How to Get the Best of Gallipoli in Puglia
We have visited Gallipoli in Puglia many times over the last decades and seen the city change from a backward sunny fishing village to a major international holiday spot.
The development led to a massive increase in the number of entertainment offers, but in my opinion the main attractions have not changed. My personal list of things to do in in order to get the best of Gallipoli remains more or less the same.
Gallipoli is famous throughout Puglia for the nightclubs and the Parco Acquatico waterworld, but unless you’re travelling with children or can’t live without an all night techno rave, I wouldn’t bother to go there. I’m not too keen on a ride in the shooter rickshaws or the toy train tooting loud pizzica music either. Instead, I walk around the old town centre and try to get the best of Gallipoli by doing these five things, that remain highly enjoyable even though I’ve done it numerous times before.
Looking for the Galli in Gallipoli.
Etymologically the name Gallipoli comes from the Greek Callipolis meaning ‘beautiful city’, but ‘gallo’ is ‘cockerel’ in Italian, and the symbol of the city is a cock. For this reason, there are a number of references and hints to poultry throughout the old city. From the omnipresent souvenir shops selling terracotta cockerel whistles and fridge magnets to the vignettes accompanying every house number. The galli in Gallipoli is everywhere. And looking for the ‘galli’ in Gallipoli is like hunting lions in Venice or collecting Fleur de Lis in Florence. A great sport.
Walk Around the Island.
The old town centre in Gallipoli is located on a fairly small island or promontory in the Ionian sea. If you cross the bridge or dam to the island, and turn left past the old Castle, there’s a road encircling the city. Just stick to the perimeter as far left as you can possibly get without getting your feet wet. A brisk walk all the way around the island takes less than an hour, and it fills a deep, deep craving for the sun, the wind and the sea. Along the way you’ll see lighthouses and churches, a sheltered beach, a few cafés and restaurants and all the shades of blue and white anyone can possibly imagine.
In spite of the tourism, Gallipoli is still an active fishing harbour, and its great fun to stand on the bridge and see the small blue fishing boats tugged up beside and around the castle, while fishermen mend their nets. Compare these small vessels with the ships in the industrial port and the impressive leisure boats docked in the yacht harbour along the Northern wharfs. And don’t forget to sample the catch at the colourful fish market where unpretentious restaurants serve mussels, oysters, sea urchins and lobsters from the shell.
A Baroque Masterpiece and Other Sights
The main street in both the old town and the new town in Gallipoli has been ruined by a lack of town planning. In the new town a monstrous mirrored office building spoils the harmony of a seafront that should dominated by pastel coloured palazzos and roman ruins, and in the old town souvenir shops peddling natural sponges and seashells from the Pacific strangle the narrow streets that leads up to the cathedral. Still, the cathedral in itself is a baroque masterpiece with delicately chiseled ornamentation, and there the castle, the museum, the library and the old olive mill are also interesting places to visit.
Enjoy the Seaside
But the all time best of Gallipoli is undoubtedly the sea. Bring an umbrella and a sunbed and go swimming from the beaches North or or South of the city. Rent a pedalo paddle bike or a canoe for a couple of hours, try snorkeling or dive for sea urchins by the rocky island at Punta Pizzo. Here you’ll find loads of spiky prickly live ricci di mare that the locals cook or eat raw with the help of a small pocket knife, or you can collect free souvenirs in the shape of the delicate blue and green shells of sea urchins that have left home.
This is how I get the best of Gallipoli, every time I visit.