Across the peninsula, 60km east of Taranto on the opposite coast, lies Brindisi, once a bridging point for crusading knights and still a town that makes its living from people passing through. The natural harbour here, the safest on the Adriatic coast, made Brindisi an ideal choice for early settlers. In Roman times, the port became the main crossing point between the eastern and western empires, and later, under the Normans, there came a steady stream of pilgrims heading east towards the Holy Land. The route is still open, and now Brindisi – primarily – is where you come if you’re heading for Greece from Italy. On arrival, you may well think that the entire town is full of shipping agents: this, when all is said and done, is its main business. But even if you’re leaving the same night you’ll almost certainly end up with time on your hands. You could just while away time in a bar or restaurant in the old town – it is pretty compact and, although it isn’t brimming with ancient monuments, has a pleasant, almost oriental flavour about it, and a few hidden gems tucked down its narrow streets.
Just 15km northwest of Brindisi is a beautiful nature reserve and protected marine area known as Torre Guaceto. You’ll need a car to get here outside summer, when there are buses from town, but it’s a lovely spot for biking through maquis and olive groves, scuba diving over small reefs of coral and sea grass or chilling out on the sandy beach.
Top image: Aerial panorama of Brindisi in the afternoon, Puglia, Italy © Sopotnicki/Shutterstock