"Beyond the heel"
Brindisi is at the south eastern end of Italy.
It was important because of its large natural harbor, and is still today a major embarkment-point to Greece. In 245 BC or 267 BC it was conquered by the Romans. The famous Roman poet Virgil died here on September 19, 19 BC.
Later Brindisi was conquered by Ostrogoths, and reconquered by the Byzantine Empire, who ruled Brindisi until 1070 and invasion of Normans. In 836 Brindisi was burned by Saracen pirates. Later, from 1268, Brindisi was ruled by the Angevins, and then by the Aragonese, Venetia and Spain in turn, falling 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.
Brindisi enjoys a very advantageous position which has helped to make it the safest harbour in the lower reaches of the Italian Adriatic. It stands on a funnel-shaped inlet which is divided transversally into two sections - the inner and outer harbours - by the island of Sant'Andrea and by a system of embankments. Around the inner harbour stands the old town, while the newer part stretches into the hinterland along the axis formed by the Brindisi - Taranto road and railway. Brindisi has always been a key point all the way through its history; a port linking Italy, Greece and the eastern Mediterranean. Its harbours, which already served as a port for trade with theatrical masks recalls that it was at Brindisi that Marcus Pacuvius was born, in 220 B.C. He was one of the most famous of early Latin tragedians. Only a few traces of Brindisi's history in the Roman period - parts of the Forum and the Baths - have survived; they can be found in Via Casimiro and Vico Romano. In the second century B.C. Brundisium became the port and the naval base for all the wars with Macedonia, Greece and Asia Minor. It was directly linked with Rome by the Via Appia and the Via Traiana. One of the two columns which marked the end of the Via Appia still carries a splendid capital. Caesar besieged Pompey in Brindisi, and the Emperors Vespasian, Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus and Trajan all stayed here or past through. The last-named states that it was from here that he left to conquer Romania.
During the period of the Crusades, it once again became a city of major importance. The Emperor Frederick II built a great castle here, and this was later transformed by Frederick I of Aragon and extended by the Emperor Charles V. The military importance of Brindisi is further illustrated by the fortress which the Aragonese built on the island of Saint Andrea. Brindisi was greatly involved in the Crusading movement, and the Church of San Giovanni al Sepolcro is an eloquent witness to this fact, built as it was by the Templars on their way back from the Holy Land in the eleventh century. Further buildings from this period are the church of Santa Lucia which has a fine basilic crypt, and the cloister of the church of San Benedetto. Near the Cathedral is the Gateway of the Knights Templar, dating from the fourteenth century. The Church of Christ (del Cristo) has most expressive wooden carvings from the thirteenth century, and the church of Santa Maria del Casale has some important Byzantine frescos. Venice left hardly any trace of its short period of dominance, which lasted from 1496 - 1509.
During the period of Spanish rule, Brindisi suffered a number of earthquakes, one of which destroyed the Romanesque Cathedral where Frederick II had married Iolanda of Jerusalem. The cathedral was rebuilt in 1746. In the fine cathedral square stand the eighteenth century Seminary and the beautiful loggia of Balsamo, from the fifteenth century, as well as the Granatei-Nervegna Palace. Nearby are the baroque churches of Santa Teresa and San Paolo. The archaeological Museum named after Francesco Ribezzo, and the De Leo Archiepiscopal Library, granted recognition by King Ferdinand for its collection of very are works, are of special interest, as are the ancient gates of Mesagne and Lecce, the latter with coats of arms of both Angevins and Aragonese. The port was Closed because the mouth silted up, and the shores became malaria-ridden swamps. This situation lasted for many years, and population was reduced to as few as four thousand, until Andrea Pigonati provided in 1775,. during the reign of Ferdinand V of Spain, for reclamation and the reopening of the harbour. With the resumption of maritime trade with the east, Brindisi regained its position and developed considerably. From 1870 to 1914 it was the embarcation point for the "Indian Package", the main communication line between Europe and the east Mediterranean. From September 1943 to February 1944 Brindisi was the headquarters of the Badoglio government after it left Roma with King Victor-Emanuel III.
Today, shipping lines for Greece, Turkey, Israel, Egypt and West and South Africa, Australia and the Far East all dock at Brindisi. The international airport, the railway, a super- highway and fast connection linked to the motorway join Brindisi with all the principal cities-of northern Europe. As well as its activities as a port, Brindisi also plays a role in the services sector as an administrative centre and an agrarian market for the produce of the surrounding countryside (corn, oats, vegetables, grapes, citrus fruit, almonds olives and tobacco). Its industrial development is recent, and is centred on the chemical works complex linked with Montedison.