Photo of Taranto

Visit Taranto

Taranto is situated in the province of Puglia, in south-eastern Italy. It is the chief town of the province and an important maritime base and industrial port, located at the northern end of the vast gulf from which it takes its name.

The oldest part of the city lies on an island connected by two bridges to more recent development on the mainland to the east and west.

Explore Taranto

Italy This Way review: Taranto is not really a tourist destination but the Old City of Taranto with its attractive seafront and impressive castle are worth visiting.

The best way to arrive in Taranto by car is following the impressive road 377 called 'Road Of the Caves', which brings you directly to Taranto. Those arriving by train will take the line Bari-Taranto line.

Taranto

Taranto is on the coast set around a large bay in which is the San Pietro Island. The Old Citysits on a small artificial island connected to the new town to the north and south by two bridges. Behind the Old City is a large lagoon called the Mar Piccolo or 'little sea'.

Taranto is often called the city of two seas with the sea being the 'big sea' and the lagoon the 'little sea'.

Dominating the Old City, the Città Vecchia, is the castle, an architectural jewel built by Ferdinand of Aragon in 1492. This castle replaced a 9th century Byzantine fortress. The castle is very powerful with its four towers and seafront position.

Behind the castle, you can see the swing bridge which crosses the eastern canal linking the big sea and the little sea. The swing bridge is of particular importance to the city, because it allows the passage of large ships and also connects the mainland to the islet on which stands the old town.

Next to the castle are the ruins of an ancient 6th century BC Doric temple with two columns still visible. This is one of several Greek temple ruins in the city.

Well worth a visit is Taranto Cathedral, which dates from 1070, has been extensively remodelled over the centuries and now has a Baroque façade. The interior has three naves, the middle one with a wooden coffered ceiling and a roof supported by 16 columns of marble and granite.

Be sure to take a look at the crypt with its sarcophagi and the remains of various frescoes.

Other churches in the old town of Taranto include the  San Cataldo chapel dedicated to an Irish monk who was the first bishop and patron of the city. Its decorations include a variety of marble and embedded semiprecious stones. There are also numerous paintings in the cathedral, including frescoes by Paolo de Matteis.

Also interesting is the Romanesque-Gothic style Church of San Domenico Maggiore, dating from the 11th century and with a single nave. The church contains an icon by Marco Pino called The Circumcision.

 
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The main square is the Piazza Fontana and around here is the lively fish market, some excellent fish restaurants and an 18th century clock tower. There are also some fine 18th century palaces including the Liberty style Palazzo Carducci; the Baroque style Palazzo Galeota; the Palazzo La Tagliata and the Palazzo Pantaleo.

The so-called New Town (beyond the swing bridge) follows a 19th century plan. This part of Taranto is located to the south-east of the Old Town and contains various interesting places.

Taranto has an excellent archaeological museum, the Museo Archeologico Nasionale. Pass through Piazza Castello and along Via Matteotti (with the Oceanographic Museum) and the Piazza Archytas to reach the National Archaeological Museum, with its 16 rooms containing extensive historical material.

The first six rooms contain works of sculpture - many of great importance including Aphrodites Head (6th c. BC by the Praxiteles School); some heads of mythological characters; and a sarcophagus decorated with scenes of battle between Greeks and Trojans during the Trojan War (from the Hellenistic period)...and many other sculptures and reliefs.

Also in the museum be sure to see the area devoted to Attic ceramics, with some exceptional pieces, like the cup with Banquet scenes by the Painter of Heidelberg, an Attic ceramist active around 575 B.C.), and other ceramics with Hercules, Dionysus, Theseus and Circe.

The 'Hall of gold' contains gold and silver jewellery, then upstairs there is a collection of archaeological finds dating back to prehistoric times, with various everyday objects in stone, also knives, swords, tripods, spear points.

Leaving the museum and then taking Via Cavour and Via Roma you reach the garden of Villa Peripato, rich in plants such as palms and pines and with a central statue of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).

In the New City you can also visit the Promenade Vittorio Emanuele III, lined with palm trees which shade the sides of the beautiful buildings, such as the Prefecture, which also contains an important library, the 'Post Office building', 'Piazza Ebalia', and the co-Cathedral dedicated to the Mother of God.

This newer cathedral, renovated with a modern Gothic-style architecture by Giò Ponti in 1971, incorporates the symbolic representation of a sail, with which the artist reminds us of the ancient maritime vocation of Taranto.

Also worthy of note in this part of Taranto is the Piazza Archita (dedicated to Archytas, an eminent mathematician of Taranto in the 4th century BC) and dominated by the 'Office building', which was built in stages between the 17th and 18th centuries and has a beautiful façade, with columns, ornate windows, decorations and ornaments.

An interesting antique-dealing market, with some ancient furniture and work of art, is held in this square once a month.

Long-standing traditions are very much alive in the city of Taranto. You can see valuable handicraft work (especially beautiful ceramics) at the Grottaglie (and the Museum of Majolica, with artifacts dating from the 16th century) and Manduria.

In addition to crafts you will also find that the local cuisine is one of the best in Italy. As well as local oils try the 'Primitive Manduria' (a naturally sweet liqueur) and, among wines, the Martina, a wine that goes with the typical local fish dishes, such as the large and very tasty 'mussels from Taranto', the 'Tarentello' (tuna fish and spices), and, among meats, the famous 'Capocollo' (pork neck).

Related article: the history of Taranto.

Temple of Poseidon in Taranto

Attractions nearby

Martina-Franca is a pretty town with a wealth of Baroque buildings.

Alberobello is one of the major tourist destinations of Puglia because of its beautiful trulli. Nearby Locorotondo is classified as one of the most beautiful villages of Italy.

You can find more local travel ideas in and the Puglia guide.

See also Find Taranto hotels

Photos of Taranto

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  • castle
  • seafront
  • taranto-boats
  • taranto-ceramics
  • taranto-madonna-rosary
  • temple-poseidon
  • town-hall

Map of Taranto and places to visit

 
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Taranto places to visit

Martina-Franca

Martina-Franca

Martina-Franca is a pretty hilltop town with beautiful baroque buildings.

Martina-Franca guide
Locorotondo

Locorotondo

Not to be missed! Locorotondo is one of the 'most beautiful villages of Italy'.

Locorotondo guide
Alberobello

Alberobello

Alberobello is a beautiful little town full of incredible buildings called trulli with cone-shaped roofs

Alberobello guide
Metaponto

Metaponto

In Metaponto Archaeological Park and museum you can see Greek temples and artefacts from the 6th century BC

Metaponto guide
Ostuni

Ostuni

Ostuni is known as the 'White City' for its lovely white-washed buildings.

Ostuni guide

...or see all our recommended places to visit in Puglia

 
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