The attractions of the tours
The tour starts in the old city, in the island between Mar Grande and Mar Piccolo. The first stop is at St. Domenico Maggiore’s Church, it was built in 1302 on the ruins of the St. Pietro Imperiale’s byzantine Church, where there was a greek temple of ancient times. The romanic facade is decorated with a eight-century staircase which was built to connect Via Duomo to the bottom of the island. The interior is wide and bright, it is divided in 3 naves with a wooden trusses roof and it is embellish in the small lateral naves thanks to several chapels with fifteen-century and sixteen-century altars, these were realized by the Confraternities which were based at St. Domenico’ s Church.
A little away along via Duomo there is the St. Cataldo’s Cathedral. It was realized by Byzantines in the X century, it was reworked and enlarged in the following century, so that the longitudinal arm became the transept of the Basilica, which is shorted by the lateral naves. The recent facade was realized by the Architect of Lecce Mauro Manieri in 1713. Inside there is the magnificent «cappellone» St. Cataldo’s big chapel. This is elliptical-shaped, in front of it there is a quadrangular vestibule, under the altar there are the St. Cataldo’s relics and it is decorated with polycrome marble mosaic, on the dome an impressive fresco, which represent St. Cataldo’s miracles, and ten Carrara marble statues collocated in the recesses along the walls.
Next to the Cathedral there is the majestic Bishop’s Palace, probably of the XI century, it had been restored and expanded during the centuries, today it is a complex building with different styles. The quadrangular structure raises around a innercountryard with a monumental staircase which leads to the upper floors where the rooms are enriched with frescos and luxurius furniture. It is very important the Bishop’s living room, this has a gallery of religious portraits of the Bishops that came in sussession to run the Archdiocese.
At the end of Via Duomo, on the side of the fairway, there are the ruins of the oldest workship building of Magna Grecia: The Doric Temple or Poseidon Temple.
Only two columns, some column drums and a base remain of the ancient building. The ruins, which were embedded in other buildings, had been lost.
The known artifacts traced back to the V century B.C, however a study on archeological excavations says that there were a temple built by the first Spartan colonists in VIII century B.C.
The holy site was abandoned in the III century B.C. because of the Roman conquist of the city, but it was used for other purposes over the centuries.
In the XIX century the archaeologist Luigi Viola attributed the temple to the workship of Poseidon, but it would much more likely that it had been related with some goddess like Artemis, Persephone or Hera.
We shall carry on with the visit at the Aragonese Castle, it had been designed in the XII century by Ferdinand II of Aragon to Francesco di Giorgio Marini to adapt the old byzantine fortress at the modern military uses and to the firearms invention. The high medieval towers, useful for a falling defense with drainages for big stones or very hot liquids and narrow loopholes for archers, were substituted with low and massive defensive towers which can resist against cannon shots and they have launching pad and gaps for the guns.
Across the famous Ponte Girevole (Girevole bridge), which states at the beginning of the fairway, it starts Corso due Mari, the biggest of Taranto. From here you have a panoramic view of the entrance Castle. At the north corner it is possible to admire the landscape on the internal harbour of Mar Piccolo, which is well-defined by the city skyline. Taking Corso Umberto I there is San Pasquale Baylon’s Church, it was really desidered and realized, despite of difficulties, by Alcantarini friars in the second half of the XIV century. The old monastery is today the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (National Acheaological Museum), one of the most important in Europe for the Classical Era evidences. The friars had only the church after the Risorgimento suppressions. The modern facade was realized in 1936 according to the Fascist monumental style, which was close to the classic influences and it is well blended with the internal three naves of the XIV century. Today San Pasquale’s Church in conducted by Friars Minor. Turn to Via Pitagora the itineray ends at Villa Comunale Peripato, a great green park, full of exotic and lush vegetation. The Villa was realized after the Italy’s Unification by Beaumonts and it was acquared by the Tower Hall in 1913.
It takes place in the rooms of the sixteen-century archiepiscopal Seminary of Taranto. The museum was inagurated the 6 th of May 2011 by Begnigno Luigi Papa Archibishop. The Mu.di has 4 floors, and a basement, with the ruins of a old Iapigi village, the ground floor have an auditorium with 100 seats, a multifuncional room (restoration laboratory, multimedial library, meeting room), and the first and the second floor, in which there are the thematic sections; Liturgical, Christological, Marian, Saints, Religious houses and Confraternities, Cathedral and Archibishops. The expositions has more than 300 artifacts from the VII to XX century, among sacred furniture, pictures and scupture of estimate value. These come from other churches do not use for religious cult, or from “San Cataldo’s treasure” or from the Archdiocese’s patrimony. Among the artifacts there is the San Cataldo treasure with the golden cross found on the Saint chest during the excavation for the Cathedral of the XI century, the King Ferdinand II’s topaz, a brasilian topaz of Andrea Cariello, canvans of the Madonna della Salute by Nicola Porta, canvas of the Madonna dell’Assunta by Serafino Elmo, “il sogno di San Giuseppe” “ St. Joseph’s dream” by Corrado Giaquinto, Ecce Homo by Paolo de Matteis and some old reliquaries with San Cataldo’s toungue and San Vito’s blood. Recently the Mu.di. has been enriched by some contemporary art canvas with religious pictures given by the Archibishop Benigno Papa.
The old hypogaeum is in Via Cava, this street was built after the X century by Byzantines on the old greek acropolis. Here most of the houses and shops have been realized in the old calcareous tuff block. The name of the street, reminds that in the past it was a rock quarry. Along this street, which was declared public in the XIV century, a lot of rocky ruins have been found like medieval furnaces, the watch corridors on the byzantine walls and some olive-presses.
The Norman olive-press, restored by the Taranto Tower Hall and available by everyone, it dates back IX century. It is the only one in the City, it is digged up in the rock, in this area it is common to find olive-presses in the cave, because the cavern mantain the same temperature which is the best to the olive oil. In the site there are a lot of millstones for the first pressing and little wells for garbage and setting of the olive oil.
Inside the hypogaeum it has been organized a graphic, photographic and picture exposition by the students of the high school “Calo” (in Taranto), on some sight of interest of the old city. A passionate work, because “without memory of the past, never exist a good future” we hope for Taranto, said the students.
The National Archeological Museum is one of the most important in Italy; it was established in 1887 thanks to the urbanization of the east area of the fairway of Taranto and the realization of Borgo Umbertino (Umbertino district) . This caused the discovery and the distruction of a lot of finds of the greek and roman ciry and the nearest necropolis. To saveguard the discovered finds the archaeologist Luigi Viola was delegated to Taranto and he had the opening of the museum in the Alcantarini Friars convent.
It was built after the second half of XVIII century, then the building was enlarged and restored in different years, since 1903, the facade was restored by Guglielmo Calderini, while the north part was restored by Carlo Ceschi and realized between 1935 and 1941.
The renovation work has been starting from 1998 and this has completed the National Archeological Museum – MarTa with the sitting up of te second floor (opened the 29 th July of 2016). The exposition is based on the characteristics of the materials of the museum’s collection and the possibility to have a reference to the excavation sites, it represent the history of Taranto and its territory from the prehistory to the Middle Age, it is developed from the oldest to the newest from the second floor to the first one: from prehistoric time, classic time (including some dynamic relationship with the natives), Roman period, ancient time and Dark ages.
The visit starts from the second floor which shows the oldest periods of Apulian settlement (Paleolithic and Neolithic), to the foundation of the greek colony to the classic and Hellenic city
At the mezzanine floor, the National Archeological Museum of Taranto has a collection of pictures that in 1909 were annexed at Regio Museum of Taranto’s collections according to the Bishop of Nardò Giuseppe Ricciardi dispositions, who wanted to give them to the city.
In addition to the wonderful byzantine icon and mourn Mary on a sheet of zinc, the other eighteen pictures, all with sacred characters, these are oil painted on canvas aged between the XVII and XVIII century.
Most of the other pictures are of the Napolitan production, with attribution of Luca Giordano, Andrea Vaccaro and Francesco Mura’s School. The recent pictures, Mourn Mary between St. Nicolas and St. Barbara and the Deposition, were attributed to an Apulian Painter, Leonardo Antonio Olivieri from Martina Franca. The Nationa Archeological Museum of Taranto offers a varied cultural programming to its visitors, including disabled people. At the ground floor, a teaching room gives educational activities for schools, children and adults. The Museum has a closter, where events and educational work take place. The artefacts explanations and the signage are given in two languages: Italian and English.