On a Southern Italy road trip, Trani turned out to be one of our favorite destinations—one that Alan and I have talked about visiting again on our own. Along with Claudio Fontana of A La Carte Italy Tours, our guide for the trip, and Stephanie, a local expert, we spent the better part of two days exploring this historic seaport on the Adriatic Sea in Italy’s Puglia region.
But you won’t need a guide after reading our tips. Use them to create a self-guided walking tour of Trani for your next trip to Italy.
Exploring the Old Jewish Quarter
A large Jewish settlement lived in Trani during the Middle Ages. By the 13th century, French Catholics expelled the Jews, but the effort didn’t wipe out their influence. As we leave our bed and breakfast accommodations at Palazzo Paciotti, our footsteps echo on the narrow cobblestone streets of the Old Jewish Quarter, also known as the Giudecca.
Earlier, at Palazzo Paciotti’s outdoor terrace, where we enjoy breakfast, Alan takes photos of a nun hanging laundry on a nearby rooftop. Our host sings to us while delivering latte coffees decorated with smiley faces. We sip coffee and wave at the nun. She waves back.
But let’s return to our walking tour of Trani—history whispers from each building as we explore the narrow, cobblestone streets. If you look closely, a medallion here, or a Star of David there, points to the building’s Jewish heritage. Hanging baskets filled with flowering vines trail from wrought iron balconies offering proof that this is no ghost village. Residents still live here.
We walk by the Scolanova Synagogue, built around 1204 and still in use today. For several hundred years, the synagogue served as a Catholic church until being turned back over to the Jewish congregation in 2006.
Passing a local restaurant, Claudio makes a mental note. We return later for a quick pizza dinner, if any meal in Italy can be termed quick.
Visiting the Trani Cathedral
From the Old Jewish Quarter, a street spills out onto a square housing the Cathedral of Trani. Dedicated to St. Nicholas the Pilgrim, the imposing structure made from local, white limestone overlooks the Adriatic Sea. The square is quiet during our daytime visit but lights up with crowds and a festive ambiance in the evening.
Claudio leads us inside the cathedral, past the original bronze doors of the 13th century structure, to an interior that reflects a Romanesque simplicity. Columns line both sides of the building all the way to the altar. Overhead, arches and undecorated domes provide architectural interest. We continue downstairs to a crypt where the bones of St. Nicholas are buried directly beneath the altar.
Castlello Svevo, a 13th century castle built by Frederick the II sits across the square from the cathedral. But Alan and I beg off from another castle tour in favor of browsing the small shops displaying local goods grown and crafted in Puglia. I highly recommend bringing home a bottle or two of the lemon-infused olive oil.
Strolling by the Harbor
Trani’s picturesque harbor area is perfect for strolling and people watching. On a Saturday morning, fishermen display their catch, holding up handfuls of squid to entice a purchase. Returning on Sunday, we join well-dressed families on a stroll in the botanical gardens of Villa Communale.
But evening is my favorite time in Trani. Within walking distance of Palazzo Piciotti, a promenade skirts the marina area, a popular gathering spot for adults and teenagers. All the restaurants fronting the harbor have outdoor seating areas. So we choose one, then settle into our seats with a glass of wine to watch the well-dressed residents and visitors stroll back and forth.
A Fun Side Trip
A visit to Castel Del Monte is well worth the time and only 22 miles from Trani. The 13th century castle built by Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor, is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. On our visit, we explore the octagonal shaped castle from top to bottom. The rooms are mostly empty, although placards explain the building and use of the castle.
Returning to Trani for a late lunch, a culinary treat awaits us at Ristorant Pesevenghi, located near the harbor. The husband and wife team at this beautiful hole-in-the-wall eatery serves up a delicious meal. And the ricotta cream with jam—oh my.
Alan and I can see ourselves returning to Trani for a couple of days to sit by the Adriatic seashore, enjoy the local life and taste more of the delicious food.
Read more about our Road Trip in Southern Italy.