Discovering the Alfonsino Castle

Updated at: 19-03-2024

Alfonsino Castle, Forte Mare Castle Sant’Andrea Island

How to visit the Alfonsino Castle of Brindisi

To visit the Alfonsino Castle of Brindisi, it is necessary to book by calling the number +39 379 2653244. Guided tours, available in Italian, English, and Spanish, last about 50 minutes. The ticket cost is €8 per person, reduced to €6 for residents of the Brindisi province and for groups of at least 30 people. Entry is free for children under 5 years old.

Alfonsino Castle: Introduction

So, listen to this: imagine venturing along the Adriatic coast, following that breath of the sea that guides you towards the enchanting Brindisi. And as you are lulled by the waves, there emerges on the horizon a vision worthy of an adventure novel: the Castello Alfonsino, the stone sentinel that guards stories and secrets of a city with a long memory.

There is something absolutely magical in the way this bastion stands alone on the small Island of Sant'Andrea. Like an old sea wolf, the castle watches you with wide eyes, a vigilant defender of a glorious past, enclosed within its bastions that seem sculpted by the hands of Poseidon himself.

If there is one thing you will understand about Brindisi from the first glance, it is that this city is not just a port, but a place where the dialogue between land and sea has written pages of history. And there, on the threshold of this dialogue, the Castello Alfonsino stands as a witness to the meeting of two worlds, ready to tell you the tales of navigators and conquerors who have sailed these waters and left their mark on its walls.

Sitting on a boat, with the salty taste on your tongue, you can almost hear the echo of cannons and the murmur of soldiers. Imagine the castle illuminated by torches at night, a beacon guiding sailors safely to port, a place of refuge that has withstood the assault of time, proudly standing just as when kings and rulers trod its grounds.

As you approach, your gaze falls on its imposing structure, a witness to bygone eras and the keeper of a story that unfolds like a silk ribbon through the centuries. You will touch its walls and feel the rustle of the sails of those who set off to conquer distant lands and those who returned laden with wonders. The Castello Alfonsino is not just a castle; it is the meeting point between the pages of history and the chapters yet to be written of your adventure in Puglia.

And it is with this spirit of discovery that I invite you to cross the drawbridge, to step over the threshold of time and to let yourself be enveloped by the stories that the Castello Alfonsino jealously guards. Its towers call to you, and every stone has a story to tell. Every step within these walls is a journey through the history of Brindisi, a city that never ceases to surprise and enchant those brave enough to listen.

Alfonsino Castle: a leap into history

castello alfonsino brindisi

Let's delve into the bowels of time, dear travelers, for the Castello Alfonsino is a stone book that tells the history of Brindisi. Its first page was written in 1445 when Alfonso of Aragon, foreseeing tumultuous times, decided to fortify the entrance of the port with a stronghold to monitor the incoming and outgoing ships. The sea, like a treasure, was vital for the city, both for the wealth it brought and for the invasions it could conceal within its waves.

Over the years, the castle has changed shape like a stone chameleon. From the original Aragonese core, it underwent an architectural evolution in 1531 when Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, commissioned the military architect Gian Giacomo dell'Acaya to renovate it, endowing it with that geometric charm and defensive functionality that captivate our gaze today.

The walls have withstood not only marine weathering but also invasions, like that of the Venetians in 1492 who, with their lust for power, aspired to conquer the city of Brindisi and its maritime guardian. But the Castello Alfonsino, with its proud guardian stance, repelled the siege with the roar of its cannons, which still seems to echo if one listens to the whispers of the wind.

Over the centuries, the castle has changed its face but not its spirit. It has been a barracks, prison, and even a gunpowder magazine during the Napoleonic occupation. Its history has been marked by episodes of war and peace, becoming a witness and protagonist of the political and historical changes that have shaped Brindisi's identity.

Today, after crossing the centuries as an eternal sentinel, the castle has become a cultural symbol of the city. It jealously preserves the echo of the voices of those who have inhabited it, the soldiers who have trodden its courts, the prisoners who have dreamed of freedom within its cold walls. There is an invisible but palpable bond between the castle and the city that is reflected in the surrounding water and unites the past with the present.

The Castello Alfonsino, also called Forte a Mare by some, stands on the Island of Sant'Andrea, protected by the sea like a gem on a ring. Its location has always held strategic significance, but now it invites a more reflective and cultural discovery. With its reddish carparo forms, the typical construction material of Salento that reflects the sunlight in warm tones, it stands out in the port scenario and becomes an irresistible destination for those who love the dialogue between art and history.

When it comes to architecture, the Castello Alfonsino embodies the art of fortification. Its cylindrical towers, sophisticated defensive elements for the time, are harmoniously integrated into the quadrangular structure, demonstrating impressive mastery in Renaissance military engineering.

Inside the fort, the harmony of geometries creates a contrast with the brute force of its walls. Thus, the internal courtyards, with their sober but elegant style, tell of a time when the need for defense was combined with the aesthetics of power.

Now take a small leap with your mind and imagine being at the height of tensions between Spain and France, when the castle was transformed into a bulwark against enemy fleets. Feel the rumble of the cannons, the hurried commands of the officers, the anxious beating of the soldiers' hearts. Here, the Castello Alfonsino is not just a construction; it is a stage upon which some of the most important acts of Brindisi's historical drama have unfolded.

Through the gates: the visitor's passage into the Alfonsino Castle

castello di brindisi forte a mare

Crossing the drawbridge of Castello Alfonsino is like stepping through the threshold into another dimension, where the pages of history come to life beneath your feet. The brackish air welcomes you, mixed with the scent of time that has settled among the stones. Each blink reveals fragments of a glorious past, while the echo of your footsteps leads you on a sensory journey through the fortress.

Just past the main entrance, you are greeted by the court of honor, a silent atrium where soldiers once gathered and guests were received. Here, the sunlight filters through the battlements, drawing geometric patterns on the worn cobblestones, almost guiding your steps along the secrets of history.

Turn back for a moment and admire the entrance gate. Its imposing wooden doors have been silent witnesses to arrivals and departures, sieges, and returns. It is said that the ghost of a Spanish soldier, fallen during a naval skirmish, still watches over the entrance, ensuring that no enemy can pass undisturbed.

The visit continues towards the cylindrical towers that, like mighty fingers, stretch towards the sky. In one of these, a fascinating spiral staircase leads to the discovery of narrow patrol pathways. From here, archers scanned the sea for enemy sails, ready to launch flaming arrows. And if you listen carefully to the wind, you might sense the adrenaline and anxiety of the defenders facing storms and attacks.

Inside the walls, in the main hall, the breath of history grows more intense. The environment, stern yet imposing, echoes with the tramp of military boots and the voices of war strategies that once resonated within these walls. There is talk of a secret room, a refuge for the castle commander, which was said to lead to hidden passages and escape routes.

Your eyes will then be captivated by the loopholes, narrow like suspicious glances, from where archers targeted enemies approaching by sea. Imagine the concentration of aiming through that slit, the heart beating in rhythm with the rising waves, the arrow ready to soar toward its target.

From the top of the towers and bastions, the view opens up to a breathtaking panorama of the port of Brindisi and the endless Adriatic. The horizon blends with the sky in a chromatic play that, at sunset, paints the waters below in shades of pink and orange, offering a spectacle to be framed in memory.

Continuing the visit, one cannot overlook the Chapel of Saint Anna, small but full of spirituality, where sailors and soldiers gathered in prayer before facing the open sea. Here, among faded frescoes, prayers are still whispered today, and candles are lit in hopes of safe returns.

The Castello Alfonsino is not just a monument, but a polyglot narrator that speaks through the salty wind, the sun-beaten rocks, and the echo of steps in empty halls. Every corner hides a story, a whisper from the past waiting to be heard. Walking through its rooms and climbing its towers, one cannot help but feel part of a narrative that has crossed centuries, weaving myths and legends into the fabric of Brindisi's historical reality.

Alfonsino Castle: Stories, Myths and Legends

castello alfonsino brindisi

For centuries, the Castello Alfonsino has stood watch over the port of Brindisi, a stone sentinel that tells tales of sea and wind. Within its walls lie legends and mysteries, whispers of the past that ignite the imagination and inspire stories flavored with salt and adventure.

One such tale is that of the "Lovesick Soldier," a legend lost in the echoes of the centuries. It is said that a young Spanish soldier, stationed on the towers of the Castello Alfonsino to watch over the sea, fell hopelessly in love with a girl from Brindisi. Each evening, at sunset, the soldier would play a melancholic melody on his flute, hoping the notes would reach his beloved. The girl, touched by the sweetness of the music, began to respond by singing a traditional Apulian lullaby from her window. Legend has it that their souls met in those melodies, though they never exchanged a glance. Today, the most romantic visitors stop to listen, sometimes convinced they can hear a faint flute sound carried by the wind.

Then there's the myth of the "Mysterious Chains." When the waters around the castle are particularly calm, one can glimpse sparkles on the seabed. Old-timers say these are the golden chains of an ancient hidden treasure, lost during one of the many naval battles. Some fishermen swear they've touched them, but whenever they've tried to retrieve them, a mysterious force has dragged them deeper, guarding the secret lying in the depths.

Perhaps the most enchanting legend is that surrounding the night of St. John. It is said that on this magical night, the Castello Alfonsino becomes the pulsating heart of ancient magics. A secret passage, visible only when the moon is full and casts its glow on the waves, would open within the castle's bowels, leading to a room where time has stood still. Those who enter are greeted by a banquet, presided over by knights and ladies from a bygone era who celebrate the eternal present. But beware: those who are seduced by the charm of this scene risk never returning to the world of the living.

Crowned by tradition, the "White Lady" is another emblematic figure of the Castello Alfonsino. Once a noblewoman of Brindisi, she is said to roam the silent rooms during stormy nights, searching for her husband who left for war and never returned. Her ethereal figure, glimpsed through the curtains of rain, has become a symbol of waiting and hope, a perpetual reminder of bonds that not even time can break.

These are just some of the stories that weave through the bastions and corridors of the Castello Alfonsino, creating a dense network of local folklore that enriches every visitor's experience. Every stone, every loophole, seems eager to unveil a hidden narrative, a fragment of imaginative truth that gives voice to the sea waves and the salty wind.

And as the legends unfold like ancient tapestries, the present intertwines with the past, and the Castello Alfonsino of Brindisi becomes the guardian of a cultural heritage that transcends eras, speaking a universal language of myths and humanity. Walking along its walls is not just a physical journey but a voyage through the tales of yesteryear, which continue to live in the words of grandparents and in folk songs, legend after legend.

Photographic tips for taking photos of Castello Alfonsino

Photo of Alfonsino Castle at sunset

Every visitor with a camera or smartphone faces a rather enjoyable challenge: capturing the beauty of Castello Alfonsino through the art of photography. For the photography enthusiast, this ancient stronghold offers unique scenes, ready to be immortalized in shots that tell the story, culture, and magic of the place.

The golden rule for taking the best photos of the castle is to utilize the natural light of early morning or late afternoon, when the sun's rays gently caress the ancient stones, highlighting the golden hues and majestic architecture of the castle. Dawn, with its soft lights and warm colors, provides a charming backdrop for evocative shots with reflections of the sun on the water surrounding the fort.

For the morning photographer, the ideal itinerary might start at the Brindisi port, with its lively atmosphere and colorful boats adding a touch of liveliness to the early morning light. After a short walk, you find yourself in front of Castello Alfonsino, emerging as a silent guardian from the sea. At this moment, it's essential to play with perspectives: get close to capture details of the walls and towers or, conversely, step back to get an overview that frames the castle within the broader context of the maritime landscape.

Continuing the photographic journey, for those on Isola di Sant'Andrea, there's the opportunity to take photos from the opposite side of the castle, where the sunlight begins to filter through the openings of the ancient fortifications, creating a play of light and shadows that fascinates and amazes.

The allure of contrasts continues in the afternoon when the sun begins to descend toward the horizon. This is the perfect time to play with reflections on the water's surface. For instance, you could position yourself at the furthest tip of the pier, where the calm harbor water offers a natural mirror that doubles the majesty of the castle. As the sun sets, the sea's blue intensifies, and artificial lights begin to illuminate, creating a delicate balance of cool and warm colors, perfect for landscape photos that capture the essence of Brindisi at sunset.

Don't underestimate the importance of the sky in a photograph. Moving clouds can add drama and depth, and the variety of colors that manifest during sunset can offer a vibrant canvas against which the castle stands proudly. Additionally, on some evenings, if you're lucky, you might even capture the enchantment of a starry sky serving as a dome over Castello Alfonsino, a celestial masterpiece to immortalize with long exposure techniques.

During the visit to the castle itself, every corner, staircase, and balcony hides potential photographic masterpieces. The advice is to let instinct and curiosity guide you, exploring open and closed spaces with a critical eye: the texture of a stone, the detail of a fresco faded by time, the arch of a passageway can transform into photographs that encapsulate silent stories and centuries of presence.

And remember, the beauty of photography is in the eye of the beholder, so every shot is unique and personal. To capture the essence of Castello Alfonsino, embrace your artistic vision, playing with angles and perspectives, until you find yourself in front of a photograph that tells not only of a place but also of an unrepeatable moment experienced in Puglia.

The modern connection: events and activities at Castello Alfonsino

In the fabric of Brindisi's cultural life, Castello Alfonsino is not just a silent monument, but a vibrant arena of events, a crossroads of stories, and a stage under the stars. As the waves of the Adriatic gently kiss its foundations, the ancient walls become witnesses to events ranging from music to theater, from art to gastronomy.

Indeed, the castle proves to be a favored venue for outdoor summer events. Its unique location on the islet of Sant'Andrea makes it an ideal setting for concerts under the starry Puglian sky. Local and international artists perform on this evocative platform, while the sea amplifies the notes, making them dance from one side of the harbor to the other. Imagine the atmosphere: there, among the audience, with the evening breeze caressing your skin, while the music merges with the maritime panorama, creating moments of pure magic.

During the summer weeks, the castle often hosts open-air cinema festivals, where the seventh art meets millennia of history. Sitting on the historic ramps to watch a film is an experience that goes beyond mere viewing: it's a dialogue between epochs, a meeting between ancient charm and modern cinematography.

But that's not all. Castello Alfonsino also becomes a theater for artistic exhibitions and photography. The internal and external spaces are perfectly suited to host contemporary art works, making every visit an intriguing journey between past and present. For history and art enthusiasts, there's nothing more stimulating than admiring an exhibition in the context of historical architecture. Here, every canvas, every sculpture, every photograph acquires new meaning, engaging in dialogue with the centuries-old stones.

Food festivals and wine tastings are events that excite and attract both tourists and locals. Think of the Pugliese delights, from cheeses to extra virgin olive oils, that can be tasted in the evocative setting of the castle. The region's culinary tradition comes to life in a unique context, where history and taste blend, allowing visitors to experience the flavors of Puglia in a completely exclusive way.

And for those seeking a touch of adventure, nighttime guided tours transform Castello Alfonsino into a labyrinth of mystery. With a torch in hand, visitors can explore hidden corners and forgotten rooms, while guides recount tales of bygone times, naval battles, and maritime legends. Walking in the footsteps of the knights and soldiers who once populated these places is a thrilling experience that etches itself into memory.

For those planning a visit, it's advisable to check the event calendar in advance. Reference websites like Best in Puglia or platforms like Eventbrite, Tripadvisor, and ArrivalGuides, offer an updated overview of upcoming activities. Checking event details can enrich the journey, allowing you to synchronize your visit with performances, concerts, or exhibitions that add value and depth to the tourist experience.

Moreover, visiting Castello Alfonsino during an event not only guarantees a unique experience but also offers the opportunity to interact with the local community, to exchange smiles and stories, and to feel part of a vibrant flow that embraces past, present, and future.

Ultimately, Castello Alfonsino is not just a testament to history and art but a place where the beating heart of the city of Brindisi is strong. A meeting place, a hub of cultural exchange and celebration, where every stone tells a story and every event adds a new verse to the eternal song of Puglia.

Guided by the Locals: Insider Tips

Panoramic photo of the Alfonsino Castle

Walking the cobblestone streets of Brindisi, there isn't a visitor who doesn't wish to uncover the secrets of the Castello Alfonsino whispered by the marine wind. Fortunately, who better than the locals of Brindisi can offer true insider tips to transform a simple visit into an unforgettable experience? Lace up your comfortable shoes and get ready to follow in the footsteps of the locals with the following suggestions.

Firstly, it's good to know that the Castello Alfonsino, despite its grandeur, contains lesser-known corners that deserve exploration. According to the locals, one of these hidden gems is the small chapel located within the walls. Often overlooked by distracted visitors, this chapel is a haven of serenity and art, where delicate frescoes tell stories of faith and the sea. Remember to ask for access; you won't regret it.

Photography enthusiasts will be pleased to know that sunset provides exceptional light to immortalize the castle. But the tip is to position yourself not only at the classic panoramic points but also to seek out the view from the Regina Margherita promenade, where the sun seems to dive into the azure waters next to the fortress. A breathtaking spectacle, perfect for a postcard shot.

Regarding culinary art, a visit during the food festivals is indispensable. The locals advise going beyond the classic tastings and participating in the culinary workshops often organized in the castle's inner courtyards. Here you can learn the secrets of Apulian cuisine and maybe return home with some recipes under your arm, with authentic and inimitable flavors.

Don't miss the opportunity to partake in special guided tours, often not advertised on conventional tourist channels. These tours can include access to areas usually closed to the public, like the ancient prisons or the watchtower, from which you can admire a 360-degree view of the city and the sea. To discover these gems, a good trick is to chat with shopkeepers in the adjacent alleys or make friends with a bartender: they might have the right contact or know when the next special tour will be held.

A real treat is to attend a concert or theatrical performance inside the castle. Listening to live music, with the natural acoustics provided by the historic walls, is an experience that goes beyond listening; it's a sensory journey that will leave a lasting impression on your soul. Always check the local programming or ask around: the locals are always proud to share the gems of their cultural schedule.

Lastly, a tip not to be underestimated: avoid peak tourist days. If possible, visit the Castello Alfonsino during the week and early in the morning. You'll find fewer crowds and have the chance to savor the historic atmosphere more calmly, perhaps even enjoying the company of a guide all to yourself. And if you're lucky enough to cross paths with fishermen returning from the sea, don't hesitate to stop for some stories of storms and sunken treasures: the maritime tales are the intangible essence that makes every stone of this place even more alive.

Each of these tips is a piece of the puzzle to experience the Castello Alfonsino like a local, to glimpse not just a glorious past within its ancient walls, but the pulsating vitality of a community that still identifies with it today. Immersing in this dimension means experiencing Brindisi with an authenticity that transcends the usual tourist experience. Following these suggestions, you'll discover that every visitor can become, even if just for a day, a part of the daily rhythm of this historic and unforgettable corner of Puglia.

Concluding with a Sunset Serenade

The last notes of the day resonate like a sweet melody along the ancient walls of the Castello Alfonsino in Brindisi. As the sky is painted in shades of orange and pink, a slight chill travels in the fresh air, propelled by the Adriatic, which, with its waves, seems to pay homage to the end of another day. There is no more perfect moment to let oneself be lulled by the serenity of this scene, perhaps sitting on an ancient stone bench, gazing out at the horizon where the sea kisses the sky.

The moment the sun decides to retreat behind the water is the pinnacle of enchantment. The golden reflections on the water create luminous paths that seem to invite following the sun on its journey to unknown lands. And for an instant, even the imposing towers of the castle seem to light up, celebrating in a final farewell to the day's light. A spectacle so evocative that even the seagulls, with their whimsical flights, appear to celebrate.

As the sun sinks, the sky transforms into a stage of warm and intense colors, a continuously changing painting that hypnotizes and inspires. A daily phenomenon, yes, but no less miraculous, especially when framed by the historic elegance of the Castello Alfonsino. It's a moment when time seems to pause, where every superfluous thought dissolves into the immensity of this natural spectacle.

Visitors gather in silence, sharing with complicit glances the awareness of being part of a unique experience. Some attempt to capture the scene with lenses and filters, some simply savor the breeze, and some indulge in poetic reflections. And ultimately, no matter how much one tries to immortalize this moment, the deepest memory will always be sensory - the colors imprinted in the mind, the briny taste on the lips, the rustle of water breaking against the rocks.

Just when the last lights of the day fade, stars begin to peek out, one by one, heralding the handover to the nocturnal firmament. The Castello Alfonsino, now enveloped in growing shadows, transforms. If by day it is a majestic guardian of history, by night it becomes a silent witness to the perpetual dance between light and darkness, between past and present.

Moreover, the night adds another dimension to the experience of visiting the castle. As the city lights ignite one by one, outlining the contours of the port and the streets of Brindisi, the Castello Alfonsino prepares to reveal another facet of its charm. In this context, the legends and tales of old sailors seem to come to life, one could almost hear the echo of ancient footsteps on the ramparts or the whisper of voices lost in time. Every stone, every shadowed corner, becomes charged with magical curiosity inviting exploration, discovery, and dreaming.

And so, in the embrace of the evening, after witnessing one of the most magnificent sunsets nature can offer, the visitor is called to leave the Castello Alfonsino. But they depart with an unspoken promise: to carry away the memory of this enchanted twilight, to treasure it as a revealed secret, a gift of immeasurable value, a treasure trove of emotions and beauty that will accompany the return to the everyday.

Ultimately, the sun, in its eternal cycle, will return to greet the castle at the next dusk, but those who have witnessed it once will forever retain a fragment of that light, a golden thread that indissolubly binds the soul to the magic of the Castello Alfonsino, to Brindisi, to Puglia. An invisible but tenacious thread that invites a return, a rediscovery, a reliving of that sublime symphony of colors and sensations. Every sunset is a farewell, not a goodbye, to the Castello Alfonsino.