Laterza has very ancient origins. The finds that emerged from the excavation works of 1965 testify to the presence of a population that lived in the Eneolithic Era. As regards the name of Laterza, the most suggestive hypothesis would trace the name back to "Laerte", father of Ulysses, in whose honor the Cretans, fled after the war with the Mycenaeans, founded a colony on the spot. The town was built around the year 1000. Laterza, in 1030, after having been Lombard-Beneventan dominion, passed to the Normans. In 1060 it was the turn of the Swabians and later of the Angevins. In 1292, the feud was connected to the principality of Taranto. The construction of the castle (marquis palace) dates back to this period with a portal from 1393. In 1541, Pietro Antonio d'Azzia obtained the title of marquis of Laterza, a title which in 1655 passed to the Perez-Navarrete family until 1806, the year in which feudal rights are abolished and the town passes to the Bourbon kingdom. Later it will become part of the kingdom of Italy.
Walking along a steep slope, crossing streets and squares, we arrive in front of the Mother Church, dedicated to St. Lawrence Martyr (XV cent.). In late Gothic style with a large rose window and other two doors with two rose windows. The interior is divided into three naves. The altar has rich marble decorations. The oldest church is the Church of SS. Annunciation (XII cent.). The portal is surmounted by a lancet window, the interior has three naves with clear baroque elements. The Church of Santa Maria della Grazia is located about two km from the town. Going many steps we arrive at the altar where we can admire the frescoes of Mary. In Piazza Plebiscito is the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. In the old part is the small Church of Our Lady of Miracles. In Piazza Vittorio Emanuele you can visit the beautiful Church of Santa Filomena and the Church of St. Anthony (1700). The Capuchin Monastery of the XVI cent. is dedicated to Santa Maria degli Angeli. It has two naves and an altar dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene. Around 1800, on the edge of the ravine, was built the Church of San Carlo. In the heart of the ravine is the Shrine Mater Domini, Patroness of the city since 1727. The building was built next to the ancient cave church of Santa Domenica, where, according to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared. The interior has a Latin cross plan with vault, maintains harmonious sculptures and paintings, combined with elegant decorations, highlighted by the light which breaks through the windows. There are many rock churches : St. George, in the locality of Saints Georgii, St. Francis, on the left side of the Sanctuary of Mater Domini, San Vito and St. James on the edge of the ravine, Santa Caterina and Christ the Judge with three naves and San Leucio with frescoes. On the remains of the ancient castle, the Marquis D'Azzia built MARQUIS PALACE. The territory of Laterza has several sources of spring water. The fountains best known are : the Mascheroni Fountain, Candile Fountain and the Emperor Fountain.
The old town of Laterza is surrounded by the walls, the Castle and the Gravina: a deep crevasse originated by the erosion of rocks on pre-existing fractures. The Gravina of Laterza is one of the largest canyon in Europe and extends for 12 km between walls of rock eroded and whitish limestone walls towering over 200 m. and there are numerous cavities. The man has inhabited since prehistoric times ravines. Here there were the ancient churches, the industrial activities and the remains of ancient civilizations such as Greek and Roman. From the point of view of nature in the Gravina are woods of quercus trojana. The undergrowth is very rich, the orchids are colorful. In agreement with the City of Laterza and the Province of Taranto, the LIPU (Italian League for Bird Protection) manages the Oasis Gravina di Laterza, walkable along marked paths. The Gravina also preserves some of the bird species at greatest risk of extinction. Rare are the mammals. Nineteen species of reptiles. The Oasis is open all year round from Thursday to Sunday, from 9.00 to 13.00 and from 14.00 to 18.00.
Laertina cuisine boasts a rich variety of simple, varied and tasty dishes that enhance the flavor of the cultivated products and satisfy the most demanding palates. In the local cuisine, the lion is made by the meat dishes, cooked above the stove: braciole (rolls), “njumiredd” (offal kid or lamb small striped), “zampini", and “salsiccia” required especially on holidays such as San Martino (November 11) and the Roast Festival (August). On special occasions, such as Christmas, a typical dish is prepared, the so-called "marro" (lamb entrails roll). All these specialties are usually tasted at the numerous butchers of Laterza which are equipped with wood-burning ovens.
The origins of the Bread of Laterza are ancient. Until the fifth century BC the bread was spelled and barley and it was cooked under the ashes and over the coals. The Greeks perfected the technique of baking: there were more than 70 types of bread, molded according to the fanciful shapes of various. The Laterza bread is produced according to an old recipe, using wheat semolina and naturally leavened and baked in wood-fired ovens heated with wood-burning aromatic residues of which once the temperature reaches 400 degrees, are eliminated to give first place to the buns and then to friselle and the forms of bread (called panelle) from one, two and four pounds of weight for the various needs of consumers. In 1998 was born Consortium Bread of Laterza to protect, enhance and promote the product. The town of Laterza thanks to the kindness of his bread is entered in the Association City of Bread. Association which has among its objectives to promote the recognition and appreciation of the loaves and specific types of bread tied to certain territories.
Since ancient times Laterza was an original place of business as witnessed by the numerous ceramic finds belonging to the age of Magna Grecia, to the Roman and that of the Middle Ages. The production of glazed ceramics and the famous majolica, develops from the Middle Ages and is characterized by the use of a glaze stanniferous white with decorations mainly in turquoise blue. This is the specific characteristic of the Laertina Majolica that will reach in 1600 and in 1700 the period of its maximum splendor. The masterpieces produced in Laterza in this period are at major Italian and international museums. Among the works created as the famous albarelli (apothecary jars) and the dishes pump (celebration) that depict coats of arms, stained subjects and mythological scenes. Today, some workshops of ceramic art are inspired by formal types and the decorative styles of the period, which is accompanied by a production of ceramic forms and decorative motifs, traditional with a modern twist.