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Lungomare Vittorio Emanuele III 74123 Taranto TA
Taranto’s promenade (in Italian “Lungomare”) is famous for being an ideal walking route to admire the famous sunsets of the city and it was already born with the construction of Borgo Umbertino.
During the fascist era, the entire area was radically redesigned on a project by Ferdinando Bonavolta, who imagined it as a real business center and as the perfect place for the great monumental architectures that, later on, characterized it.
During the Fascist era, in fact, the whole area was renovated with important monumental buildings, aimed at giving further architectural prestige to the city, which finally acquired an important role in the political and cultural events of the time.
The large palaces, whose designs and executions were entrusted to the best architects (mostly active in the capital, like Brasini and Bazzani, just to name a few), helped to create an extremely scenographic view of the sea that, over time, had been enriched with picturesque bathing establishments on stilts.
Not so far from the coast, in the distance, it is easy to recognize the silhouettes of the islands of San Pietro and San Paolo (also known as the Cheradi Islands).
In ancient times the small archipelago consisted of three islands of which the smallest, called “San Nicolicchio”, disappeared after the construction of the Mercantile Port.
The island was named by the fishermen as “u ‘squegghie”, a dialect word that means “a small rock”. It was located near Punta Rondinella. The name of the island “San Nicolicchio” was due to the presence of a small Greek rite abbey, dedicated to San Nicola di Myra.
The first one who called the islands “Cheradi” was Tucidide, even if the studies have shown that the Greeks used to call them “Electrides”, perhaps in honor of Electra, the daughter of the god Poseidon, very revered in Taranto (by the way, the legendary founder of the polis, Taras, was Poseidon’s son). More likely, the name of the archipelago is attributed to the bituminous trees that produced electrum (amber).
With the advent of Christianity, the two islands, San Pietro and San Paolo, took the name of Santa Pelagia and Sant’Andrea respectively, almost certainly in reference to the presence of two churches that were built there in honor of the Saints. According to the tradition, in the fourth century, the largest island was inhabited by Santa Sofronia Tarantina, an anchorite and martyr, to later host an influential Basilian monastery named after San Pietro Imperiale.
According to the study of the sources, the two islands belonged to the Chapter and to the clergy of the city and, according to the documents of the time, they were renowned for fishing sardines, as well as other fish specialties that guaranteed substantial economic income in the coffers of the local church.
In 1594 the islands were occupied by the Turks led by Alì Sinam Bassà. They entered in Taranto with a hundred ships which were used as a convenient outpost for raids in the hinterland.
Perfect place to manage the siege, the islands became the starting point of the various attacks that the city suffered until 19th September of the same year when, with the Battle of the Tara river, the Christian forces led by the bishops of Mottola and Taranto, defeated the Turks driving them out, once for all, from the Ionian coasts.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century, Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the construction of a fort on the island of San Paolo, in order to defend the port of Taranto (under the command of General of Artillery Pierre Choderlos de Laclos).
The well-known French soldier, famous for his war skills, his studies in ballistics and his activity as a man of letters, was the author of the famous epistolary novel “Dangerous Relations”.
After his death (1803), he was buried on the island where his tomb is still preserved to this day.
After the unification of Italy, the islands were brought to the attention of the maritime authorities, passing from the assets of the Chapter to those of the Kingdom. In fact, was soon built the naval base of Taranto, an integral part of the defense works.
The Island of San Pietro is one of the most important places for the rich Petrine tradition of Taranto. According to the legend, in fact, St. Peter came to Taranto at least twice during his evangelization activity, performing some miracles in the City of the Two Seas, baptizing the citizens and appointing the first Bishop of the Diocese.
The tradition says that St. Peter landed on the island of Santa Pelagia to escape a storm that caught him while sailing. Arrived on the island, he thanked God for the escaped danger by genuflecting and leaving the imprint of his knee in the rock on which he leaned on. The stone, which became a relic, was called “apodonia”. It was, eventually, stolen by the Venetian sailors and it was brought to Venice.
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