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Manduria
Photo: Andrea Fistetto

Manduria

Manduria is a city in the province of Taranto, south east Italy. The ancient site is built on an old Messapian settlement, from which encircling Greek walls can still be seen in the Old Town. This makes Manduria a popular tourist destination with its many beaches, churches and famous wine grapes.

Any visitor to the city will find a maze of streets dotted with cream-coloured homes and fantastic examples of Baroque architecture. Like many places in Taranto, the city is characterised by an Old Town in the centre of a bustling city.

The Old Town features a 12th-century Medieval Jewish ghetto, two churches and a castle. Megalithic and Messapian fortifications can be seen dotted everywhere, as well as the Sant'Angelo gate, a mid-17th-century medieval portal that used to lead into the city. Walking through this brings you to the city’s ghetto, Ghetto Ebraico; the park of the Centro Storico di Manduria; the ancient Massacpiche Walls and the intriguing Calvaire building, where there is a huge artwork made from broken ceramics.

Away from the urbanised city, which has a population of over 30,000, visitors can enjoy many beaches and nature reserves nearby, such as the incredibly picturesque and clean peninsula of Spiaggia de San Pietro in Bevagna. Along the coast towards Taranto lie many beach resorts.

Food in Manduria is the same as you would expect for the region, however the city is well-known for its Manduria carosello melon. This is consumed all year round but typically eaten fresh at the end of a meal or added to a puree or sauce to complement Mandurian tomatoes.

If you need a drink to wash that down with, you are in the right place. Manduria is the home of the famous Primitivo di Manduria grape, one of the oldest grape varieties in the world. Notably, Primitivo has the same generic makeup as the American Zinfandel which, it has been suggested, derives from the original Puglian grape.

Wine enthusiasts come for the incredible DOC wine, as well as the city’s wine museum Museo della Civilta del Primitivo.

Manduria’s long history stretches all the way back to Magna Grecia. The first event of note for Manduria occurred in 338 BC when the King of Sparta died within the city walls fighting against the Italic populations.

For many years, the Messapians and Spartans contested control of the region. After the King’s death, both groups merged to fight the increasing onslaught of the Hannibal-led Romans. In 212 BC, however, the city was destroyed and its inhabitants were sold into slavery.

After being subsequently rebuilt and destroyed several times, the city was plundered twice, once after the Romans ultimately fell to the Ostrogoths in 547 AD and another time in 977 AD by invading Saracens and Turks.

For seven centuries the city was known by the name Casalnuovo, before reclaiming its actual name in the 1700s.

The city’s coat of arms is an olive tree growing from the middle of a well. This is due to Roman author Pliny the Elder’s ancient description of a beautiful city with an olive tree next to the fountain Fonte Pliniano and a well that never runs out of water.
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