Jon Ingleton (front row centre) with others enjoying a visit to Aragonese Castle in Taranto, Italy, during the familiarisation trip
Five years after entering the cruise business, the Port of Taranto in Italy is enjoying a purple patch. This success is perhaps grateful recognition for the critical services and support that the port provided to cruise ships during the worst of times while others could not. Its courageous stance in the midst of the pandemic was reminiscent of the Spartans who founded the city in the eighth-century BC.
The port will welcome nine different cruise brands in 2022, comprising over 50 calls – impressive statistics for a fledgling destination with previously more industrial priorities. Much of the credit is given to Sergio Prete, president of the Port System Authority of the Ionian Sea, though he is quick to bestow the glory on his team, who I enjoyed spending time with during a recent familiarisation trip.
Prete is a collaborative and imaginative leader who is delivering both of the usually contradictory port and community ambitions, primarily through effective engagement and championing local initiatives that are developing the city. His imaginative approach is exemplified by the AC/DC-style farewell given to MSC Cruises’ MSC Seaside at the end of Taranto’s 2021 season.
The port infrastructure will be further improved in June when building works are completed on the new building complex alongside the cruise pier. In addition to offices, the building will also house a museum and education facilities to further strengthen the port’s link with the community. But there are already hallmarks of the port’s benevolence throughout the city, including the noteworthy mermaid sculptures that guard the old town’s breakwater and countless trade, art and educational project sponsorships.
Taranto deserves continued growth in cruise traffic and the tour options will satisfy curious and eclectic passenger tastes.
Read our review of shore excursions in Taranto and the wider Puglia region in the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review, which will be published in August 2022.