Taranto – The City and its Italian Wines

Here at Xtrawine, we love to get any opportunity to talk about a city or a region that may not yet be on the radar for many people outside of Italy. Of course, we all know about the major tourist destinations in the country and any wine buff will know where to go to visit some major vineyards. 

But it’s in highlighting some of the lesser-known places in the country that we really hope to provide you with some insight into Italy rich history, both culturally and in terms of Italian wine.

That brings us right around to the subject of our article today.

The beautiful city of Taranto is one that you won’t often find in a bog-standard tourist’s guide. You may not hear your travel company mention its name.

But it’s a city that is well worth a visit. Located on the beautiful southern Italian coast, Taranto is a city with a rich cultural heritage. Plus, the city and its surrounding regions produce some rather wonderful Italian wines for you to explore.

With all of that being said, let’s find out a little more about what Taranto has to offer to any wine lover who’s thinking about making a journey into the city.

A Brief History

Taranto as an established human habitat can trace its history all the way back to 706 BC. It was during this era that the Greek Empire founded the colony. Fans of the movie 300will be interested to discover that this colony was primarily home to the Spartans that have become so revered in popular culture today. They original named the city Taras, who was a mythical hero of Greek legend. Once the Romans took control of the territory, this changed to Tarentum.

Exploring the modern city will give you a few hints to this original colony. Though the current city was built over the top of the original Greek colony, there are still several ruins for history buffs to explore. These include a small part of the city wall and several ancient tombs.

As a coastal city, Taranto has a bustling fishing economy. The beautiful islets of S. Pietro and S. Paolo lie off the main city’s coast. The line the stunning Mar Grande bay, which is where you’ll find the commercial port that is the hub of the modern city’s economy.

Interestingly, the city’s makeup changed a little during the 19thcentury as a result of military action. A channel was needed to allow ships to enter and leave the Mar Piccolo bay, which is a smaller bay located near the Mar Grande bay. In fact, the city has the colloquial nickname of “the city of two seas” because of these two bays.

This military presence led to the building of bridges that connect the city to the mainland. Military buffs will also find themselves fascinated by the heavy fortifications that you can see on the islets.

Of course, the city played a large role in both World Wars due to the natural strategic advantages that the islets and two bays offered. It became the Italian fleet’s main port during the First World War, with the islets offering stout protection to the city itself.

The Second Word War say Taranto bombarded with British air attacks that circumvented the natural protection that the bays offered. A specific attack on the Italian’s Regina Marina naval base led to a bloody battle.

If you’re thinking that the city’s name reminds you of a spider, you’re not too far wrong. In fact, the word Taranto serves as the origin of the word Tarantula. And the city itself is home to the Wolf Spider, which is a huge spider that any arachnophobes would do well to steer clear of.

Interestingly, that spider also played a part in establishing one of the city’s many traditions. Upon being bitten by the spider, residents would do a jig in an effort to get their sweat pouring so their bodies would release the venom. This frantic dance eventually earned the name Tarantella and is still performed in the city to this day. Of course, it has a different purpose now.

Oh, and for those thinking about travelling to the city, don’t worry. While the Wolf Spider can bite, it’s rarely encountered and its venom isn’t actually fatal.

Perhaps the city’s main attraction is the stunning Aragon castle, which was built by Ferdinand II of Aragon back in the 15thcentury. Again, history buffs will be delighted to hear that the castle is both well-maintained and open to the public. Its rich history includes being used as a prison for a while and falling under the control of Napoleon during his conquests.

So, now we’ve established that Taranto is a city that’s well worth visiting. For the wine lovers out there, we’re going to take a quick look at one of the wines you’ll find in the region.

San Marzano Sessantanni Primitivo di Manduria 2015

Taranto is part of the larger Apulia region, and it is from here that Cantine San Marzano operates. They’re purveyors of wonderful red wines made primarily using the Primitivo grape.

This gorgeous example is a particular favourite of the Xtrawine team, as you can tell from its 95/100 rating. It’s also extremely affordable and has a slight spiciness to it that makes it all the more appealing.

The Final Word

Taranto is a city that’s steeped in history, both ancient and military. It’s a wonderful place to visit for anybody who wants to learn more about Italy’s military history of the years, particularly in regards to its navy. Of course, being located on the country’s southern coast also means that it has a wonderful climate that’s ideal for those who just want to enjoy a relaxing holiday.

The wines of the Apulia region that Taranto is a part of are also often of an extremely high quality. In fact, we’d even go as far to say that the example we spoke about in the article is a bit of a hidden gem of Italian wine.

We wholeheartedly encourage you to visit the city, enjoy a little wine, and perhaps tuck into some of the mussels that are a large part of its local cuisine.



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