Presentation of the destination
Taranto is the capital city of the Taranto Province in Puglia, on the Southern coasts of Italy. With a population of over 200,000, it is Southern Italy's third largest city and a historical port with immense beauty and heritage to offer visitors. The area of Taranto is a wild landscape of sheer cliffs and sandy coastlines that create a wild, picturesque surrounding. Established as an Ancient Greek colony, part of the Greek Empire, by the famous city-state of Sparta, Taranto has a long and interesting history. The region is also home to UNESCO World Heritage Site, the village of Alberobello that is comprised of cone-shaped structures that are typical to Apuglian historical architecture. All in all, Taranto, with its fantastic Southern Mediterranean climate that offers warm summers and mild winters, is a destination that will keep all visitors aspiring to relax and admire authentic Italian culture and cuisine, satisfied. Local time is GMT+1 and the currency used is the Euro.
Points of interests / things to see
Taranto has a history that goes back centuries. In 706BC during the reing of the Greek Empire, the Spartans settled in the region and built the ancient city, one of the largest in Magna Graecia, upon which Modern Taranto rests today. What survives of this ancient Greek city are parts of the city's wall, tombs and the remains of the Temple of Poseidon. The ruins consist of two ancient Doric columns that were part of the temple and can be found in the corner of the central square known as Piazza Castello. It has been said that, the Temple of Poseidon was erected here by Poseidon's son, Taras who was the founder of city and after whom, the city took its initial Greek name 'Taras'. The ruins of the temple date back to the 6th century BC. Poseidon, for those who are not familiar with Greek mythology, was the Ancient Greek God of the Seas, and on ancient coins found in Taranto's archaeological sites, Taras is depicted as arriving in Taras on the back of a dolphin holding a trident. Many other items found in the excavations, such as pottery, ceramics and bronze artifacts indicate that Taranto reached the peak of its commercial and cultural domination during the Greek era.
Founded in 1887, the National Archaeological Museum of Taranto is one of Italy's most important and outstanding museums. Housed in an 18th century building known as Convent of the Alcantarini monks or of Saint Pasquale, the museum was established by archaeologist L. Viola and was initially meant to be a museum dedicated to Magna Graecia and Taranto's early ancient Greek roots. Because of the history of the region itself, the museum evolved into a museum of national archaeological importance, where today it houses relics and artifacts from different historical periods, ranging from pre-historic periods, to Greek, Roman and Medieval years, all the way through to Taranto's modern history. On the first floor of this historic museum visitors have the opportunity to see Greek, Roman and Apullian collections along with gold jewelry and artifacts excavated from tombs dating back to the 3rd and 4th centuries. The visitor is gradually directed into the Roman period collections which exhibit beautiful findings from Taranto's era of Roman occupancy during which the city was completely restructured. In these collections visitors can admire sculpted furniture, mosaic floors and statues of immense beauty. The museum is located on Cavou str. no. 10, open daily from 8.30 to 19.30 and tickets cost 5.00€. Free entrance for visitors under 18 and over 65 years old.
Dominating Piazza Cataldo in the heart of Taranto's old town, is the Cathedral of San Cataldo, a Cathedral of Late Baroque and Romanesque character which had been awarded the title of minor basilica in 1964 by Pope John XXIII. This truly magnificent building is Taranto's pride and glory and has been standing upon this site since the 11th century and more specifically since its year of construction in 1071. It was built over the foundations of a pagan site of worship, and although having endured much destruction through Taranto's war-filled history, it has undergone extensive reconstruction hence its mixture of styles, since in 1713, its whole facade underwent a revamp introducing the evident Baroque style. The Cathedral was initially dedicated to Mary Magdalene but since it holds the relics of San Cataldo who was, during the time of its completion, one of the most renowned and beloved bishops of the town, the Cathedral was finally dedicated to him. Frescoes created by artist Paole de Matteis in 1713 decorate the Cathedral's interior along with excellently preserved and of outstanding beauty mosaics. Its interior is also decorated with frescoes dating back to the Byzantine era, created during the 12th century. Visitors can pay a visit for free, seven days a week.
The Aragonese Castle is Taranto's landmark site and one of Puglia's main sites of interest for visitors. Built during the fifteenth century and completed in 1492 under the order of King Ferdinand of Aragon, the Aragonese Castle is a structure of defensive nature and built as a fort, strategically situated at the mouth of the sea canal linking Mar Piccolo (Small Sea) and Mar Grande (Big Sea) and located between Taranto's old and modern towns. The Castle was designed by Francesco di Giorgio, a Sienna born and popular architect of the 15th century. The Castle was built on top of previous foundations and ruins of an older fort built by the Byzantines who sought to protect the city against raids carried out by the Saracens and Turks. The Castle in its present form, consists of cylindrical towers at each side which held heavy artillery, interior paths and walkways, as well as a chapel dedicated to Saint Leonardo. It was later used as a prison and today, it houses the headquarters of the Military Navy of the Ionian Sea and opens up to the public on several cultural events and festivities. Visitors would be happy to know that admission is free, 7 days a week and there are eight tours offered daily, lasting approximately 90 minutes each.
Piazza Garibaldi, is dominated by the grandiose, rusty, brick red Palazzo del Governo or Town Hall as an English-speaking visitor would put it, where the municipal administration of the city of Taranto is housed. The building was constructed on the ruins of the Alabra Theatre which was demolished during the 1920s and the new town hall was inaugurated under the reign of Benito Mussolini in 1934. The architect in charge of its construction was Brasini Armando and the building itself is built in such a way offering beautiful views of the Big Sea and looks out onto the Cheradi Islands. At 85 meters above sea level and at 52 meters tall, it is one of the most dominating buildings found in Taranto and a central landmark. Constructed of local brown carparo rock in combination with brass and copper, the building has an arched shape and resembles a fortress-like building reminding visitors of the defensive and fortified character of Taranto's port throughout its long history. The entrance of the town hall is decorated by large Roman-inspired statues of Nike - the ancient Greek godess of victory and the city's coat of arms which is Taras, son of Poseidon, on the back of a dolphin approaching the city and the name Taras inscribed in Greek. Two bell towers stand on both ends of the building which are heard on special events and festivals.
The unique trulli constructions of Alberobello are what has made this small town of 11,000 inhabitants a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a huge attraction for the wider Puglia region. Located only 46km away from Taranto, Alberobello is a site that should not be missed when visiting this region of Italy. The trulli constructions are limestone drywall dwellings built completely of limestone collected from the surrounding fields. They are spectacular examples of pre-historic architecture and building techniques. Alberobello is unique as it has over 1000 such buildings which have been very well included with its otherwise modern town planning. Today, the buildings house stores, restaurants and lodgings and are one of a kind!
Not an attraction most tourists are aware but a truly breathtaking landscape that those more nature-loving and physically fit visitors ought to see before leaving Taranto. The Terra delle Gravine stretches out over a large territory and is an immense canyon, home to thousands of Mediterranean species of flora and fauna. The park is also an important attraction since the region has large concentrations of traditional farming rock settlements and wide ravines that are the courses of rivers that once flew through the region. These rivers carved through the soft rock found in the region and created large caves that were then used as living spaces during the Neolithic period and resulted in these large, sophisticated, stone-cave settlements.
The area known as La Vela Marsh stretches out into Mar Piccolo (The Small Sea), at the edge of the natural channel of Capo D' Ayala and is a natural oasis, covered in pinewood forests of Fucarino and home to a wide spectrum of flora and fauna, especially birds, hence playing a very central role in the region's ecosystem, which, due to Taranto's industrial expansion and large manufacturing activity, has been severely depleted over the last 50 years. Hence, La Vela Marsh has been inducted into a preservation program by the non-profit organisation WWF which has set up a special team of nature scientists and preservation experts known as WWF Taranto. A great day out in nature for the whole family.
On a final attempt to appreciate Taranto's local culture and tradition, do not miss out on visiting the Ethnographic Museum of Alfredo Majorano which is dedicated to the local scholar and ethnographer who, throughout his lifetime, worked consistently in collecting a large number of material for the study of local tradition and its originating history. The Museum is housed in the Palazzo Pantaleo, a historic 1700 building and there are plans to soon convert it into a virtual, modern, museum. The exhibits are presented throughout five floors and they consist of material such as clothing, items, photographs, journals and other relics that take the visitor through numerous rituals and heritage traditions of Taranto's everyday life throughout the ages.
Vacation rentals in Taranto (Apulia)
How to get there ?
The closest airport to Taranto is located in the city of Brindisi, just 79km away and goes by the name of Salerno Airport (BDS). You ought to get a domestic flight from either one of Italy's international airports, Milan Malpensa or Rome Fumincino Airports. Alternitavely, Alitalia and several budget airlines conduct direct flights to Salerno Airport hence, it all depends where you are flying from. From Salerno Airport, you will have to reach Brindisi's railway station from where you may get a train to Taranto which will cost you 4€ and the trip will last for approximately 1.5 hours. Otherwise, you may choose trains directly from Rome which will cost you 35.50€ and the trip lasts about 6 hours or from Milan which will cost 45€ and will take you 11 hours to reach Taranto. You may also choose to land in Bari Airport which is just over a 100km away. Bari is linked with Taranto via train (6.80€) and bus services. Buses run daily, approximately eight throughout the day, while a ticket will cost you 4.60€ and takes you to Taranto in just over 2 hours. Ferries also reach the port of Brindisi from the Greek city port of Igoumenitsa. The ferry ride lasts 9.5 hours and costs 60€, while there are two services on a daily basis.
Taranto city hall
Hotels in Taranto (Apulia)