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For more than 2,000 years, Brindisi has been a maritime crossroad and its lifeblood has always been the trade between the Italian peninsula and the ports of the Ionian Sea. Today, ferries and cargo vessels bustle between Brindisi and Greece 24 hours a day. In ancient times this was the terminus of the "Via Appia", one of the Roman Empire’s most important highways, and the city still holds a handful of ancient remnants of Rome’s imperial apogee, along with some more recent memorials (visitors will certainly not miss the splendid Roman Column by the promenade). Unlike many others Italy's regions, Apulia (the "heel" of the "boot") remains largely under the radar of industrial tourism, which makes Brindisi (and the small towns nearby) a less travelled road, which makes up a part of its undeniable appeal. The coastline is a striking mixture of ruggedly beautiful cliffs and grottoes interspersed with a scattering of long, sandy beaches. In summer, multiple resorts are in operation, while the winter months see them patiently hibernate in an anticipation of the next summer season.
The eighteenth-century Baroque period has left its own mark on towns such as Francavilla Fontana, Lecce and Ostuni. These towns are set on sunlit hilltops that rise like islands above a rolling landscape of olive groves and vineyards - do take time to explore those stunning places, using Brindisi as a base or even spending a night or two. Brindisi itself has, of course, a wealth of architectural sites and curious spots to explore - from old forts to remains of Roman presence to the lively port promenade.
Fish and seafood are abundant in Brindisi and the whole coastal areas of Apulia, but quite a few restaurants specialise in grilled meats (the latter ones often give diners the option of choosing the preferred cut from a window display). There are plenty of great places to eat all round the region, but take note that Apulians take their afternoon siesta seriously and that it can be difficult to find anywhere to eat between 2pm and 7pm.
The region's cafes are known as "bars" - do not be surprised to see bars all throughout Brindisi serving food and having an array of savoury pastries, pizza and focaccia on offer at all times. Most of these establishments are open until late at night, many serve alcoholic drinks alongside coffee. Traditional bakeries (pasticceria) and gelato (ice cream) shops can be found throughout; the ones boasting the best views are located in the port area.
In addition to traditional Italian cafés, Brindisi and many other towns have a few bars and pubs favoured by groups of residents of all age. Nightlife in Brindisi itself and in most of the sleepy towns around the region is on the quiet side, comprising a few music bars and several summer discotheques. In this city, most evening hot-spots are centred around Corso Garibaldi, which comes alive at night with young and old leaving home for an evening spent in the name of drinking and socialising. For a more active nighlife, there are summer discos (playing mainly Italian Euro-pop) in some of the beach resorts but these open only during the region’s short summer holiday season (July-August). In the province, Lecce represents an exception to the rule, with some trendy bars that often feature DJ's or live music, particularly along the Via Federico d’Aragona in the Old Town.
There is much to buy in the Apuglia region, including colourful pottery, textiles, high-quality leather goods and a range of local culinary specialities such as wines, cheeses, olives and an assortment of confectionery. Walk down Corso Garibaldi and venture off into the side streets, also packed to the brim with all manner of shops and boutiques.
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