la città Bella
Gallipoli rises out of the sea in
a splendid position. It is surrounded by high walls, which
protected it down the centuries from the attacks of invaders
from the East. The Greek "beautiful town" was originally
inhabited by the Messapii, who called it Anxa, according to
Pliny. Later, it became a Greek colony (Kale polis, beautiful
town), and ruled over vast territories, coining its own currency,
until it was subdued by the Romans in 265 B.C. and became
a military station and later a municipality.
Trajan Way joined the town to Brindisi and its strategic importance
rapidly increased. Gallipoli was a Bishopric from 551 B.C.
onwards, and the Byzantines made it their main naval stronghold
on the Ionian sea, strengthening its defences. Despite this,
it was frequently attacked by the Saracens, who finally occupied
it around 915 and held control for more than 30 years.
strong Islamic influence is to be seen in the layout of the
town, in the typically winding streets and white houses. The
latter are well protected and are also built round courtyards,
a common feature of the architecture of Mediterranean countries.
With the coming of the Normans, the Dior. cese of Gallipoli
once more came under the jurisdiction of Rome, although the
Greek rites were celebrated until 1513.
town's history is similar to that of other Apulian towns,
insofar as it was ruled one after the other by the Swabians,
Angevins and Aragonese. Despite this, it managed to keep its
mercantile tradition alive. Under Spanish domination it enjoyed
a period of peace and was embellished with churches and noble
residences. The golden age of the Salentine Baroque had begun:
the Castle was restored, the Cathedral rebuilt and repair
work in the town got under way.
Up to the end of the XVIII century, the town was limited to
the boundaries of its small island, but extension became necessary
due to the rapid growth of its population. The new quarter,
built to a grid plan in the XVIII century, overflowed onto
the small peninsula which points out into the Ionian sea.
Today it is necessary to traverse this quarter in order to
reach the old town, across the bridge which spans the isthmus.
To the right one can see the large port, which today, as in
the past, makes a valid contribution to the trade and economy
of the town, and to that of the whole of the Salento peninsula.
so-called Fontana Ellenistica (Grecian Fountain) bears witness
to the town's Grecian past. It was rebuilt in 1560 and recently
restored. The XVI century Castle incorporates the earlier
Angevin fortifications and is made up of a lunette surmounted
by a round tower and a quadrangular keep with towers at its
The Castle is a good starting point for a tour of the town.
Walking down Via De Pace, one reaches the Cathedral dedicated
to S. Agatha, a fine example of the Salentine Baroque which
was begun in 1630. The splendid façade was completed
in 1696 and a number of important paintings from a XVII-XVIII
century Salentine school hang inside the walls.
of the churches in Gallipoli are not far from the sea and
seem to stand over the town as if to protect it. These include
the splendid Della Punka Church, richly decorated in stucco,
its walls hung with exceptionally large paintings. The San
Domenico, or Del Rosario, church (1696), contains paintings
by Gian Domenico Catalano. Three other churches of note are
the Delle Anime, Del Crocifisso and S. Francesco. The
spate of building which took place during the Baroque period
included buildings not for religious purposes, such as the
XVII century Palazzo Venneri, with a Renaissance portal, and
the elegant Palazzo Tafuri.