Brindisi (in the local dialect: Brìnnisi; Latin: Brundisium) is a city in the region of Apulia in southern Italy, the capital of the province of Brindisi, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Historically, the city has played an important role in trade and culture, due to its strategic position on the Italian Peninsula and its natural port on the Adriatic Sea. The city remains a major port for trade with Greece and the Middle East.

Brindisi was an Ancient Greek settlement predating the Roman expansion. The Latin name Brundisium comes from the Greek Brentesion (Βρεντήσιον) meaning “deer’s head”, which refers to the shape of the natural harbor. In 267 BC (245 BC, according to other sources) it was conquered by the Romans.

After the Punic Wars Brindisi became a major center of Roman naval power and maritime trade and received the roman citizenship.

Under the Romans, Brundisium – a large city in its day with some 100,000 inhabitants – was an active port, the chief point of embarkation for Greece and the East, via Dyrrachium or Corcyra. It was connected with Rome by the Via Appia and the Via Traiana. The termination of the Via Appia, at the water’s edge, was formerly flanked by two fine pillars, of which only one remains today.

The poet Marcus Pacuvius was born here about 220 BC, and here the famous poet Virgilius died in 19 BC.

Later Brindisi was conquered by Ostrogoths, and reconquered by the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century AD. In 674 it was destroyed by the Lombards led by Romuald I of Benevento, but such a fine natural harbor meant that the city was soon rebuilt. In the 9th century, a Saracen settlement existed in the neighborhood of the city, which had been stormed in 836 by pirates.

The city recovered some of the past splendor during the period of the Crusades, when it regained the Episcopal See, saw the construction of the new cathedral and a castle with an important new arsenal, and became a privileged port for the Holy Land.

It was in the cathedral of Brindisi that the wedding of Norman Prince Roger III of Sicily took place, son of King Tancred of Sicily. Emperor Frederick II, heir to the crown of Jerusalem and Isabella of Brienne (9 November 1225) started from the port of Brindisi in 1227 for the Sixth Crusade. Like other ports in Puglia, Brindisi was ruled for a short while by Venice, but was soon reconquered by Spain.

Brindisi fell to Austrian rule in 1707–1734, and afterwards to the Bourbons.

Between September 1943 and February 1944 the city functioned as the temporary capital of Italy, and hosted King Victor Emmanuel IIIPietro Badoglio and a part of the Italian armed forces command in September 1943 after the armistice with Italy.

Foto: Domenico Summa