Gallipoli is one of Apulia’s favorite places to go for a quality vacation time. It is a beautiful city, with lots of things to enjoy. The old town of Gallipoli stands on a small island on the Ionian coast of Apulia, and it is connected to the new town and the rest of the mainland by a bridge. This is why Gallipoli is often called a peninsula. Gallipoli is an extremely popular beach destination for Italians and no wonder it welcomes more and more international visitors every year.
Gallipoli is one of the oldest cities of Apulia; it was founded in Ancient Greece. It became an important transportation and trade hub after the 15th century when the Bourbons came to govern. King Ferdinand has built a new port, which served for trading olive oil for the lamps. In fact, the production of that kind of oil at that time in Gallipoli was one of the main sectors of the economy, also due to an exquisite quality of the oil. Some of the medieval oil factories have been preserved and are open for visitors. The olive oil for food appeared a bit later though – with the beginning of petrol era when the lamp oil became obsolete. Nowadays, the olive oil from Apulia is recognized as one of the best in the world!
Sightseeing in Gallipoli
The historic center of Gallipoli is baroque, slightly shabby, but romantic and beautiful. Many buildings are painted with white limestone – a typical Apulian way of making things pretty 🙂
The buildings in the old town mostly belong to 16-18th centuries. Visit the church of San Francisco d’Assisi, the cathedral of Santa Maria della Purità, and the cathedral and convent of San Domenico al Rosario. However, the main church of Gallipoli is the Cathedral of Saint Agata (Cattedrale di Sant’Agata) – a large baroque church of the 17th century, which stands on the ancient fundament remains. The Cathedral is decorated by a traditional Apulian maiolica, and is famous for the sculptures of popular saints of Gallipoli – Saint Agata, Saint Marina and Teresa, and Saint Faust and Sebastian.
If you walk from the old town towards the bridge, you won’t miss the castle – Castello Aragonese e Angioino, of the 13th century. The castle has been preserved in a very good condition, and it is a worthy place to visit in town.
On the other side of the bridge, there is a Greek fountain – the oldest fountain in Italy – which was built in the 3rd century B.C. The fountain is decorated with reliefs and writings in Latin on one side, and with the date (1765) and the emblem of Gallipoli on the other side. Very close to the fountain, you can see a beautiful Sanctuary of Saint Maria Canneto (Santuario di Santa Maria del Canneto), built in the 16th century.
The main street of Gallipoli new town starts right from the bridge and goes all the way through the city. It is the main commercial street in town, with countless shops, restaurants, and hotels.
Take a chance to visit the fish market, which takes place right by the bridge every morning – here you can buy fresh fish a seafood, caught earlier in the morning by local fishermen.
What to eat in Gallipoli
The main element of local cuisine is, of course, seafood and fish. In every restaurant, you will be offered various types of seafood pasta, mixed fried fish (“fritto misto”) and a local specialty – “scapece”. Scapece is a dish made of small fish (most often anchovies), marinated in saffron and vinegar, and then fried in breadcrumbs. The recipe is quite old – because this type of marinade keeps the fish fresh and tasty for longer, which is crucial in a hot season. As for the breadcrumbs, they’re widely used in local cuisine, also for the meat. And don’t forget to try local wine!
Overall, Gallipoli happens to be one of those perfect places to spend a week or two, and it is easy to travel around from there and see other beautiful towns of Apulia. Nevertheless, once you get there, take a breath to relax and feel the southern Italian atmosphere, when nobody is rushing anywhere. Maybe you will get to see how hundreds of fishermen boats go into the sea before the sunrise – to return later with freshly caught prawns for your dinner. There is nothing else left but enjoying life!