Lucia contains a crypt. Likely, while walking through the area of the city that holds the Duomo you will stumble upon the city’s bay and the seaside walk along its edge. And along the seaside walk, you will come across two massive pillars that marked the southern extreme of the Appian Way.
Puglia, the region of Italy in which Brindisi is located, produces an incredible amount of wine, and the wines made in and around Brindisi are worthy of more than a taste. Luckily, there is a winery located in the town itself. The Botrugno Winery produces excellent wines—some of which utilize the Primitivo grape, which is identical to California Zinfandel on a genetic level. The winery is open for free tastings during the week. Brindisi also offers a microbrewery, Birreria Gruit, with a restaurant for beer lovers.
I stayed at the Hostel Carpe Diem, which provided more than I could have imagined in the way of friendliness and hospitality. Because I was without a car, I opted not to stay at the hostel which is located one mile from the city center. After a few days I found that Brindisi’s options had run out. I recommend visiting the city for a shorter rather than a longer period of time.
One final note: Check out the Variety Ice gelateria, centrally located at 48 Corso Garibaldi. The classic gelateria specializes in fruit gelato and is some of the best I’ve had.
Written by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com