The Messapians (Indo-Europeans), famous horse breeders, were the first inhabitants of these regions.
Taranto was founded by Spartan immigrants (Partheniai) in approximately 706 BC and has a quite turbulent history. It became a sovereign city of Magna Graecia, the Greek colonies in southern Italy. In 367 BC Carthage and the Etruscans signed a pack to attack Taranto. In 343 BC Taranto asked its mother city Sparta for help against the barbarians, because they were facing the aggression from the Brutian League. In 303 BC Cleonymus of Sparta established an alliance with Taranto against the Lucanians, and fought against them.
At the beginning of the 3rd century BC, Rome’s increasing power started to frighten Taranto, especially in terms of control over the sea. At that time, Taranto had the most powerful naval forces of Italy and soon closed a pact with Rome, which forbade Roman ships to sail into the Gulf of Taranto. Some ships ignored this pact, causing a conflict between Tarentum and Rome, because Rome began to interfere in the affairs of the Greek colonies in southern Italy. This eventually led to the conquest of the city by the Romans in 209 BC.
During the Gothic wars in 540 AD Taranto became part of the Byzantine Empire. In 661 it was again occupied by the Lombards and later by the Saracens. The Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard conquered the city in 1063 AD and later it became part of the Kingdom of Naples.
This piece of history is also a bit of a reflection of the history of the region in terms of conquests. The Magna Graecia ran far into the Pollino, a huge park a few hours from Villa Lavanda in the direction of Naples and roughly south-west of Matera and Potenza. You can find eagles and many other animals and even old Albanian colonies from the 19th century.
In November of 1940, during the Second World War, Italian ships that were anchored at the port were heavily damaged by the British navy at the Battle of Taranto. British forces landed in 1943, close to the port as part of the Allied invasion.
So far an important piece of history of the city of Taranto and the region.