City Snapshot: Brindisi, Puglia
Brindisi isn’t on many people’s bucket list. Most people touch down at the airport and hotfoot to more picturesque, tourist friendly spots in Puglia - to trendy Salento or to the white-washed conical roofs of Alberobello.
Nobody is very good at selling Brindisi either, which is why it has essentially become a well-worn motorway to other places.
It’s not everybody's cup of tea, but it’s certainly authentic. If you’re hoping to practice lots of Italian, to eat delicious food, and to find an excellent base for visiting other Pugliese places, Brindisi is for you.
1. The Bars
Brindisi does bars well. They are also basically the only places which will stay open all day (a common affliction in Puglia).
Bar Betty: Probably the most expensive bar on the harbour (you pay for the view) but also the most iconic. Don’t be put off by the plush interior, it serves the best gelato in the city, and it’s the go-to destination for all Brindisians taking an evening passeagata, regardless of whether they’re 13 or 80.
Cafe Bernardi: A personal favourite of mine, if only because it is so instagrammable. Drinks are reasonably priced and inside sits one of the prettiest courtyards I’ve ever seen. Fantastic for all things chocolate and an excellent aperitivi spread.
Corso Roma: This is where the elderly men of Brindisi hang out. These bars are small in size, with a few tables outside and, occasionally, a few stools inside. Drop in for an espresso and cornetto or pasticciotto. Don't be put off by the elderly, they’re a friendly bunch.
2. The Restaurants
The Brindisians are masters of cucina casa. Fresh seafood, fruit, veg, legumes and lots of exceptional cheeses (think big, beautiful burrata) are staples here; expect to eat very well and very cheaply.
Locanda degli Schiavoni: A small, family run restaurant which will inevitably have a queue running out of the front door and around the back street by about 9pm. Serving up Pugliese classics including Pesce Spada (Sword Fish), Orchiette and lots of Cozze (mussels) with a €2 1/2 carafe of lovely house wine to wash it all down with. A firm favourite amongst the natives. There isn’t an English menu but staff are friendly and keen to help.
Locanda della Porta: Also specialising in cucina casa, this is the place to come for excellent antipasti - melanzane, mozzarella, mussels - an alliterative dream.
Iaccato: A little more upmarket, located at the end of the harbour in a large glass box, with some lovely harbour front tables on the terrace. This is a real pescatoria - try the daily special and the antipasti crudo, it’s so fresh you won't even notice the mussels are served raw.
3. The Sights
A visit to the tourist office on the harbour front will leave you more baffled than when you entered. Patrolled by two elderly types who will point you in the direction of many pamphlets which suggest you visit other places in Puglia. Florence it isn't but there are still plenty of pretty sights to visit.
The Harbour Front: A long white open promenade lined with palm trees and old baroque architecture. Arrive in the afternoon and you’ll have the whole place to yourself. This is a popular passeagata route for Brindisians in the evening; come 8pm the strip will be brimming with families, amorous couples and elderly women, all spruced up for a passeagata and an gelato.
Collone Terminali della Via Appia: Two imposing imperial columns marking the end of the Appian Way from Rome.
Pontigicia Basilica Cathedrale: A big beautiful cathedral, located behind the Roman Columns, in a quiet square. Take a detour around the backstreets to admire some of the oldest architecture in the City.
4. The Beaches
Whilst Brindisi is located on the coast, you’ll need to drive around ten minutes northwards to get to the beach, and at least ten minutes further to get to the best of them. They're worth it once you get there, though.
Arca di Noa: One of the best and largest free beaches on this stretch of the coast. It's worth noting that Italians love the beach, particularly a free one, so you won't be alone.
Torre Guacetta: For something a little quieter and a little more rugged, head past Appani to this Natural Marine Reserve. A beautiful stretch of sand and a hotspot for snorkelers. I've been told of sea turtles and flamingos here too.
Guna Beach - The definition of ‘vibey’. It’ll set you back ten euros for a sunlounger, but this beach club is probably the best amongst all the Lidos along this part of the coast, with a bar and private beach to ensure maximum sun fun.
5. The Markets
Mercato Rionale Sant'Elia: Makes it worth paying the additional charge to Ryanair to put a bag in hold. Everything from second-hand clothes to homeware to phone accessories. You'll have to do a fair bit of rifling and bartering, but you'll come back return laden with shopping bags.
Mercato Rionale Commenda: Large undercover fruit and veg market selling fresh produce daily. Very thrilling experience for those who get excited about seasonal veg (me).
Mercato Piazza Vittoria: A small outdoor market selling seasonal fruit, veg and (somewhat bizarely) hardware. Best place to pick up cozze a la pane (snails with white faces)
Headed to Puglia? Why not take a quick look at my seven tips before you get here?
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