Carol Forster column

Photo of Trani.
Photo of Trani.

Trani is a vision of beauty and harmony.

Positioned on the Adriatic coast, just north of Bari, it was known as Turenum in Roman times but later occupied by The Lombards and Byzantines.

The ‘Cattedrale di San Nicola Pellegrino’, a stunning 11th century cathedral, was built in characteristic white limestone and sits against the silken blue sea like a gleaming pearl.

Its bronze doors were created by Barisano di Trani.

With several distinct levels, like a time capsule wedding cake, the remains of Saint Nicholas are in the main crypt.

Steps descend to an older church below called ‘Santa Maria della Scala’ whilst lower still, the oldest level contains a chamber, said to date back to the 6th century, which contains frescoes.

It is an image of absolute splendour.

According to legend, Trani was founded by Tyrrenus, son of Diomedes.

It blossomed between the 11th and 13th centuries, becoming a very important Adriatic trading port with a thriving mercantile community and industrious Jewish settlement.

Important trading families from other maritime republics like The Amalfi and Venice established themselves here too.

It was also an important departure point for those pootling off on a Crusade to the East.

Although it also had its low points, Trani proved resilient, later recovering its power and influence by becoming the provincial capital until the Napoleonic era when dashing Joachim Murat favoured Bari.

Trani’s impressive castle, ‘Il Castello Svevo’, was built for Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century but later became a prison for many years, not unlike our own castle in Lancaster, though it is now used for cultural events and exhibitions.

Other important sights include the gothic palace of ‘The Doges of Venice’, by the harbour, now a seminary; ‘Il Museo Diocesano’, with archaeological finds and sculpture and the gorgeous ‘Villa Comunale’, 19th century gardens.

You cannot visit Trani without eating at one of its seafront restaurants, imagining yourself as a 1950s film star, scarf blowing in the wind, against a backdrop of yachts and passing Vespas.

A truly amazing experience.