History of Mattinata

See Mattinata guide for highlights and historic monuments

The excavations at Mattinata have given us at least a partial knowledge of the ancient complex.

Among other things we know that the city's origins date back to the 5th-6th century BC, with the first presence being the population of the "Me-tinates" (according to Roman writer Pliny the Elder) or "Ma-tinates", Dauni tribes of the Eurasian civilization who arrived from Illyria between the 8th and 7th centuries BC [1].

The Matinates settled in the plain of Mattinata and on the rocky spur of Monte Matino (Monte Saraceno, where there is a necropolis).

The city was exposed to the Saracen and Slav invasions until the 17th century, and from this difficult period the coastal lookout towers still remain.

The current centre of the city began to develop towards  the 16th century and the old town has many traces of the ancient populations, such as some masonry houses of the 18th century and several stone houses called "haystacks" belonging to earlier periods. From 1780 the residents began to build some houses on the hill called Castelluccio.

Quoted at least three times by Horace (65-27 BC), Mattinata is now one of the most developed tourist areas of the regions coast resorts, with wide beaches, some of which can be reached only by sea; caves; rocky shores and two white “Faraglioni” of the “Mergoli” Bay.

Mattinata: Matinum in Roman times

The current town of Mattinata is the ancient "Matinum" of the Romans. The story of Matinum in Roman times has been well developed by R. Perna, who writes:

"[...] Horace makes use of the adjective 'Matinus' three times. Does anyone know what he referred by his line? L. Muller, in his "Index of the Names and Things", commenting on Horace’s “Carmina”, refers to “Matinus, a Mount of Puglia". For Porphyry (232-305 AD), the "Litus Matinus" is the “Mount or Promontory of Puglia" and for Pseudoacron (II century AD) it is the "mountain of Apulia or, as some say, the plain of Calabria".

Horace indicates the “the summit of Mount Matino or promontory in Puglia". Pliny the Elder (Nat. Hist., III, 185), also speaks of 'Metinates' (corrected Ma-tinates), and it was not difficult to understand that a location was listed with that name as corresponding to the current Mattinata at the foot of the Gargano, about one hundred meters high and a short distance from the sea. Thus scholars have thought to recognize in the town of Mattinata, the location indicated by Horace as 'Matinus' [...] " [2].

Origins of the name Mattinata

The etymology of "Matinum" has been investigated with convincing and valuable results by Professor Giovanni Alessio, who wrote that the location is:

"[...] clearly identified by place names like 'Matinus', a name of several mountains and hills (' Matina cacumina "Horace, Epode, XVI, 28; 'Litus matinus', Ad. 1, 28, 3), 'Matinatis', 'Metinatis' ex Gargano (hence 'Mattinata') of Pliny, 'Matino' (Lecce), 'Mateola' (Matera).  West of the line 'Venosa-Taranto' there is 'Matina', in the sense of 'high ground, plot of land that is not downstream'; (See Latino 'meta', or ' cumulation or conical or pyramid shape rock') [...] " [3].

"Matinum" therefore means a "city set on a hill."

Some scholars did consider "Mutinum" to also refer to the Greek city of "Apeneste" (etymologically the "city exposed to the East"), but this is very uncertain. Indeed, M. Paone noted that:

"the site of Apeneste is very questionable. It could be located between the ancient 'Mutinum' and “Merino” [4].

Another question has been raised by some scholars about the fact that "Mutinum" was a Roman "Municipium”. In this sense E. Lippolis stresses that:

"even more fanciful are the assumptions about the existence of Municipalities of Mutinum and Merinum, located in the Gargano. The first was supposed relying on Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), who remembers the 'Matinates'. But about the place of 'Matinae' we know virtually nothing" [5].

Moreover, the archaeological data are also uncertain about the exact location of "Matinum”. As M. Mazzei and Tunzi Sisto explain:

"[...] In the plain of Mattinata, in the area near the present Agnuli, was born in the first century BC a villa, mentioned in the 19th century by Captain Angelucci, who described the ruins of it, suggesting the identification with 'Matinum'.

See the Mattinata guide if planning to visit.


1. See M. Mazzei, A.M. Tunzi Sisto," The Ancient Gargano", Grenzi, 2005: 69, 126

2. see R. Perna," The Latin Poets of Puglia”, Edipuglia, 2002: 204

3. See Giovanni Alessio," Toponomastica  Calabrese”, Olschki, 1939, p. XIII

4. See M. Paone, "Studi di Storia Pugliese," Congedo, 1972: 126

5. See E. Lippolis," Between Rome and Taranto, Scorpio, 1997: 117