The first port of call on our Eastern Mediterranean cruise was the Southern Italian coastal town of Brindisi, 384 nautical miles from Venice, and situated in a panoramic bay of the Adriatic. Brindisi became a strategic port after falling to the Romans in 267BC, later used by Venetian merchants, it has since ancient times been known as the ‘Gateway to the Orient’. It is still a major trading port with Greece and the Middle East.
We took the transfer bus from the port into the city, passing through a flat and seemingly derelict industrial landscape. After about twenty minutes we arrived in Brindisi. We were dropped off just next to the information centre, where we picked up a tourist map (available in different languages). Following the map we walked a circular route, along wide tree-lined avenues, through narrow winding streets with no pavement, round old buildings and churches, pausing awhile in shady squares with statues and fountains. The Fountain of Anchors stands in the Piazza Cairoli, and in the centre of the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele is the Dolphin’s Fountain. And if you look closely on the wall of the Coast Guard’s building, you can see a sundial, saluting incoming and outgoing visitors. Some of the streets are paved with large black blocks of basalt lava. They are laid in geometric shapes, and have a dull gleam under the bright Mediterranean sun.