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 an eighth-century staircase that was built to connect Via Duomo to the bottom of the island. The interior is wide and bright, it is divided into 3 naves with a wooden trussed roof and it is embellished 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.
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 an inner courtyard with a monumental staircase which leads to the upper floors where the rooms are enriched with frescos and luxurious furniture. It is very important the Bishop’s living room, this has a gallery of religious portraits of the Bishops that came in succession 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 was 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 conquest 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 worship of Poseidon, but it would much more likely that it had been related with some goddess like Artemis, Persephone or Hera.
We continue with a visit to the Aragonese Castle designed at the end of the fifteenth century by Ferdinando II d’Argona to Francesco di Giorgio Martini to adapt the previous Byzantine fortress to modern military needs due to the invention of firearms. The high medieval towers, useful for a plumbing defense with drains for boulders or boiling liquids and narrow slits for archers, were replaced by low and massive round towers, which could resist cannon shots and equipped with ramps and openings for mouths from fire.
Crossing the famous swing bridge, located at the mouth of the navigable canal, you reach Corso due Mari, the largest of Taranto. From here you can enjoy a wide panoramic view of the facade of the Castle. Moving to the North corner you can make a pleasant stop on the belvedere from which to admire the splendid panorama of the inner harbor and the Mar Piccolo delimited by the city skyline. Taking Corso Umberto I, you reach the Church of San Pasquale Baylon, strongly desired and built, despite the difficulties, by the Alcantarini friars in the second half of the eighteenth century. The old convent now houses the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (National Archaeological Museum), one of the most important in Europe regarding the evidence of the Classical Age. The church is the only building left to the friars after the post-Risorgimento suppression. 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 the Church of San Pasquale is officiated by the minor friars. Taking Via Pitagora the Tarantino itinerary ends at the Peripato municipal Villa, the green lung of the city, luxuriant with exotic and lush vegetation. The villa was built immediately after the unification of Italy by the Beaumont family and passed to the municipality in 1913.
Set up in the rooms of the sixteenth-century Archbishop’s Seminary of Taranto in the Old City. The museum was inaugurated on May 6, 2011, by Archbishop Benigno Luigi Papa . The Mu.di spread over 4 floors, with a basement, with remains of an ancient iapigio village, the ground floor which includes a 100-seat auditorium, a multipurpose room (restoration laboratory, multimedia library, meeting room), and the first and second floor, where the thematic sections are located: Liturgical, Christological, Marian, Saints, Religious Orders and Confraternities, Cathedral and Archbishops. The exhibition contains over 300 works spanning a time span from the seventh to the twentieth century, including sacred furnishings, relics, paintings and sculptures of exceptional cultural value. These are mostly from churches no longer open to worship, or from the “Tesoro di San Cataldo” and from the archdiocese’s patrimony. Among the main works preserved there is the treasure of San Cataldo with the golden cross found on the chest of the Saint during the excavations of the 11th century cathedral, the topaz of King Ferdinando II, a Brazilian topaz by Andrea Cariello , paintings by Nicola Porta’s Madonna della Salute, paintings by the Madonna dell’Assunta by Serafino Elmo, Il sogno di San Giuseppe of Corrado Giaquinto, Ecce Homo by Paolo De Matteis and ancient reliquaries containing the tongue of San Cataldo and the blood of San Vito. Recently the Mu.di. it was enriched by the contemporary art paintings on religious subjects donated by Archbishop Benigno Papa.
The ancient Ipogeo Frantoio is located in via Cava, a road built after the 10th century by the Byzantines on the site of the ancient Greek acropolis. Here most of the residential and production structures were quarried in the original calcarenitic tuff bank. The name of the street, moreover, suggests that the site was originally a stone quarry. Along this road route, which only in the 14th century will be defined as the “public road”, many cave environments have been found, such as the medieval furnaces, the walkways of the patrol path of the Byzantine walls and some oil mills. The Norman oil mill, renovated by the Municipality of Taranto and made available to the public, dates back to the year one thousand. It is the only one to be located in the city, and it is excavated in the rock, a constant of the Ionic arc justified by the fact that the caves maintained an optimal constant temperature for the production of oil. Inside the site there are in fact many millstones for the first pressing and the wells for the collection and decantation of the oil. A graphic, photographic and pictorial exhibition has been set up on the site by the students of the artistic high school “Calò” (home of Taranto), on some significant places in the old city. A work done with commitment and passion because we are aware that “without the memory of the past, there can never be the positive future that we hope for our city”, say the students.
The Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Taranto is among the most important in Italy; it was established in 1887 as a result of the urbanization of the area east of the Navigable Canal of Taranto with the construction of the Borgo Umbertino. This intervention caused the discovery and – unfortunately – also the dispersion and destruction of many archaeological materials from the Greek and Roman city and from the adjoining necropolis. Just to protect the antiquities found, the archaeologist Luigi Viola was sent to Taranto who obtained the establishment of a museum in the former convent of the Friars Alcantarini.
Built shortly after the mid-eighteenth century, the building was enlarged and rearranged in various stages, starting in 1903, the era of the reconstruction of the facades based on a design by Guglielmo Calderini, while the northern wing was designed by Carlo Ceschi and built between 1935 and 1941.
From 1998 the renovation works led to the completion of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Taranto – MArTa with the layout of the second floor of the museum (inaugurated on 29 July 2016). The exhibition itinerary, which takes into account the characteristics of the materials of the museum collection and the possibility of referring most of the finds to the excavation contexts, illustrates the history of Taranto and its territory from prehistory to the early Middle Ages, developing diachronically from the second to the first floor: prehistoric and protohistoric period, Greek period (not to mention the issues of dynamic relations with the pre-Roman indigenous world), Roman period, late antiquity and early medieval period.
The route starts from the second floor which shows the most ancient phases of the history of the settlement in Puglia (Paleolithic and Neolithic) to reach the foundation of the Greek colony and the classical and Hellenistic city.
The National Archaeological Museum of Taranto, on the mezzanine floor, also has a collection of paintings which in 1909 flowed into the collections of the Royal Museum of Taranto for testamentary dispositions of Monsignor Giuseppe Ricciardi, bishop of Nardò, who wanted to donate them to his hometown.
In addition to a beautiful Byzantine icon and a Addolorata piangente on zinc plate, the other eighteen paintings, all with subjects of religious inspiration, are oil paintings on canvas and are framed between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Most of the other paintings are part of the Neapolitan production, with attributions to the school of Luca Giordano, Andrea Vaccaro and Francesco De Mura. The most recent paintings, the Addolorata between Saints Nicola and Barbara and the Deposition, were instead referred to an Apulian artist, Leonardo Antonio Olivieri of Martina Franca.
The National Archaeological Museum of Taranto offers visitors a varied cultural program aimed at various target audiences, including visitors with disabilities. An educational room, located on the ground floor of the museum, hosts educational activities for schools, children and adults.
The museum has a cloister, a place of events and educational activities.
All the museum contents and signage elements are present in two languages: Italian and English.