Trani is founded by Tyrrhenus, the mythical son of the Homeric hero Diomedes, even though important archaeological evidence unequivocally proves the presence of occasional settlements already in the old Neolithic period (7th-5th millennium BC). The presence of the port, a natural harbour, due to the erosive action of a torrent, could have favoured the establishment of the first settlements thanks to the mild climate, the fish-filled sea, the fertile land and above all, the plentiful tuff rock for building houses. Historical documents confirm that Trani was subject to Roman authority up to the Eastern Roman Empire. The town became a bishopric in the 9th century AD, one of the first in Italy. After mixed fortunes during which it fell into the hands of the Greeks and Normans, the town reached such a level of prosperity that it became the trading emporium for the Middle East and the other Italian states. Neither should be forgotten the notable contribution made to Trani's economic life by the flourishing Jewish community, concentrated in the Giudecca quarter, in the heart of the old town.
In the Norman-Swabian period, covering a little more than two centuries, Trani economic potential was expressed in the construction of a conspicuous monumental heritage, bringing the Trani sculptors and master masons to eminence for the genius displayed in their work. After the brief periods of Venetian domination, the town passed under Spanish rule, which consecrated it as a political, judicial and administrative centre. There was therefore a profound change in the economic and social structure of Trani, which was transformed from a seafaring and trading town into a major provincial centre. Trani was the headquarters of the political-administrative body of the Terra di Bari and of the intense cultural life favouring the formation of a real intellectual bourgeoisie.
The 18th century closed, however, for Trani in the most painful way since, those attracted to the sirenes of the French revolutionary principles, were suffocated in blood as the town fell into the hands of the mob, only to be subsequently sacked by the French forces. This was the event that caused the decline of Trani and the choice of Bari as the capital of the homonymous province. In the 19th century the town renewed its cultural traditions, and was chosen as the location for the Civil High Court, which then changed its name into the Apulian Appeal Court, with jurisdiction over the areas of Otranto and Bari. Nowadays Trani hosts the civil and criminal Court with a vast territorial jurisdiction, the primary Assize Court, the recently set up district magistrate's court and the headquarters of important bodies and offices with inter-municipal competence, such as the Archbishopric, the Conservatory of the Property Registers, the district Notary's Archive, a branch of the Apulian Water Authority and the Registrar's Office.
Trani cathedral is perhaps the most beautiful and famous building in Apulian Romanesque style. The splendid scenario of its setting has certainly contributed to this reputation: a marvelous large square directly overlooking the sea. The façade is orientated towards the lovely Swabian castle, while the apses tower over the charming little fishing port. Building began at the end of 11th century and lasted for more than a hundred years. In the 13th century the huge, tall campanile was built beside it. Externally the cathedral has clean stone lines, but the interior is complicated owing to the history of the church itself. In fact, it was built on the site of a pre-existing church dedicated to St. Mary. The underground church is dedicated to the Marian cult and is divided into three low naves made of re-used columns. On the same level as the church of Santa Maria lies the crypt. The apses, splendidly visible from the outside, in fact begin from the ground level of this crypt, to reach up almost as far as the transept moldings. The main church has developed strongly both in height and in length and is divided into three naves with paired columns, an absolutely unusual feature in the Romanesque, which support round arches. Wooden trusses cover the ceiling of the main nave and the transept, while cross vaulting covers the side naves. The exterior of the transept has a clear dominant shape, with various single-light windows and two lateral rose windows. The façade is introduced by a double flight of steps leading to a platform facing the splendid main portal. Three windows open in the upper order and a magnificent rose window surrounded by protruding corbels with figures.
Probably built to a rectangular plan in the thirteenth century on the site of a Norman fortification. The castle has different sized corner towers: smaller towards the sea, from where an assault was most improbable and lager facing landwards. Despite some transformations undergone over the centuries, the massive building is one of the few to have preserved the beauty of its original lines. A deep moat, once directly linked to the sea, surrounds it, while a stone bridge, substituting the old drawbridge, joins it to the facing square. Under the Aragonese it had military and public order functions and in the 15th century it was held by the Venetians for 35 years.
In the sixteenth century it suffered the fate of other castles adapted to firearms. Finally, in the Bourbon period it became a maximum security prison. Situated on the coast in direct visual contact with the splendid Romanesque cathedral, the castle is an important element in an urban architectonic context of exceptional scenic value.
Nowadays it is possible to visit the rooms that were the imperial and royal residence. In a museum are exhibited the remains of Frederick II's marble decorations, and some objects from medieval daily life, recovered during the careful restoration work.
THE DIOCESAN MUSEUM
Housed in the side of the majestic Romanesque Cathedral, among other things it contains the famous Lapidario containing all the tombstones from the Trani churches and above all from the Cathedral. Successively it has also been enriched with the Pinacoteca (art gallery), by a Sacred vestments room and a room for funerary ceramics above all from the Canosa necropolis. The two most precious objects in the museum are the ivory Altarolo and the famous gold-plated Cross.
THE CARRIAGE MUSEUM
A small museum, on the round floor of palazzo Telesio, created out of the enthusiasm of two generations and from the memory of the Belle Epoque. Visiting the museum the first glimpse is of a rare English phaeton, suitable for carrying the whole family, then there is a light gig, for a young lady with lackey and, opposite a "tonneau" for the young men of the period. In addition, there is a huge black carriage for journeys, at the time pulled by four or six horses. Continuing the tour, there is luxurious "landau", its interior covered in damask for elderly ladies. Then, the famous "break" for fox hunting, going to the races and town rides. Finally, there is a splendid carriage for gala evenings: a coupè dor-say from the beginning of the nineteenth century. There are many others but there is not space to list them all. As decoration hanging on the walls are harnesses and saddles.