Taranto. Best things to see (and eat!) in the dolphins'town
June 5, 2019
by Annalisa Galetta
“Taranto is a perfect city: living there is like living inside a shell, inside an oyster. A crowded old town inside a new town surrounded by “two seas”. Taranto, a shining shattered huge diamond”. This is the way a well-known Italian writer, Pier Paolo Pasolini, described the city in his reportage “The long sandy road”.
We are in the southeast of Italy, in Puglia, best known for cities as Lecce, Bari or the little Martina Franca, Alberobello and Fasano, where the famous singer Madonna celebrated her birthday in the past years! But maybe few know that in the same region, there’s the capital of Ancient Greece and the unique community founded by Spartans: Taranto. If your idea of a holiday is to put together long sandy beaches and historical tours through ancient ruins, old buildings and very important museums, this is the place for you. With some surprises too.
Sites of cultural and historical interest
First of all, it’s important to point out that Taranto is composed of a very old part and a new one, built in the modern age. You can walk through the narrow alleys in the old town and catch signs of ancient dominations wherever you look. This is the first tip! Now I’ll give you some other suggestions about the most important historical places to see in this particular “two seas town”.
Aragonese Castle, Turning Bridge, and Sailors Monument
The Aragonese Castle is an old fortress (whose first nucleus was built in 780 by the Bizantine). It is the border between the old and the new town and it is visited by thousands of tourists from all over the world; the site is a property of Italian Navy and a marshall will guide you, totally free of charge, inside the places of the castle and of the history. Next to the Aragonese Castle, is the Turning Bridge, a unique type of bridge because of its opening mode; it has the important role to connect the two parts of the city and its two seas. Keep on walking on the promenade, you’ll pass close to the Sailors Monument, a statue of two sailors giving a warm welcome to all people coming from the sea.
Probably the most important museum in Europe in its field, it collects a huge amount of Greece and Romans artifacts and the very famous collection of the Jewels of Taranto: gold rings, necklaces, earrings, and others little objects of the period of Magna Grecia in Puglia.
St. Cataldo’s Cathedral
This is the most ancient church of Apulia. Built in the 10th century by the Byzantines, this Cathedral is dedicated to the patron saint of Taranto. Look at the frescoes all around you and walk down the stairs to see the crypt under the floor. You’ll be surprised by the magnificence of the colors and the abundance of details.
The Underground City
Under the pavement of Taranto, no more than a couple of meters down, there are so many ruins you can’t imagine. Greek and Roman people built a huge number of public buildings, now destroyed or hidden under the basements of the new town. Thanks to the association Taranto Sotterranea is now possible to discover all the hypogaeums in the old city and visit the most important necropolis of Taranto. With a tourist guide, you’ll find out the true history of the capital of Magna Grecia.
Walking down the old town
You can feel something magic walking down the old town. Narrow alleys cross in a strange labyrinth where suddenly you can see some fresco on the wall or a beautiful glimpse on the sea. Just lose your way and enjoy the walk! You won’t regret it.
Depending on the period of the year you’re visiting Taranto, you’ll find something different to do. About the local folklore, I think that you should see by any means the religious ceremonies of Holy Week, whose most important moment in the two-night processions through the town. The week before Easter, citizens are all focused on the preparation and the viewing of those rituals. Inescapable, if you visit Taranto in the Easter week.
Digit Taranto on the web: you’ll be surprised to find out that dolphin is the most common recurring key-word for this town.
Let’s go find dolphins!
Don’t miss the Jonian Dolphin Conservation tour to see dolphins in the Jonian Sea in front of Taranto. This no-profit organization will guide you through an unforgettable adventure with hundreds of dolphins living there in a regular way. You’ll be able to shoot the most incredible photos you’ve ever taken of dozen of dolphins jumping in and out the waves!
One of the best period to visit Taranto is summer. And the reason is very simple: the kilometers of sandy beaches, sand dunes, and rocks. Just out of Taranto, there is a large number of bathhouses. Here are some of them:
- Gandoli beach: a little but very kind bathhouses with all comfort, bars, restaurants, playgrounds, and a breathtaking Caribbean sea…
- Canneto Beach: here you’ll also find a swimming pool for kids;
- Camping Santomaj: if you like to go camping, this is the right place – a big area on the sea.
You can choose between private or free beaches and trust me, here, you have a big selection!
Don’t forget we are in Puglia, home of the best handmade food in the world! The most famous Apulian food is the orecchiette con cime di rapa (with turnip greens) and also creamed fava beans and chicory. But the most delicious food is certainly fried panzerotto. It is like a pizza but curled into itself and stuffed of mozzarella, tomato, ham, and so on. Furthermore, Taranto is a sea town, so you’ll find many sea restaurants where eat very fresh fish, crustaceans and of course mussels in a really cheap way. I’ll suggest you some of them:
- Fratelli Pesce, situated in the old town, on the seafront, this restaurant is one of the best places to taste daily fresh fish, according to many locals;
- Pescheria Trattoria del Pescatore da Murianni, just close to the previous one, it rivals Fratelli Pesce the title of the best fish restaurant in Taranto;
- Vistamare, here you can try a different way to eat fish. These guys give you the opportunity to taste many gourmet sandwiches with fish filling, accompanied by good wines. And the location isn’t bad at all: you’re on the Turning Bridge!
If you are looking for the best panzerotto in Taranto, I can give you some hints. In my opinion, there are two places where you can try the most delicious ones:
- Picce de Fame, in the old town, along Duomo Street;
- Casa del Panzerotto, in the suburb of Taranto, they can prepare for you this kind of pizza with all the ingredients you could love!
There are so many different places where go out for dinner that it’s impossible to name them all. You can be sure of one thing, though: it’s almost unthinkable finding another region in the world with this kind of goodness of the food.
So at this point my suggest is only one: take your time, walk slowly, taste as much as you can and fill your eyes with the beauty of this land. You’ll not forget Her. You’ll not forget Taranto.