The City of Taranto (Italian) received its name from the Tarantula spider. After being bitten by the local Wolf Spider, ancient residents would do a long and energetic dance to sweat out the poison and survive the bite. Their dance came to be called the Tarantella, now a popular Italian dance and style of music. Visitors to the Port of Taranto will enjoy participating in the celebration of the Tarantella. There are also a number of places visitors will want to see.
The Port of Taranto’s Museo Archeologico Nazionale houses 50,000 artifacts dating from the ancient Greek and Roman periods as well as materials from the Byzantine era and medieval times. The collections also include inscriptions from Jewish tombs in the Port of Taranto. While the museum is being restored and expanded, a collection of Greek sculptures is displayed in the Palazzo Pantaleo. A treasure found at the Port of Taranto’s necropolis is the 500 BC Sarcophagus of the Athlete containing the remains of the athlete!
Visitors will be impressed by the Sala degli Ori (Room of Gold) where there are displays of many beautiful jewels and jewelry made by the ancient village’s famous goldsmiths. Treasures include necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and tiaras, all made with delicate and minute detail in gold filigree.
Citta Nuova (Italian) is home to the 12th Century Cattedrale di San Cataldo. Once a mosque, it is one of the area’s oldest Roman buildings. With breathtaking frescos and marble inlays, the Byzantine mosaic floors are visible. The nave’s columns were taken from the temples that once stood on the island.
One of the Port of Taranto’s most popular sites is the remains of the Doric columns. Once lining an ancient temple to Poseidon at the Port of Taranto’s agora (market), the columns have been re-erected in the Piazza Castello (Italian). Another favorite place is the Port of Taranto’s fish market on Via Cariati. This noisy busy open-air market offers wonderful locally-caught fish including monkfish, aragoste, and octopus. No wonder, many of the Port of Taranto’s best restaurants are across the street.
The Castel Sant’ Angel (Aragonese Castle) of Taranto was first constructed in 916 by the Byzantines to protect the Port of Taranto from the Saracens and the Republic of Venice. When the first channel was dug to create the old town island in the 15th Century, Ferdinand II d’Aragon enlarged the castle and added large guns and thick walls. By the 18th Century, the castle had become a prison; however, Napoleon Bonaparte restored it to its original use. In 1887, the castle became the Italian Navy’s headquarters in the Port of Taranto.
The Chiesa di San Domenico Maggiore (Church of Saint Domenico Greater) is one of the Port of Taranto’s oldest churches. Built in 1302 by the Taurisano family of nobles, it was built atop Neolithic ruins. The architecture is both Goth and Roman.