Located in the Apulia region of Southern Italy, Taranto is a huge commercial and military port and is one of the most important cities in this area of Italy. Currently the city has a population of 200,000 and has several major economic industries including commercial shipping and trade, steel works, iron foundries and shipyards for military use. Taranto actually has a long and celebrated history and was colonized around 700 BC by the ancient Greeks as a Spartan Colony.
During this period, the city thrived and it had one of the largest populations of the era and you can still see some of the architectural remains today. As time progressed, the fortunes of Taranto frequently fluctuated and the city is now seeing a resurgence due to the shipping industries that are thriving here. Offering a fantastic range of ancient buildings and monuments and beautiful white sand beaches, Taranto is a beautiful and interesting tourist destination.
Here are the best things to do in Taranto:
1. Castello Aragonese
Undoubtedly one of the finest sights in Taranto, the Aragonese Castle stands in the south east corner of the island of Borgo Antico and can be seen when entering the bay surrounding the city.
Parts of the castle actually date back to the 900’s when the Byzantines rule this region of Italy.
The main walls and towers that stand today however were constructed in the late 1400’s by Ferdinand II of Aragon.
Enter the castle via the fantastic raised walkway and stroll across the battlements and towers to see out across to the sea and the Isle of Saint Peter in the distance.
Furthermore, the Chapel of St. Leonard which is located within the castle walls is quite magnificent and is a must see.
Guided tours are also available if you wish to learn more about the history of this wonderful structure.
2. Taranto Cathedral
This Byzantine structure was originally created in the 10th century and then restored and reconstructed in the 11th century with the addition of a basilica.
Located in the centre of the Borgo Antico, the cathedral is easily accessible on foot and is a great building to visit during a tour of the old town.
The front facade of the Cathedral features several ornate marble statues and decorative pediments; furthermore, the coast of arms of Taranto can be seen above the immense doorway.
Inside, the Byzantine influence is ever-present and you can still see some of the original mosaic floor tiles.
Furthermore, the Chapel of San Cataldo features some amazing decoration and patterned artwork with a dazzling display of colour.
3. Taranto Spartan Museum
In ancient times, the legendary Spartans actually had a colony in the region that is now Taranto.
Some of the history and bygone era still remains today and is seen at the Spartan Museum.
This museum is located on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, but the actual rooms and exhibits are all underground.
You may walk past the unassuming building to start with, but look for the red sign above the doorway.
Once inside you are taken underground into the old chambers that were actually built thousands of years ago by expert Spartan craftsmen.
Here you can learn about the history of the Spartans in this region and see an interesting collection of artefacts and recreated armour etc.
4. Museo Nazionale Archeologico
Located in the new town next to the Giardini Garibaldi, the National Archaeological Museum is a worthwhile visit and offers a fantastic amount of artefacts and exhibits.
Housed in a building that once belonged to the Alcantaini Monks, the museum was established in 1887. Inside this fantastic structure, you can find a series of rooms dedicated to the various cultures that prevailed throughout the history of Taranto including Roman and Greek.
Items on display include a marble bust of the legendary Heracles, fine bronze and gold jewelry, Renaissance oil paintings and beautiful mosaic floor tiles.
5. Ponte Girevole
Connecting the main modern part of Taranto with the old island of Borgo Antico, the Ponte Girevole or Bridge of San Francesco di Paola has stood since 1887 and is approximately 73m in length.
Standing on two large stone bases, both sections of the bridge actually swing outwards to create a gap that large ships can pas through.
This function was previously performed using a system of hydraulics, but it is now electrically run.
If you get the chance, it is worthwhile waiting for the bridge to open as the motion is quite spectacular to see.
Walking along the Corso Due Mari, you can take some fantastic photos of the bridge, and of the Aragonese Castle.
6. Isola di San Pietro
The Cheradi Islands are an archipelago that lie to the south west of Taranto in the Gulf of Taranto.
Saint Peter is the largest of the three islands and is the only one that is prohibited for public use.
The AMAT Waterways transport company operates ferries and private shuttles to the island, alternatively there are boat tours that leave from Taranto that circle the islands and regale you with their history.
Once on the Island of Saint Peter, you can relax on one of the secluded beaches, or explore the rugged landscape and the expansive pine forests.
7. Tempio di Poseidon
As previously mentioned, Taranto was colonized by various ancient civilizations including the Spartans and Greeks.
Remnants of these previous eras can still be seen throughout the city, and the most prominent feature is the Temple of Poseidon or Doric Temple.
Located within the historic Borgo Antico Island, the temple is within easy reach of the main sights including the Aragonese Castle.
This temple originates from the 6th century BC and was dedicated to the might sea god Poseidon.
Still standing today, you can see two of the original columns that have stood for thousands of years and the foundations of the marvellous structure.
8. Lungomare Vittorio Emanuele
This beautifully created promenade stretches from the Monumento al Marinaio up past the Ponte Girevole and concludes at the start of Via Roma.
Patterned polished stone lines the walkway and creates a pleasing finish that is easy to walk on – benches are positioned at regular intervals and provide a place to sit and admire the stunning coastal scenery.
From this public promenade you can see the Aragonese Castle, walk across the Ponte Girevole, see the Maritime monument and also stop at one of the restaurants that line the street with outdoor seating.
9. La Rotonda / Palazzo del Governo
This large semi-circular Piazza sits in the new part of Taranto not far from the Borgo Antico and offers some beautiful views out to sea and of the surrounding landscape.
From here you can look out towards the sea and watch the large commercial ships entering the ports of Taranto and watch the locals go about their daily business.
Behind the Piazza is the epic Palazzo del Governo which currently acts as an administrative building for the city.
Constructed in 1934, this building has a grand style and its two outer towers stand at 52m in height.
10. Monumento al Marinaio
The Sailors Monument of Taranto is dedicated to the brave sailors of the Italian Navy and is created from pure bronze.
Constructed in 1974 by the sculptor Vittorio Do Cobertaldo, this monument also pay tribute to the Battle of Taranto which involve the Italian Navy and British Navy during WWII. Standing at 7m high, the monument is meant to represent two sailors greeting ships as they enter the Small Sea.
This monument is an important work of art and one of the main icons of the city.
11. Borgo Antico
The Borgo Antico is the historical old town centre of Taranto and sits on an island located in-between the two promontories of the mainland.
Accessible by the Ponte Girevole and the Ponte di Porta Napoli, the Borgo is where most of the historical sights and attractions are located including the Aragonese Castle and the Tempio di Poseidon.
Consider walking through the many charming side streets and admiring the historic architecture, or have a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants and cafes.
Don’t forget to check out the pleasant harbour on the north eastern side of the island and see the many fishing and sailing boats that are docked here.
12. Eat fine Italian Seafood at Paranza Restaurant
Taranto offers a wide variety of fine restaurants and the region is known for its high quality seafood due to the fishing industry that operates in the surrounding waters.
Located on the Via Cariati on the western edge of the Borgo Antico, the Paranza Restaurant is a delightful place to enjoy a traditional Italian meal.
The main menu includes a variety of pasta dishes such as Linguine, Spaghetti and Risotto, and fine seafood options such as muscles, Octopus and squid.
The ambience here is fantastic and the service is second to none.
13. Piazza Ebalia
Taranto has a range of fine squares and piazzas and the Piazza Ebalia presents a pleasant public area at admire in the new part of the city.
Located on the inviting Lungomare Vittorio Emanuele III, the Piazza Ebalia features a huge central fountain that has a range of sculptured and different water jets.
Furthermore there is a host of surrounding cafes and restaurants on the adjacent streets and shaded areas to sit in.
From here you can also walk onto the Vittorio Emanuele promenade and enjoy a stroll through the Giardini del Lungomara and admire the fantastic coastal views.
14. Spiaggia di Tramontone
The section of coastline surrounding Taranto features a selection of first class beaches that are perfect to visit for a day trip and to soak up the fantastic Mediterranean weather.
Tramontone Beach lies in the commune of Praia a Mare and is approximately 20 minutes to the south of Taranto by car.
Although only a small beach, it is not often frequented by tourists and is therefore often quiet and you may have the whole stretch of sand to yourself.
Crystal clear waters provide an opportunity to swim or paddle and there is also a series of rocky outcrops to explore.
15. Spiaggia di San Vito
Further round the coast to the south from the Spiaggia di Tramontone is the Spiaggia di San Vito which also contains a sports complex and various bars and restaurants.
If you continue to the south from Tramontone for approximately 10 minutes you will eventually come to the complex and beach.
There is plenty of sun loungers and parasols to sunbath with and also a couple of beach bars too.
Further down the coast is a stretch of rocky coastline to explore and the clear waters stretch out to the beautiful Ionian Sea.