Brindisi and the Murge

This is an excerpt from the book “Apulia”.

Fasano Brindisi
Fasano

Land of Light, Land of History: various for resources and peculiar characteristics, and endowed with a natural identity and a common substratum linking up the coast and the hinterland ones, the people living on the gentle hills and those living in the towns, sweetly spread on the plain of Brindisi.

“A diversified land, where light acts as a protagonist and as an amalgam. It illuminates the precious facades of churches and old palaces with ochreous flashes, plays among the “trulli” stones and the little dry-walls, steals into the white lanes of the historical centers, suddenly sups through the olive-groves, excites the blue reflection of the sea, giving everything a particular brightness that is the truest distinctive mark of this part of Apulia.

From Brindisi, the chief town, to the white cities of the hills of Murge, to the ancient ones, built in the shadow of the castle, a territorial entity is defined through a great wealth of emergencies, regarding landscape, history, art, folklore, handcraft and traditions.

A sunny land, rich in nature, a coast of remarkable beauty, the right destination for the lovers of the sea or for the people who want to go through unpublished routes to discover caves, castles, cathedrals, rocky settlements, trulli and ancient farms.

Among lots of enchantments, the tourist will be pleased by the warm true hospitality, the comfort of a modem and varied reception, the possibility to practice the spare time activities, the liking to know ancient traditions, the attraction of a genuine and particularly good cooking.” (Dott. Antonio Vittorio – President A.P.T.)

Brindisi, the gate of East

Very old town, crucible of civilizations and theatre of events, rightly considered by history, Brindisi grew on the most Oriental port of Italy, that decided its fortune, determined its destiny and in a certain way, raised its city image.

Brindisi
Brindisi – the Port

The terminal columns of Via pia, being reflected in the waters of the inside port, from the top of their steps, watch over Virgilio’s so called last residence and tell all visitors the glorious story of regina viarum (Queen of streets) and the numerous events that made Brindisi famous in the world: here Caesar and Pompeius engaged in their epic sea-fight, here Antonio and Octavianus divided the Roman Empire.

After the fall of the Roman power, Brindisi continued to identify itself with the history of its port that, among ups and downs, reached a new popularity at the period of the Crusades, when it became the crossroad for the knights and the pilgrims, directed to the Sepulcher. In the XIX century, again thanks to its strategic position, Brindisi determined the fertile experience of the “Valigia delle Indie” (merchandise from India), that changed the town in a rich commercial emporium, linking up London and Bomaby.

Fragments of history, whose remains are still found in the city road system, following the interesting routes we suggest, to know the original system of fortification of the ancient Brindisi, to admire the dignified refinement of its buildings, the imposing residences of Knights Templars, the magnificence of its churches, and at last, to discover the authentic essence of the town, called by Federico Il “filia solis” (sun’s daughter) for the particular Mediterranean light of this extraordinary outpost towards the East.

Ceglie San Domenico Brindisi
Ceglie San Domenico

Between sea and sweet hills: the white and blue towns

The last spurs of the eastern “Murge” characterize the part of the land placed at the boundaries of the provinces of Bari and Taranto. The landscape assumes a fantastic tone: from the rocky cliffs, the thick forest of the olive trees goes slowly towards the sea, while over the highest hills stand out the compact white villages.

These are the white and blue towns: Fassano, Cisternino, Ostuni, Carovigno, Ceglie Messapica, Villa Castelli and San Michele, a galaxy of historic centers where everything is improbably clean and everywhere there is a blinding sun, a light without shades and without half tones.

Ancient towns, made of light and white, wedged and extraordinary unicum that is the “Murgia” of the “trulli” fancifully characterized by a tangle of inextricable narrow streets bristling, winding, going up and down and by a crowding of white houses and by a following of small arches and overpasses.

Fasano, languidly located in the olive groves looks towards the sea where the history and the landscape melt in an harmonic synthesis and where the ruins of the ancient Egnatia tell the origins of the town.

Behind its shoulders there is the “Selva”, a pleasant place with clear colors, relaxing atmosphere and, hidden between the secular oaks, the mastic trees and the Holm oaks there are lots of “trulli” and ancient and aristocratic villas. At 400 meters there is Cisternino with a fantastic architecture of milky houses and hazardous exterior stairs. The Valle d’Itria extends with its “trulli” at the bottom of the Lilliputian historic center, recently recognized among the most beautiful villages of Italy.

Between the green country and the blue sea there is Ostuni, the bright town with the white slaked limes. Above the building circle of walls, the historic center develops over the side of the hill, at the top of which there is the soaring tympanum of the cathedral. From the houses, hidden in a singular whiteness, thousands of small windows look over the splendid panorama and, at the horizon, the intense colors of the sea go beyond the limits of the limpid blue of the sky. In the distance the cave “Grotta della Maternita'” watches over the city and tells about a land inhabited since the prehistory.

Near there, Carovigno presses round its castle, keeping almost untouched the original feudal structure. The frame around the ancient Carbinia, is a fertile country, rich of olive trees and characterized by an extraordinary beautiful coast of great environmental value.

Ceglie Messapica gathers over the top of its hill, where the ancient “messapica” acropolis rose, appearing to the visitor with a surprising scenery.

The powerful massive structure of the castle stands out over the white houses of the people and in the silent squares, in the narrow streets animated by colored talkers spread the stimulating smells of gastronomy with irresistible attractions.

Villa Castelli, more isolated, is a breath of serenity in the luxury of the agrarian landscape. The quiet small town has its proud in the beautiful ducal palace, that today has been transformed in a comfortable town-residence, and its identity element in the “gravina” (canyon) that crosses and divides the built-up area, giving out into the air the smells of the Mediterranean underbrush that there grows in its various essences.

In this area, as in the rest of the land of Brindisi, noble handcraft-activities offer exclusive manufactures for creativity, materials and abilities: through and interlacement only guided by hands take shape the different kinds of baskets, wonderful products of an ancient art; beds, gates, lanterns are the wonderful objects of the artisanship of the wrought iron, and then, the charm of the ancient embroideries and the masterpieces of the patient art of the stonecutter.

Ceglie Messapica - Brindisi
Ceglie Messapica

Environment and history in the town of the plain of Brindisi
Where the last cliffs of the “Murgia” degrade, the sweet and sunny plain of Brindisi extends, as a part of the larger “salentino” Tableland of which it announces colors and atmospheres.

A stretch of red earth over which the green of the cultivated lands expresses itself in various shades and that has as background the sea; in fact a few kilometers farther on the colors have a new chromatic, the land smells acquire salty notes that announce the Adriatic blue, always life friend of a substantially peasant-people.
A calm landscape with few shades and essential contrasts: earth, tree, stone. Long rows of dry walls mark the luxuriant country and direct to ancient towns where the vistor will reveal the less known part of Apulia, bu intact in its identity.

Town burnt by the sunbeams where various evidences of a remote past that goes from the prehistory until now are brought to a new life. Archeological sites in the country or hidden under the medieval built-up areas tell the history of the “Messapi”, the Romans, the Greeks settled in these quarters; castles, baronial palaces, towers and bastions remind of the conquests of the Normans, the Suevians, the Angevins or to the dominations of noble local stocks and link with the plot that has marked the history of Mesagne, Francavilla Fontana, Oria, Latiano, San Pietro Vernotico, San Vito dei Normanni, Cellino San Marco, San Pancrazio Salentino, Erchie, Sandonaci, Torre Santa Susanna and Torchiarolo.

Cathedrals, sanctuaries, small rural churches look after real art treasures, testifying the faith of a people and the patronage of noble families. Suggestive underground ways reveal rocky settlements made more charming by the pictorial signs left in this area by the “basiliano” monasticism.

Between nature and history
Going between the sea and the inside, the visitor will know an environment interwoven with the colors of nature where the rural background, fruit of man’s labor, is added harmonically to the natural background without tearing or disorders.

The shapes and colors of the country transform into the most vivid shades of the sea views.

Here a multicolored-series of coast-beauties of great environmental importance await the visitor: a discontinued sequence of beaches, hidden small bays, enchanted creeks, crenellated stretches of coast and, in the locality of Pilone-lido Morelli, between the coast of Ostuni and that of Fasano there are the suggestive gold sand dunes, covered with the Mediterranean underbrush and guarded by a tower of the XVI century.

In this journey through the landscape of Brindisi, an important halting place is the area of Torre Guaceto, where nature, more than elsewhere, has given its gifts. It’s a place of very ancient settlement since the bronze age, that then was visited by the “Messapi”, the Romans and the “Aragonesi”, who, in the XVI century, built a tower to protect the coast from the pirate attacks.

The land of Brindisi gives to the nature lovers the chance to enjoy places of particular interests: the “Saline Regie”, a system of coast basins recognized as “oasis of protection of the fauna”; the “Canale Cillarese”, a potting of about 276 hectares that gives shelter to different aviculture species and where, during spring, it’s possible to observe the passing of rare species such as the crane; the humid area of “Giancola” a long watercourse coasted by plants and where, hidden in the Mediterranean underbrush, there are the foxes, badgers and hedgehogs’ lairs.

In Tuturano the wood of S. Teresa is the last tip of the most eastern European and Mediterranean place of the cork oak, this wood area declared oasis of protection.

In the land of Francavilla Fontana, on the boundaries with the towns of Ceglie Messapica and Villa Castelli, the woodland area “Bottari” stretches for 120 hectares at the bottom and on the sides of the narrow valley bearing the same name, showing Holm oaks and English oaks of remarkable dimensions. In this journey at the discovery of nature the “Selva di Fasano” is a compulsory stop, a splendid settlement at the bottom of a valley of remarkable landscaping interest where there is a faunistic-park that stretches on 120 hectares, the “zoosafari”, a suggestive corner of savannah in the land of Puglia.

Where to stay in Brindisi

There are hotels, B&Bs, villas and apartments available, check them out and make a reservation here.