Some years ago we met an American who lives and works in Brindisi, he often complained that we don’t appreciate Brindisi and all it has to offer. So we asked him to give us the benefit of his experiences of Brindisi.
So you’ve read the usual tourism sites for Brindisi and you’ve basically learned nothing about the town. They only cover a few fragments of history and not much else. I’ll try to give you some insights based on my experience in the town.
In the 1990s the town of Brindisi started to improve by leaps and bounds. Sure its main function is still just a place to transfer from the trains to the ferries and go to Greece but these days it has much more for the tourist. That’s because only in the last 15 to 20 years has the town really even tried to accommodate tourists so guidebooks haven’t been updated, yet. Guidebook writers don’t come to Brindisi that often!
For example, the trip that 99% of the people take from the train station to the ferries is almost all pedestrian now (Corso Umberto and Corso Garibaldi). This has to be one of the best things city planners did in the 1990s. From Piazza Carioli all the way to the sea the road is pedestrian-only. You’ll come to know Piazza Carioli affectionately as “that round piazza with the goofy anchor-shaped fountain”. Getting around Brindisi can be confusing but remember that the town slopes towards the sea so if you’re lost then the best thing to do is head downhill.
Taking away the cars has made the road very popular with the locals and the famous Italian evening “passeggiata”. Everyone walks along the sea and then up and down Corso Garibaldi and Corso Umberto. This in turn led to clothing shops moving into what was once only seedy ticket offices and rather sleazy cheap food for travellers. In 2005 Piazza Vittoria, which branches off where Garibaldi and Umberto meet, was also redone and closed off, so now cars can no longer cruise around with radios blaring and being a menace. You can enjoy the 16th-century marble basin that was turned into a fountain by Pietro Luigi de Torres. The Fontana de Torres was made to make water available inside the town walls which was actually something new for the time.
There is a nice place for coffee at the Central Bar at the very end of the uphill side of the piazza but it doesn’t have much outdoor seating. If you keep heading uphill from the Piazza Vittoria and the Central Bar you will come to another café, Rosso e Nero, on the left that has great seating outside with a view of Theater Verdi. This place seems to be a hang out for the Brindisi yuppie crowd. I always seem to see a Porsche or sparkling clean giant SUV parked illegally nearby. So it’s fun to have a coffee or aperitivo there and wonder if any of the fellow customers are as important as they look.
The Theater Verdi was reopened in December 2006, you can check out its schedule at nuovoteatroverdi.com. The crazy steel-clad structure of the Verdi is not pleasing to my eye but it serves a purpose. You see the theatre couldn’t be made of stone because that would be too heavy. If you look closely you see that the whole theatre is built on stilts over ancient Roman ruins. I like what the town was thinking. They didn’t want to disturb the ruins and they can still have a new theatre in town. The theatre even has openings in the floor so while in you’re the lobby waiting for the show to start you can look down into the ruins. They also made an elevated walkway that is under the theatre and over the ruins. You can observe the ruins through the fence on any given day but it would be nice to know what you’re looking at.
Behind the theatre, there is a good Enoteca to buy local wine. It’s the better more expensive stuff. I’m not a true wine sommelier so only go there when I’m trying to impress. If you have a particular taste or you just want to improve your knowledge of local wine then I recommend a visit. There are at least two other Enoteca’s in town that are a pleasure to shop in. One is Fedele, which probably the easiest to find. It’s on Via Porta Lecce and not far from where the road branches off of Corsa Roma. The hardest to find is Delizie. It’s on a street parallel to Corso Garibaldi. Again go to the uphill side of Piazza Vittoria to the Central Bar. If you look downhill towards the sea you should see a building where the sidewalk is covered. The Enoteca is located in that covered area. Don’t be fooled but how small it looks. You have to go downstairs to find the good stuff.
Other things not to miss in Brindisi.
The farmer’s market is every day except Sunday from early to about noon. From Piazza Vittoria, it’s just the opposite direction of the Enoteca. Go uphill and up Via Carmine, which is a black stone road. The farmer’s market is good in the morning because it has all of your fresh food needs, not just fruits and vegetables. There are also numerous bakeries and butcher shop’s around the piazza or on the roads nearby. And it may not look like it, but there is also a fish market in the building on the road that leads into the piazza. Follow the smell! My recommendation on the farmer’s market is to make one trip around the piazza and get a quick overview of what they have. Pay attention to any vendors that have only one or two things for sale. They usually have the fruit and vegetables that are really “in season”. They usually have a good deal because they grow what’s easiest to grow for that time of year.
The Piazza Mercato is not good just in the morning. In the evening they have two good restaurants and one good bar. The bar changes names every few months so there is no point in naming it here. The Escosazio is a pure meat lover’s restaurant, no seafood and no vegetables. You select the meats you want from a butcher’s display case and then wait for it with your red wine (no white wine and they have Coke but who drinks Coke with meat like this!). They can cook up the meat for takeaway too if you like. It is a very small place but in the summer they fill up a good part of the piazza.
The castles in Brindisi, unfortunately, are all still in use by the Italian Military and off-limits to us.
Other food places according to me:
Windsurf on Viale Regina Margherita – good food not the best but very tourist-friendly because of the location. They even have menus in English. They are also pretty cheap. Tell the owner (the old guy in the striped polo shirt, trust me he always has striped polo shirt on) that “Zidane sent you”.
Antica Osteria la Sciabica Via Thaon De Revel Paolo, 29/33, – good pizza and seafood, nice warm romantic indoor atmosphere. Along the seafront, way over as close to the castle as non-military people can get. Trust me it’s there.
Enoteca Ristorante Penny via S. Francesco, 5 – best seafood even raw things like sea urchins (when in season) – tucked into the corner of the piazza on the sea at end of Corso Garibaldi. Look for the Banca d’ Italia building and it’s to the right with your back to the sea.
La Locanda ti li Spilusi – Best local food and antipasti- Outside of Brindisi on the road from Brindisi to San Vito take a left after San Marco Naval base and it’s on the right. I don’t know why a Naval Base is that far inland… If you don’t want to go into Brindisi and you want to eat like a local this is THE place.
Snack food/Fast food Italian style:
Romanelli Via Santa Lucia, 3 – Say “Romanelli” and any Brindisino will point you in the right direction. Its deep fried calzoni are legendary and only 1.50! The location is very central but tricky. If you are where Corso Garibaldi and Corso Umberto and Piazza Vittoria meet go in the direction away from Piazza Vittoria. It’s on the next street over, parallel to Garibaldi. Look for people carrying the golden-brown fried dough treat or the line out the door. Don’t worry the line moves fast as everyone is getting the same thing. The only Italian you need is “fritte” and hold up an appropriate number of fingers.
Bar Betty is the best place to people watch but the drink prices are a little high. The location is nice and has some of the best icecream in Brindisi. Often has a “band”, that is two people (one on guitar and one on keyboard) in the summer.
Vertigo 88, Via Provinciale S. Vito, 86- for drinks but really it’s the best gelato in Brindisi. It also has a “band” like Bar Betty for music in the summer outside.
Argonese Via Thaon De Revel Paolo, 72100 Brindisi BR. Good outdoor seating in the summer. You’ll feel like a local when you find this place.
Caffè Continental Corso Umberto I, 69- sentimental favourite because I know the people there. All the caffè on Umberto are good. In the summer try an esspressina fredda, which is like an ice cream cappuccino. Perfect in the summer heat.