Things to see in Taranto: guide to the “Spartan city” of Italy.Let’s explore Taranto and its surroundings. What to do in one day, two days and … a little more.
Have you ever visited Taranto?
Founded by the Spartans, Taranto became one of the most important centers of Magna Graecia.
Today Taranto is the third largest city in southern Italy.
For many years it had the largest steel mill in Europe and one of the most important commercial and military ports in the Mediterranean area.
Italy too often forgets how much of their way of being in the world comes from the ancient history of this city.
However, it is undeniable that, from the seventies onwards, something went wrong, otherwise Taranto would be the richest city in Europe today.
I have already explained in this post on Instagram, in my usual geopolitical hooters, what, in my opinion, went wrong (if you like to hear about travel and politics, follow me and let’s keep in touch).
Today the city of Taranto is experiencing a new Renaissance.
And the interesting thing is that you, you who read this article, can be an important piece of this turning point, following three simple points:
- Obviously, visit Taranto with keen eyes, looking for a city with its own specific history and not the usual wedding favor of globalization where everything is the same as all the other cities you have seen;
- talk about it and tell it, in your own small way, verbally or on your social channels;
- Do the things I’m about to list, as a traveler.
Let’s get to the heart of your trip: here’s what to see in Taranto and its surroundings in one day formula, in a weekend and then, if you stay a little longer, I’ll also let you explore the surroundings of Taranto.
Visit the old city of Taranto
The old city of Taranto can be reached from two bridges:
starting from the “promenade” type walk, where I will take you shortly, go towards the swing bridge, while you already glimpse the Aragonese Castle. (the other bridge to access it is the Ponte di Pietra, we’ll get there in a moment).
Practically the old city of Taranto is built on an island.
The interior of the old city of Taranto is a complex of alleys, some of which are dark, which lead towards the blinding light of the seafront (important parenthesis: the sea that bathes Taranto is crystal clear, and it is quite hard to find a similar sea that bathes a city that is so large, despite its proximity to industrial complexes).
In the alleys of the old city, proceeding towards the Duomo, you will see murals on old walls and shutters.
They were born from the spontaneous actions of students and artists, they generated debate (as guerrilla art and every form of art should do), today they are part of the things photographed in Taranto by its passing travelers (which some call tourists) because they tell part of local history and politics.
On the straight that leads to the cathedral you will see some interesting ones, immediately after another historical hotspot, namely the
Its fortification dates back to the times of the Byzantines and the need for protection from Venetians and Saracens (as mentioned, Taranto was an outpost that appealed to many), but the current structure dates back to the end of the 1400s.
Here you can take free guided tours.
The sea view courtyards of the castle offer a really beautiful skyline, and looking at the sea from here, you will enjoy it at least as much as seeing the sunset over the sea. But about that, we’ll talk about it in a moment.
In the meantime, I’ll take you to see the next hotspot by walking through the center:
Temple of Poseidon
The columns and the plan (to tell the truth, not yet clear even to archaeologists) date back to the 4th century BC. and it is the oldest temple in Magna Graecia.
You will find it as soon as you enter the island of the old city, taking the straight road that leads to the Cathedral Basilica.
Cathedral Basilica of San Cataldo
Cultural and religious destination for those who visit the old city, this site gives you the opportunity to see its details up close (and also to see a beautiful “sdronata” that starts from the facade showing old Taranto from above).
The building is Byzantine, from the 10th century, and is the oldest cathedral in Puglia.
From the passage known as “pendio la Riccia”, a road-stairway that leads from alleys to the sea, towards the fish market and the long quay where small fishing boats dock.
This is perhaps one of the most distinctive areas of the city, the charm of which has long been underestimated.
It is a place so surreal that it is one of the most real, tangible and genuine places in the city, so real that it goes around and becomes magical.
The stone bridge (or Ponte di Porta Napoli),
at the other end of the ancient village, it leads to the modern and residential suburbs.
Let’s now go back to the
Shopping area of Taranto
The central shopping area is the most modern part of the city.
Place of nightlife, clubs, shopping and offices overlooking the sea or in any case on the road that leads to it, and parallel streets with buildings from the seventies and sixties.
Via d’Aquino is what, in the standardized language of the travel world, would be called the shopping street.
Smooth and comfortable flooring, no cars, wide street and the main fashion franchise shops; a comfort zone for sure.
The perspective view is accompanied by palm trees that lead to the sea, as if to indicate to those who cross it that the owner of the house is always Him, the sea, or at most is in there (Poseidon).
Promenade Vittorio Emanuele II
The promenade which you can enjoy today, with a walk of beauty and inspiration, is the result of fairly recent redevelopment and expansion of the pedestrian areas.
As if the relationship of Taranto with the sea had been the center of this urban project, from here you can enjoy the coolness of the sea and from the city side meet the main monuments of the fascist era; the regime focused heavily on the city of Taranto, from an architectural point of view.
In these approximately 7 km of promenade, the watershed is the Rotonda Marinai d’Italia, in front of the Government Palace, both designed and built during the Fascist period.
From the roundabout, you can admire the spectacle of the Great Sea on one side and the Cheradi Islands on the other.
And, let me tell you, the roundabout is the best place to enjoy the sunset: here, due to the geographical position, you will see the sunset over the sea.
What to see in Taranto in a weekend (or two days)
If you want to stay in Taranto for two days (or for a weekend), to the above I would tell you to add a visit to the MArTa, the National Archaeological Museum, a great pride of the city.
Being understood that if you are such a lover, a stop at MARTA is a good idea even on the way of one day, it becomes in my opinion a fundamental stop for trips of even just a weekend.
In addition to being an archaeological museum, the MArTa is also a place for events and temporary art exhibitions, exhibitions and performances, in short, a museum in an American model.
It is located in a very central position, in Via Cavour 10.
Visit to the Cheradi Islands
If you visit Taranto from June to September you can also enjoy the sea and the wild scenery of the Cheradi Islands, part of the Taranto area, off the coast of the city.
To tell the truth, the only one of the two Cheradi that can be visited is the island of San Pietro, while that of San Paolo is not open to the public. Both are a place of great environmental interest, suitable for wild spirits and respectful of nature and biodiversity, and both belong to the Navy.
You can purchase the round trip motorboat service and rent an umbrella using the KYMA-Amat website or App or buy from the Piazzale Democrate ticket office, from where the hydrofoils to the island depart.
Admire the coast of Puglia and Basilicata and … the dolphins
Thanks to the JDC Jonian Dolphin Conservation association, an observatory for the protection and study of cetaceans in the Gulf of Taranto, it is possible to book a 5-hour safari to spot dolphins and see them up close, always with the utmost respect for their environmental balance.
What to see in the surrounding of Taranto:
beautiful beaches, colorful villages and aperitifs in the vineyard
If you stay longer and also want to explore the surroundings of Taranto, there is a small distinction to be made between summer and the rest of the year (net of the fact that at these latitudes, summer can mean from mid-May to mid-October) .
The seasides of Taranto are splendid.
Saline dei Monaci beach is on the Salento line, with soft white sand, Caribbean sea and resting areas of regal pink flamingos.
Among the very popular beaches near Taranto there is also Ginosa, Marina di Pulsano (my favorite) and Castellaneta Marina.
But the surroundings of Taranto are a constellation of very different and interesting cultural villages; for example, let’s start from Grottaglie, a village of ceramic craftsmanship, where the art of potters invades the streets, “furnished” with majolica, murals, beautiful colors.
The atmosphere of the candid Martina Franca, already in the territory of the Itria Valley, also leaves enchanted.
If, on the other hand, you have an interest in wines, know that Manduria, the area of the famous primitivo di Manduria wine, is right in the surroundings of Taranto.
Here in some wineries it is possible to book pleasant aperitifs in the vineyard.