Gallipoli Italy on the map looks like a bird spreading on the shore. This is one of the most romantic places in Europe, fully justifying its name (Greek: kale polis – “a beautiful city”).
“The Pearl of the Ionian Sea”, Gallipoli is an adornment not only of Puglia, but of all southern Italy. People come here to spend their holidays in a wonderful fusion with nature, art, and history. A port town with centuries-old cultural traditions promises each guest an exclusive “authentic” vacation.
Gallipoli Italy on a tourist map: must-visit places
The Old Town is of the greatest interest to the travelers. It occupies the insular part of Gallipoli, connected to the mainland by a 17th-century arched bridge. Most attractions are concentrated on this island, located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea.
This formidable bastion was built to protect the city from enemy invasions. Today it is surrounded by the sea, and before it was connected to the mainland by a drawbridge.
The fort is located east of the city and dates from the 14th century, although it has undergone significant changes since then. Each new owner of the Apulian land – the Byzantines, the Germans, the Arabs, the Normans, the Anjuans, the Aragoneses – contributed to its concept. This explains the extraordinary interest in the defensive structure, which incorporates building structures from different eras and cultural matrices.
At first, the fort was quadrangular. Then the Aragonese turned it into a polygon, adding walls reinforced by cylindrical towers in the corners. Further work was already carried out by the Spaniards, including the construction of an observation tower.
In the second half of the 19th century, a ditch was buried in the vicinity of the city and the arches supporting the drawbridge were buried. Today, the old fortress has a square base again with four towers in the corners. The Fifth Tower is used as a movie theater in the summer months, while exhibitions and other cultural events are organized in large halls.
Visitors can explore every corner of ancient fortification: the remains of a drawbridge, a salt warehouse, resonant towers, where the guns were. Guests are also invited to climb the rooftop with stunning views. Admission fee for an adult is 7 euros.
The Cathedral – Gallipoli Italy on the map
Among the religious buildings of Gallipoli, the Cathedral of St. Agatha occupies a special place. Its construction was carried out for more than 60 years – from 1629 to 1696. The magnificent temple is not far from the city center, next to gorgeous palaces. It is a striking example of baroque architecture.
The place for the temple was not chosen randomly. A few centuries earlier, there was also a church. First, it was dedicated to St. John Chrysostom, and then, since 1126, to St. Agatha. But this church was destroyed.
The monumental facade of the current cathedral is made of stone. In its niches there are statues depicting St. Agatha and other great martyrs, including the patrons of the city – St. Sebastian and St. Faustin. The best local sculptors Scipio Lachibari and Francesco Bishetimi worked on them, following the designs provided by Giovanni Bernardino.
The interior of the temple is given the shape of a Latin cross with three naves and two rows of Doric columns resting on arcades. The main altar is decorated with polychrome marble. In two aisles there are 12 small altars.
The interior was mostly painted by Giovanni Andrea Coppola (1597-1659), a native of Gallipoli. He painted several altars, displaying on them the most important episodes from the Old and the New Testaments:
- Souls in Purgatory;
- Miracles of St. Francis di Paola;
- Adoration of the Magi; and
- Martyrdom of St. Agatha.
In addition to impressive works of art, the reliquiae of the saints and relics associated with their lives are stored in the cathedral.
The city planning structure of Gallipoli includes many ancient churches, each with characteristics. We will mention only the most remarkable of them.
Santa Teresa d’Avila
The tomb of the Spanish bishop Antonio Perez (1631-1700) is kept in this church. The interior is impressive with carved walls and paintings on religious subjects, in the center is the Holy Family. Near the temple there is a convent of the Carmelite order.
Santa Maria del Canneto
A small church on the mainland coast dates from the 17th century. The devastating fire in the port left the image of the Virgin Mary unharmed. A church was built in honor of this miracle. A portico with three front and two side round arches, crowned by a high pediment, leads to it.
The interior is divided into three naves. A magnificent wooden ceiling with caissons is decorated in the center with an icon of the Virgin, decorated with gilding, while a large arch with floral patterns leads to the presbytery.
Things of particular artistic significance:
- organ of the XVIII century;
- canvas depicting St. Christine by Giovanni Andrea Coppola; and
- Statue of St. Nicholas of the 16th century from a church destroyed in the port.
Santa Maria della Purita
This is the oldest and most picturesque sanctuary of Gallipoli which was built in 1664 under the Spanish Bishop John Montoy de Cardona. Built at the expense of the guild of movers, it served them as a chapel. Later, representatives of various fraternities found refuge here.
The facade of the church is decorated with three decorative panels of majolica, dating from the 19th century and depicting the Most Holy Madonna, St. Giuseppe, and St. Francis of Assisi. The interior has a single nave which is fully painted. The floor is made of majolica tiles.
The paintings of the 18th century that adorn the interior of the church are mainly the works of the artist Liborio Riccio da Muro. A magnificent canvas is erected on the marble altar, which depicts the Mother of God surrounded by saints Giuseppe and Francis.
San Domenico El Rosario
This 17th-century church with sea views is notable for its façade that was decorated with local carrara marble. The interior has an octagonal nave, trimmed with decorative stone, and includes five altars.
Among the picturesque decorations, the paintings “The Virgin and the Child” and “Saints John the Evangelist and Pietro Martyr” are especially impressive. The church is the seat of the rosary, founded by the Gallipoli Tailors Guild.
Gallipoli Italy on the map: City Museum Emanuele Barba
A visit to the Gallipoli Museum, founded in 1823 in the very center of the Old Town, will give you a lot of vivid impressions. It was founded by the priest Carmine Fontana, who donated about three thousand volumes to the city, including valuable and rare volumes of the 16th-19th centuries. Books from the private library of the writer Bartolomeo Ravenna (1761-1826) and local monasteries were added to these first donations.
A few years later, the naturalist scientist Emanuele Barba was entrusted with managing the cultural institution. His contribution to the museum business was the “zoological office” and an exhibition dedicated to human and animal embryonic pathologies, reflecting the results of a scientific study of genetic diseases such as Down syndrome. After the scientist’s death, the museum was given his name.
Today in the museum halls you can see a variety of objects of history and culture. The archaeological section displays exhibits, many of which were found during excavations of the ancient necropolis in the neighboring city of Alezio:
- a collection of Renaissance weapons and squeakers (ancient pocket guns), which contains more than 500 exhibits;
- a collection of coins and vintage suits; and
- sarcophagi and messapic vessels with inscriptions.
Other collections are also interesting for visitors:
- outlandish musical instruments, including the panharmonicon, combining a violin, a viola, and a double bass;
- glass and ceramic products;
- samples of coral, fish, mollusks, beetles, birds, and small domestic animals; and
- paleontological findings (bone remains of elephants, rhinos, and reptiles).
The historical and art gallery of the museum is represented by:
- two dozen of the most valuable paintings of the outstanding painter Gallipoli Giovanni Andrea Coppola;
- the legacy of another famous artist from Gallipoli, Giulio Pagliano (1882-1932), whose self-portrait, Portrait of Sophia Stevens, Port of Gallipoli, are considered to be the essential core of his creative work;
- many works of the artist Gallipoli Giuseppe Forsignano;and
- portraits of remarkable people of Gallipoli of the XIX-XX centuries – missionary writer Bartolomeo Ravenna, patriot and sister of mercy Antonietta De Pache, scientist Emanuele Barba and others
Address: St. Antonietta de Pace, 108;
Opening hours: 10.00-13.00 and 15.30-18.00 (Tuesday-Sunday).
City library and historical archive
This complex is a reference point for researchers of the Salento culture. It includes one of the oldest public libraries in the region. It is of interest for two reasons:
- the location of the book depository is a unique building – the former church of San Angelo of the XVIII century, and
- the extensive library fund includes rare tomes donated to the city by Carmine Fontana, Bartolomeo Ravenna and other philanthropists (in 1987 they were transferred to the library from the city museum), as well as valuable manuscripts, including copies of royal decrees and verdicts made by Popes.
The Historical Archive is a repository of documents issued and received by the local administration from the early 1800s to the 1970s (documents up to 1800 are stored in the Lecce State Archives). You can find a lot of interesting, and most importantly, reliable information about various municipal facilities:
- streets and squares;
- lighting system;
- water supply and city fountain;
- watches in the main square;
- churches and monasteries;
- fish and indoor markets;and
- ports, etc.
Address: St. Sant’Angelo.
Library opening hours: 10.00-13.00 (Monday to Friday); as well as 15.30-18.30 (Tuesday and Thursday); a visit to the historical archive is possible upon prior written request.
Greek fountain: Gallipoli Italy on the map
This unique structure was supposedly built in the Hellenistic era – in the 3rd century BC. e. It is considered the oldest architectural monument in Italy, although some researchers attribute it to the Renaissance.
The facade of the fountain is rich in decoration and consists of two plates, apparently made in different eras:
- the lower plate – 5-meters long – is divided into three parts by four caryatids supporting the architrave, decorated with a bas-relief depicting the heroines of ancient myths – Dirki, Salmakida and Bibliadа, and
- the upper plate, built in a later period (presumably in 1765), contains the emblem of Gallipoli, inscriptions in Latin and regalia of King Charles III of Bourbon.
At first, the fountain was located in the area of ancient thermal springs (called “Spring”). Later, in 1548, it was transported and installed next to the church of San Nicolas (now destroyed). It remained there until 1560, then was dismantled again and rebuilt on Aldo Moro Square, where it is currently located.
Regional Natural Park “St. Andrew’s Island and the Punta Pizzo Coast”
The nature reserve established on July 10, 2006 includes two eco-zones:
- located north of the city, about 1.5 km from the mainland, the island of St. Andrew, occupying about 5 hectares; it is an object of archaeological significance (thanks to the Bronze Age settlements found here) and the only nesting site of the Corsican gull on the Italian coast; moreover, its rocky shores are recognized by ecologists as “priority habitat” for endemic plants such as salicornia, limonium and some others; and
- Punta Pizzo coast – a territory “chosen” by various valuable species of flora: strawberry and sea-buckthorn trees, prickly asparagus, rosemary, thyme, heather, gorse, rare species of orchids, marigold; for two shrubs – Germanic ulcer (anthillis hermanniaie) and fetid anagiris (anagyris fetida) – Punta Pizzo became the only alma mother on the Salento Peninsula.
Access to the island of St. Andrew is prohibited from February 15 to July 31. Between August 1 and February 14, visits to the island are allowed exclusively from 7:00 to 17:00 in groups of no more than 20 people, including licensed guides and accompanying personnel.
Visiting the island is allowed only within the specified routes. To protect species of fish flora and fauna a berth, landing, transit, swimming and any underwater activity are prohibited less than 100 meters from the coastline of the island.
Gallipoli Italy on the map – Garibaldi Theater
The Municipal Theater of Gallipoli was built in 1825 by the nobleman Bonaventure Balzamo. The creator named his brainchild “Lily Theater” in honor of the royal Bourbon dynasty. The theater was located in the palace of Balsamo, adjacent to the Cathedral of St. Agatha.
After the ruin of the Balzamo clan, in 1874, the spectacular institution was transferred to the municipality, which entrusted the restoration project to the engineer Oronzo Bernardini from Lecce.
The interior was completely updated: special attention was paid to furniture and decor. The framing of the proscenium was enriched with stucco, and the theatre boxes were completely draped in damask, distinguished by oriental luxury.
Carvings were assigned to masters from Gallipoli, while gold-plating and painting were assigned to Neapolitan artists. In 1879, the theater was named Giuseppe Garibaldi. It is located on the street of the same name. The building has been completely restored recently.
Gallipoli Italy on the map: Ports and beaches
The coastal city of Gallipoli has two harbors. One of them – the fishing harbor – is older. Located next to the Greek Fountain, it extends for about 50 meters and is used to moor fishing boats.
From here, local fishermen go to the sea every morning for their catch, which they then sell at the fish market, right next to the bridge. Therefore, the menu of local restaurants has no shortage of sea delicacies. You can try stewed octopus, mussel soup, fried tuna fillet, and much more.
The cargo port, built by the Venetians in 1480, stretches along the Old Town and occupies 80,000 square meters. There are large merchant ships and tourist liners on the pier. Since 1869, the annual ceremonial presentation of the Baroque Prize has been held at this port of Gallipoli – a city recognized as an example of Baroque style. Among the laureates who received the main prize – a bronze statuette of Galatea – were:
- Luciano Pavarotti;
- Pope Benedict XVI;
- Sophia Loren;and
- Gerard Depardieu.
Following along the cargo port, you will find yourself on the sandy beach of Gallipoli Puritate. Next to it there is a marina with stunning city views. From here you can go to one of the neighboring, more comfortable, beaches:
- Punta della Suina;
- Samsara; and
The latter – the most beautiful in Puglia – is called “Salento Maldives”.
How to get to Gallipoli
If you find Gallipoli Italy on the map, you will see that this city is 36 km from Lecce and is connected to it by a motorway and a railway.
The easiest way to get to Gallipoli is by car rented at the airport (Bari or Brindisi). On the arrival, you can leave the vehicle in free parking, a 5-minute walk from the historic center (it is not allowed to drive there).
The Ferrovie Sud-Est train will take you from Lecce to Gallipoli in about an hour. You can take a pleasant walk from the train station along the New Town to the bridge that leads to the historic island.