Puglia - Places to visit - Taranto
The city of Taranto lies inside the Gulf of the same name, and of the two urban nuclei, the old town stands on an isthmus crossed by a pair of canals which link the inner lagoon of the Mar Piccolo with the Mar Grande, and is characterized by its narrow though interesting streets. The new town extends eastwards in land, in a triangle with a regular urban layout. The two towns are linked by the famous swing bridge.
Founded by the Spartans, according to tradition (8th century BC.), in the course of the centuries it became one of the most prosperous cities in Magna Grecia, though often at war with its neighbours (the Messapi, Peucezi and Lucanians). When its ally, Pyrrhus, King of Epirus, was defeated in 273 BC., it was forced to pay homage to Rome.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was conquered by the Goths, then the Byzantines and Lombards, followed by the Saracens and again Byzantium until Robert Guiscard conquered it for the Normans in 1063. From that time onwards, it shared the fortunes of the Kingdom of Sicily, until unification with Italy in 1860.
The monuments include: the Duomo (10th-11th century, with later additions), the church of S. Domenico Maggiore (11th-14th century, with later additions), the Aragonese castle (15th century), all in the old town. In the new town: Villa Peripato (park, view of the Mar Piccolo). A powerful example of architecture is the Aldo Moro Bridge, with a 1,200 m. span over the Mar Piccolo.
In the 1960s, the economy of Taranto, traditionally based on shipping and trading, related also to the high production of agricultural production of the inland areas (grapes, olives, vegetables), expanded considerably with the construction of a vast steelmaking complex (Italsider, one of the largest in Europe), flanked by satellite industries such as chemicals, cement and mechanical engineering, together with smaller dependent companies. Fishing is a fairly consistent factor in the economy, together with related activities (fish processing). Taranto is also a major naval base.
Events: International Congress of Studies on Magna Grecia, National Art Exhibition, Biennale dell'incisione, Festa di S. Cataldo (8th-10th May), Processione degli Incappucciati (Holy Week), Festa dei Santi Medici (SS. Cosmo and Damiano, 26th September).
Famous People: Livius Andronicus (Latin poet, 3rd century BC.), Giovanni Paisiello (musician, 1740-1816), Giulio Cesare Viola (play wright, 1886-1958).
Cultural Institutions: State Archives, Biblioteca Civica, Museo Nazionale (one of the most important for Magna Grecia culture, sculptures, pottery, jewelry; prehistoric section), Museo del Sottosuolo, Museo Oceanografico.
In the Province: Martina Franca, Massafra, Grottaglie (hand-made pottery), Manduria (Antiquarium), Riva dei Tessali (beach resort), Castellaneta Marina (beach resort).