Trani is a pretty coastal town in Southern Italy’s Puglia region with a castle and Romanesque cathedral beautifully set right by the sea. Trani’s medieval historic center is small and pleasant to wander through and the town has a nice harbor with a seaside promenade leading to the castle, 19th century public gardens, good seafood restaurants, and shopping streets in the more modern part of town.
Trani’s 12th century cathedral is a top example of Romanesque churches in Puglia. Dedicated to San Nicola Pellegrino, Saint Nicholas the Pilgrim from Greece, who died in Trani in 1094 while on a pilgrimage to Rome, it was built to house his bones (not to be confused with the more famous Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Bari).
Fantastic Romanesque carvings decorate the cathedral’s exterior and its medieval bronze doors date from the late 12th century. While the interior has mostly been modernized, part of a 12th century mosaic is visible. The crypt is still Romanesque in style and its pillars have Romanesque capitals. Incredible mosaics decorate the floor.
Easily visible from the harbor, the cathedral sits on an open square by the sea. Next to it is a tall 13th century bell tower with an arch. Tours of the tower are usually available in the mornings. Also near the cathedral is the museum, Museo Diocesano, with sculptures and artifacts from Trani’s churches.
Other churches in Trani with traces of Romanesque architecture are the Churches of Ognissanti, San Giacomo, and San Francesco. In the 12th – 13th centuries, Trani had a large Jewish population and the Scolanova Synagogue dates from that period, although it was converted to a church during the period of persecution.
Swabian Castle of Trani
On Piazza Manfredi, next to the cathedral, is Tani’s castle, Castello Svevo. Commissioned by Frederick II of Swabia, who was the Holy Roman Emperor from 1220 to 1250, it was completed in 1249 and was one of several castles he built in Puglia. Manfred, the son of Frederick II, married Helen of Epirus in the castle and a historic reenactment of the wedding is held at the castle in early August.
The castle was restructured in the early 16th century and was later used as a prison. After another restoration, it now houses a small museum and art exhibits. Performances are sometimes held at the castle as well.
Where to Stay
I stayed at Hotel San Paolo al Convento, Trani, a nice 4-star hotel right on the harbor next to the seaside garden and an easy walk to the historic center. Formerly a convent, rooms and common areas, including a large sitting room, have historic decor and nice art work. There’s an internal courtyard where guests can sit outdoors and rooms overlook the courtyard, public gardens, or harbor. There’s parking on the street right by the hotel and it was easy to get there by car.
Find and compare Hotels in Trani, Italy
If you want to stay in the countryside, I highly recommend Posta Santa Croce, a masseria with 4 nicely renovated vacation apartments and great owners a few kilometers inland. Or for a vacation apartment in a historic building overlooking the sea, stay at The Duchess Sea House in Giovinazzo. You can read more about both places in Unique Places to Stay in Puglia.
Places to Visit Near Trani
Trani can be visited as a day trip by train from nearby places such as Bari and Giovinazzo or Posta Santa Croce, but it also makes a good base for visiting the area. See its location on this Puglia Map and Guide.
By train you can visit the seaside towns of Barletta, Bisceglie, Molfetta, and Giovinazzo, with an interesting medieval center and fishing port, as well as the city of Bari with a larger medieval center near a castle. Bari is a main train hub on the east coast and has an airport.
If you have a car, be sure to visit the octagonal Castel del Monte, another of Frederick II’s castles and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nice inland towns to visit near Trani include Ruvo di Puglia with a small but interesting archaeological museum, and Bitonto, a town on the ancient Roman Via Traiana that has a good Romanesque cathedral and several museums.