A few kilometres away from
Taranto, one can visit Manduria, a City which was founded
by the Messapians before the arrival of the Greek colonies
There have been finds, on its territory, which testify to
settlements from Neolithic times, in the Barraco, Monte Maliano
and Li Castelli areas; from the Bronze Age in the Strazzati
district and the Iron Age once again in the Li Castelli and
Its name seems to be derived from the term “mando”
meaning horse fence. The Messapians were in fact among the
most able cavaliers existing in pre Roman Italy.
After the fist period of peaceful co-habitation with the powerful
Greek-Doric colony of Taranto, a clash became inevitable and
was carried out in the battles that occurred over two centuries,
beginning during the 6th Century BC. The alternating outcomes
saw the Messapians defeated in 500 and 460 BC and as victors
in 473 BC.
During the 4th Century, the clash heightened with the entrance
of Greek leaders, including Archimedes III of Sparta, who
died in Manduria in 338 BC.
The scene changed with the advancement of the Romans in Southern
Italy, who threatened the existence of both Taranto and Messapian
centres, and who managed to agree with these old adversaries
to become allies against Rome, under the command of King Pirro
of Epiro (285-275 BC). His proverbial victories did nothing
else but delay Roman domination for a few years in the region,
which began around 265 BC.
With the arrival of Hannibal in Southern Italy, Manduria passed
over to the Carthaginians. The price it paid was siege, destruction
and the deportation of 4000 inhabitants in 212 BC; the work
of the fifth Roman consul, Fabio Massimo.
The Messapians disappeared for ever in history around 90 AD,
when, in a last desperate attempt for survival, were part
of the Civil War clashes.
From the Imperial period to that relative to its decadence,
not much is known. Maybe Manduria found it difficult to restart
after its destruction during 212 BC.
It was once again destroyed by the Ostrogoth King Totila in
547, the period during the Greek-Gothic War (535-553), which
saw an Ostrogoth and Byzantine opposition.
In 977, it was further destroyed by the Saracens and resurrected
in 1090 by the name of Casalnuovo, under the wishes of Ruggiero
The Castle and the Cathedral were built under the Normans
and their successors, the Swabians.
The succession to power of the Angioini (1268) determined
Manduria as a feudatory, as with many other centres in the
region, and its assignment to some powerful families, among
which, the Balzo Orsini, the Bonifacio and the Imperiali,
who kept it until the abolition of feudatory rights.
The City regained its ancient name in 1789, and shortly after
lived the Renaissance experience enthusiastically, leading
it into the formation of the Reign of Italy in 1861.
Just outside the central habitation, its megalithic walls
remain as visible testimony of its foundation and the Messapian
One can also visit the following in the City: the Romanesque
Cathedral, the characteristic Medieval ghetto (12th Century
and the Castle. There are numerous churches, among which we
can mention: S. Pietro Mandurino, S. Angelo (1587), S. Cosimo
and Santa Lucia, 1540).
Another symbol of the City is the Pliniana Fountain, so called
because of being quoted in the Naturilis Historia by Plinio
One must not forget to order a glass of red wine in Manduria,
which is produced here and is a true flag of the City throughout
the world, namely Primitivo of Manduria.