According to legend, the city was founded by Taras, son of Poseidon, who arrived on the back of a dolphin (as you do). Less romantically, the city was actually founded in the 7th century BC by exiles from Sparta to become one of the wealthiest and most important colonies of Magna Graecia. The fun finished, however, in the 3rd century BC when the Romans marched in, changed its name to Tarentum and set off a two-millennia decline in fortunes. Its cultural heyday may be over but Taranto still remains an important naval base, second only to La Spezia.
Once a Roman citadel, the collapsing historic medieval centre is gritty and dirty but has a lovely seaside promenade. However, the mainland industrial centre, with Italy's largest steel plant, dominates the skyline.