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The Italian town of Gallipoli is situated towards the southern tip of Puglia (Apulia) in south-east Italy.
Note: this town has no connection with Gallipoli in Turkey, well known for an extensive battle in the First World War.
Gallipoli is a popular fishing port and beach destination on the Salento peninsula. Whilst it is popular with Italians it is not well known with tourists and so it is possible to enjoy a more 'authentic' Italy holiday.
For the purpose of your visit it is useful to realise that Gallipoli is divided into two zones, the 'Old Town' and the New Town. The old town is built on an island which is now connected to the mainland by a bridge and it is this part that holds the most interest for visitors.
Gallipoli Old Town
The old town is situated on an island connected to the mainland by an arched bridge dating from the 17th century and is characterized by the mixture of buildings that date from several different epochs and cultures. The plan of the old town, with lots of narrow and tortuous streets, reminds us of the Islamic style and dates from the period of Moorish domination around in 900 AD.
Gallipoli New Town
The Corso Roma divides the new city into two parts, which are called Sirocco and Tramontana. This part of Gallipoli is characterised by its numerous tourist services and buildings of modern construction - one of the best known is the “Glass Palace” (also known as the Skyscraper), built in the late 1970s.
A visit to Gallipoli Old Town
Your visit to the old town of Gallipoli starts from the Angioino Castle, built to defend the city and totally surrounded by the sea.This used to be connected to the mainland via a drawbridge.
The castle is to the east of the city and dates from the 14th century although it has undergone major changes, additions and renovations since.
The first plan of the castle was quadrangle, but the Aragonese then added a wall with a polygonal plan, fortified with cylindrical towers at the corners. This work was carried out to the design of Sienese architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439-1501). Further works in the Spanish age include the building of the 'Lookout Tower', when the Castle took a quadrangular shape with summits strengthened by four towers.
A fifth circular tower was then erected to defend against attacks from the sea in the early 16th century. The castle remained unchanged until the second half of the 19th century when, in the area towards the city, the moat was filled in and the arches that supported the drawbridge were buried.
Today, Gallipoli Castle still has this square base and four towers at the corners: the fifth tower, during the summer months, is used as a movie theatre, while exhibitions and other cultural events are organized in the large halls.
Among the religious buildings to discover in Gallipoli the most important is the Cathedral of Saint Agata. Built from 1629, it is situated near the centre of the city, where it is surrounded by numerous palaces, and is the most important Baroque architecture building in Gallipoli.
Several centuries earlier, on the same site, there was another church, first dedicated to Saint John Chrysostom and then, from 1126, to St. Agata but this church was destroyed.
The cathedral façade is made of stone and incorporates various statues depicting Saint Agata and other saints. The interior of the cathedral has a Latin cross form with three naves intermixed with two rows of Doric columns and an altar of polychrome marble. In the two aisles stand 12 minor altars.
Francesco Bischettimi and Scipione Lachibari, following a drawing by Giovan Bernardino Genuino (17th century), were the creators of the work. The interior decorations are largely the work of Giovanni Andrea Coppola (1597-1659), a native of Gallipoli who painted several of the altars.
As well as many impressive art works there are numerous relics of Saints preserved in the cathedral.
Churches in Gallipoli
There are many churches in Gallipoli with interesting features, here we highlight just a few of the most noteworthy.
The Church of the Carmine was rebuilt in 1836-38 from a drawing by Vito Donato da Galatone. Inside the church you can see “The Lamented under the Cross”, painted in 1931 by the local painter Giulio Pagliano.
In this church, every year on the Friday before Palm Sunday, the feast of our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated.
The Church of St. Domenico al Rosario has an octagonal nave covered in stone and includes five altars on each side where there are paintings depicting the "Virgin with child" and the "SS. John the Evangelist and Pietro Martire". The Church is the seat of the confraternity of the Rosary, founded by the tailors masters of Gallipoli.
The Church of St. Theresa of Avila retains the Sepulchre of the Spanish bishop called Antonio Perez “Della Lastra” (1631-1700), and is next to the monastery of the Discalced Carmelite nuns. The interior includes a carved presbytery with paintings depicting the "Holy Family".
The Church of Saint Clare was built at the end of the 16th century with an adjoining monastery and dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. Fitted with majolica flooring, it has some ancient paintings in good condition depicting the "Annunciation of the Virgin", "Adoration of the shepherds and the Crucifix", “SS. Peter and Paul, St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi”.
A visit to the Civic Museum of Gallipoli, founded in 1899, can also be interesting to visitors. The museum doesn't really have a particular theme but presents a variety of objects best described as eclectic such as coins, weapons, terrestrial and marine molluscs from around the world, corals and specimens of fish and shellfish, beetles, birds and small pets.
Among the more unusual items are teeth of elephants and rhinoceros and the remains of reptiles, as well as various strange musical instruments such as the so-called “pantarmonico” that plays the sound of the violin, viola and double bass.
The second section of the museum is the most important because it is here that the ancient remains of two sarcophagi of the Messapic age are preserved, one of them very rare.
There are two ports at Gallipoli, with the fishing port being the oldest. Situated near the Greek Fountain it extends for about 50 meters and is used to moor the fishermen’s 'Paranze'.
Be sure to visit the pretty fishing port. This is an active fishing port and you will see the boats coming in and out with their catch and fishermen sat by their boats mending nets. This is a great place to find a restaurant for lunch - especially if you want fish. Sea Urchins are a speciality of the town.
The Greek-Roman Fountain was built in the 3rd century BC and has two façades which seem to date from different periods. It was erected by the Greek people (or, according to some scholars, during the Renaissance) in the area named “Fontanelle”, and only later moved near the Church of San Nicola (now destroyed).
The Mercantile Port has an area of 80,000 square meters and develops along a part of the old town.
Places to visit near Gallipoli: surroundings and typical products
North of the city and nearly a mile from the mainland is the Island of Saint Andrea. Covering about 5 hectares, the island of St. Andrea is a site of considerable archaeological importance with bronze age settlements, and the area is the only nesting site on the Ionic and Adriatic coast of Italy for the Corsican Sea-Gull.
In the 18th century the island was used as pasture for flocks of sheep, which were transported to the island on the boats of the shepherds. In the highest part of the island there was a source of freshwater for watering of the flocks.
The traditional cuisine of Gallipoli iuses rather 'poor' ingredients, such as the 'rape nfucate' (stewed broccoli with chilli), beans, chickpeas, homemade pasta such as the 'sagne ncannulate', 'minchiareddhi', and 'ricchiteddhe' accompanied by fresh ricotta cheese.
There are fish dishes such as 'lu purpu the pignata ' (stewed Octopus cooked in a typical terracotta container), soup of Gallipoli, consisting of mussels stuffed and fried black then put in the oven with potatoes; and the 'fracaia ' (tiny fish floured and fried).
The traditional sweets to sample when you visit gallipoli include 'purciddhuzzi cullu apples', the 'carteddhate' and cakes with the “vino cotto de scammaru '. To accompany any dish there are good local rosè wines such as the “Malvasia del Salento” and white wines such as “Moscato di Puglia” and “Donna Marzia white”.
See also history of Gallipoli
Map of Gallipoli and places to visit
Places to visit near Gallipoli
See more places nearby in the Puglia guide