Brindisi is in the Salento plain and on the Adriatic sea, with a natural harbour cutting into the land and whose deer-like shape determined the name of the city. The city, once the main base of the Messapian civilization, was always in conflict with neighbouring Taranto and was conquered by the Romans in 267 BC. Connected to the capital of the Empire by via Appia and via Traiana (which even today terminate with the remains of Roman columns reminding us of that period), it was an extremely important trading centre and episcopal base from the beginning of the apostolic age. Conquered by the Goths and then ruled by Byzantium, the town was destroyed by the Lombards in 674AD and its Guaceto Tower became a Saracen base. Brindisi then shared the fate of all towns in the Region and was ruled by the Byzantines, the Normans, the Swabians, the Angevins and the Aragons. Its port was conquered by the Venetian marine Republic and then came under control of the kingdom of Naples. Its period of greatest glory was reached with its annexation to the Kingdom of Italy and for five months, between 1943 and 1944, Brindisi was even the capital of Italy.
Not to be missed
Usually considered the end of the Appian Way, they represent instead the culmination of an ancient monumental area from the Roman period, (the arx romana). One of the two columns fell in 1528 and the drums, left unattended for around a hundred years, were donated in 1657 to the town of Lecce by the then mayor Carlo Stea to erect a monument in a sign of devotion to Sant’Oronzo, who is attributed with the Salento peninsula’s escape from an epidemic of the plague. They are located in the Piazzetta Colonne, which can be reached thorough a staircase dedicated to the poet Publio Virgilio Marone. The Virgilian staircase takes its name from the house where the great poet died in 19 BC. From outside you can read an inscription commemorating the event, while inside the round arches are preserved. The steps, which up to the early twentieth century were half their current lengths, were extended in 1933 to give it its current aspect.
The Cathedral square is overlooked by some of the most important monuments of Brindisi Christianity and other besides. First of all, the ancient Cathedral dedicated to St. John the Baptist (Pope Urbano II consecrated the perimeter in 1089) was completely rebuilt after an earthquake in 1743. It preserves its medieval layout, but only a few fragments of the ancient mosaic floor have survived and at the top of the right apse – on the outside –there is an inscription, probably attributable to the architect who built the church. The Cathedral also houses the sacred remains of the town’s patron saint, San Teodoro of Amasea co-patron with San Lorenzo of Brindisi, a Capuchin friar of the XVI century. The Cathedral has also witnessed not only the crusaders and pilgrims coming to Brindisi on their way to the Holy Land, but it also hosted the second marriage of the Swabian emperor Frederick II. On 9 November 1225 he married his teenage bride Yolande of Brienne. On the right side of the Church are the Episcopal Palace and the former Palazzo del Seminario designed in 1720 by Mauro Manieri. On the second balcony there are eight stone statues representing mathematics, ethics, theology, philosophy, jurisprudence, poetry and rhetoric. Here there is the Diocesan Museum “G. Tarantini”, canon from Brindisi in the 1800s.
Tempietto San Giovanni al Sepolcro
This important monument testifies the cultural and artistic relations between the town of Brindisi and the Holy land because the structure is a faithful replica of the Anastasis Rotunda, which is located inside the complex of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It has a circular shape and it contains some fresco pieces of various styles and epochs representing saints and sacred scenes which are hardly recognizable. At the centre of the monument, through a circular opening on the floor, can be seen traces of a Roman domus (house), that must have extended beyond the boundary of the monument itself.
Sixteenth century historic building, it currently houses some offices of the Municipal administration of Brindisi. The main façade is of the late Renaissance period with some elements that would preempt the Baroque style, especially evident in the decorations of the balcony balustrades. The first floor is dedicated to exhibition rooms, where the municipal authorities promote many important exhibitions. Next to it, the complex of the former Corte d’Assise preserves the original capital of the Roman columns. Very important archaeological evidence of the Roman age can be found here also, where parts of the mosaic flooring of a Roman domus (house) are visible.
The castle is located on the islet of S. Andrea, in the outer harbour and opposite the mouth of the channel Pigonati. A natural defensive bulwark, the island was evaluated and used to create a valid defensive structure where there was, until the XV century, a monastery dedicated to St. Andrea, from which the island derives its name. Its construction goes back to 1445 when Ferdinand I of Aragon commissioned his son Alfonso to build the castle. It currently consists of two main parts: one Aragonese and the other posthumous, built by Philip II of Austria in 1583, including the whole area of the Forte. It protects one whole side of the island that otherwise would have been vulnerable and at the mercy of enemies. The Castle has several names, Castello di Mare (Castle of the Sea) to distinguish it from the (Swabian) Castello di Terra (Castle of the Land) Alfonsino or Aragonese castle, which refers to its builders, and Castello Rosso ( Red Castle) because at sunset the structure has an amazing reddish hue due to the stone with which it was built.
Monument to the National Sailor
This monument was inaugurated on 4 November 1933 in the presence of King Vittorio Emanuele III, as well as Achille Starace. It was built to commemorate the Italian sailors who died in the sea during the world wars. Their names are remembered in the shrine at the base, the black marble slabs are engraved with the names of 6850 sailors from both the Navy and Merchant Navy who have died since 1860. Inside was placed the bell from the stern of the battleship Benedetto Brin which tragically sank in 1915 in the port of Brindisi. On top of the monument there are two anchors and two cannons belonging to the Austro-Hungarian ships “Tegetthoff” and “Viribus Unitis”, symbols of victories at sea in 1918. Built in the shape of a rudder, the monument is 54 meters high and it is accessible inside to reach the top where you can enjoy an impressive view of the port and the town.