Trani is a jewel overlooking the sea, a suggestive labyrinth of cobbled alleys full of workshops, galleries, little fish restaurants and stunning views. In addition to this, which would already be enough, the great outline of the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas the Pilgrim and the Swabian Castle create such an impressive image to our eyes that it doesn’t even seem real.

The city, also known as “the pearl of the Adriatic”, is worldwide known for its Romanesque Cathedral (the most beautiful Romanesque example in Apulia) overlooking the sea, for a specific type of marble (the Trani stone), for the Moscato wine and for having issued the first maritime body of laws of the Western world (the Ordinamenta et consuetudo maris, in 1063) when the city used to be an important commercial port (up to the 16th century).

Worth a visit

  1. The port of Trani
  2. Trani Cathedral
  3. The Historical Centre
  4. The Clock Tower
  5. Town park
  6. Fort of Saint Anthony Abbot
  7. The Swabian castle
  8. Interesting facts

1. The port of Trani

Beautiful and quiet, the elegant Port of Trani is the heart of the nightlife and of the city itself. The colours of the fishing boats, the many docked watercrafts and the suggestive atmosphere make it a distinctive spot, a place of cultural and economic exchange.

There are clubs and restaurants, stalls where you can buy fish or enjoy a glass of excellent Moscato by the sea.

2. Trani Cathedral

The Cathedral, the main monument to visit, is an imposing building right on the coast dedicated to Saint Nicholas the Pilgrim.

Legend has it that Saint Nicholas the Pilgrim came from the monastery of Hosios Loukas and reached Trani after travelling across Greece and Dalmatia. At the age of 18 and at the end of his tether, the pilgrim died in Trani. Due to the miracles that occurred after his death, he was declared a saint by the archbishop of Byzantium. In 1099, after his canonization, the archbishop decided to have a church built on the ruins of the Church of Santa Maria della Scala in his honour.

This is a great spot where to stop and look at the city: the white-pinkish optical phenomenon created by the Trani stone together with the blue of the sea and the sky surrounding it, makes the landscape amazing. Inside the cathedral there are the belltower, the crypts of St. Nicholas and St. Mary and the hypogeum of St. Leucius, which are located under the ground level.

3. The Historical Centre

Trani historic centre is a treasure for art lovers: it’s a maze of narrow and curvy alleys where 19th century houses, Gothic and Romanesque churches, traditional and local shops can be discovered at any corner. Not far away from the port and the Cathedral, there are the greatest noble palaces of Trani.

These streets should be walked head up: every alley gives you the chance to experience what must have once been the life of the Jewish community in Trani.

4. The Clock Tower

The Medieval tower is the second tallest building in the old town after the cathedral bell tower. It was built by the mayor Spirito de Piczioni next to the church of San Donato, in 1473.

The built-in clock is one of the first mechanical clocks produced in the Kingdom of Naples. On the base of the tower you’ll see the original coat of arms of the city. The tower was renovated in 1931, while the clock was restored only in 1994, after many years of neglect. Today the tower is not open to the public.

5. Town park

The green lung of Trani is its town park, the perfect place for a walk in the shade on hot summer days.

Wandering through the many footpaths that overlook the sea, you can see parrots living free in these public gardens, turtles snoozing peacefully in the fountain tanks and also an aviary hosting different species of birds and an aquarium.

6. Fort of Saint Anthony Abbot

Looking at the sea, you’ll find the Fortino di Trani to the left of the town park, more precisely on the Saint Anthony dock.

This defensive fort, built on the pre-existing church of Saint Anthony Abbot, is considered to be the most beautiful panoramic viewpoint in the city. Breathtaking pictures can be taken from here: you’ll see the branches of many trees, the turquoise blue sea, the port and the outline of the majestic Trani Cathedral.

Legend has it that around the year 1000 a captain made a vow during a thunderstorm: to build a church in the place where he could land safe and sound. Approached the ashore, he kept his promise and had the church of Saint Anthony Abbot built right there.

7. The Swabian castle

The castle of Trani is among the most beautiful fortifications built by Frederick II of Swabia in 1230. As it happened with other castles, the structure of the fortification was later modified by Charles V in the 16th century. He had two bastions erected, as meant to protect the city together with the use of firearms.

In summer an evocative reenactment of the wedding of Manfredi, son of Frederick II, and the princess Helen of Epirus recreates the medieval atmosphere of the time.

As you can imagine, this castle has its own ghost too, lady Armida.

According to ancient legend, this young and beautiful woman was forced by her family to marry the lord of the castle, who was a good and noble man. Nevertheless, the woman didn’t love him and that they had to live together brought her sadness and sorrow. One day Armida met a young knight who lived at the King’s court and was at his service. The two quickly became lovers, but their secret encounters didn’t go unnoticed for a long time. The lord of the castle found out about their affair and, in the grip of jealousy, he stabbed the young knight to death. Then he locked Armida in a cell of the castle, where she died from sorrow.

From that moment on the ghost of the young woman with penetrating blue eyes and long, black hair wanders all over the castle searching for her lost love, her knight.

By all accounts Armida wears a dark gray dress and avoids close contact with people as far as possible.

In spite of that, no trace has been left of this woman real life. The official story involves another woman, who died in the castle of Trani. It’s Sifridina, Countess of Caserta, held prisoner in the dungeons of the castle from 1268 to 1279 due to conspiracy against the then lords, the Angevins. The lady, died after 11 years of prison, is said to have never left the castle.

Locals are attached to their ghost and state that the poet Torquato Tasso was inspired by the sad story of the countess Sifridina, whose spirit he turned into Armida in the epic poem “Jerusalem delivered” (finished by the author in 1575).

The city of Trani boasts a vast number of churches: five early Medieval churches (4th – 10th century), six Romanesque (11th – 12th century), five Angevin (13th-15th century), four from the 16th century, three from the 18th century, two from the 19th century and seven from the 20th century.

We highly recommend that you visit especially one of these: the Church of All Saints or Templars, a 12th century Romanesque church located on the shore of the port. The church is also known as the church “of the purgatory”. Local traditions and historiography mention this church as the domus of the Knights Templar, built inside their Hospital in the Crusades time.

In addition to the many churches, Trani has so much more to offer, depending on the amount of time you’ll have.

The military architecture includes, together with the Swabian Castle and the Fort of Saint Anthony Abbot: the Barbinelli Tower, in Cesare Battisti square. Fortified in the 11th century as a watchtower, it was part of the first Byzantine-Norman royal castle; Porta Antica, the ancient gate (also known as the golden gate), the only one of the acces gates in the ancient city walls still preserved and today part of the buildings.

At last, if you still have some time left, there are 27 noble palaces to see – we couldn’t!

Interesting facts

According to tradition, the name of Trani is linked to Diomedes, a hero in Greek mythology, whose son Tyrrhenus is said to have founded the city (which in the past was actually called Tirenum or Turenum).

Anyway this story looks unlikely to be accepted by modern scholars, who have developed two more persuasive hypotheses. One states that Trani may be an abbreviation for Traiano (a name that could have been given to the city in honour of the emperor of the same name), while the other (considered more plausible) claims that the origin of the term lies in the Medieval trana (or traina) which referred to a small bay where to go fishing.

We are sure Trani will win you over!

Ciao da Cris e Marco del blog in giro in giro

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