Bari, a rough pearl in the South of Italy that will give some insight into the real life of Italy. The start of our journey through the beautiful landscapes of the province of Puglia as we decide to stay a few days in Bari to discover the city.
Most people will only use the airport of Bari as this is the second largest airport in the South of Italy, but Bari is much more. We stayed here for four days and discovered the flourishing coastal city which has many hidden treasures.
First some basics; Bari is a large harbour city on the east coast at the Adriatic sea and is the capital of the province Puglia (Apulia) in the South of Italy. The city can be divided into two parts. The first part is the old city and harbour where you will find the Saint Nicolas Basilique and the narrow old streets. The second part is the new part of Bari built in a more rectangular way. The major shopping area is located here.
Bari should have been found around 1500 BC and knows many rulers throughout history. It was part of the Roman empire, conquered by the Byzantines, Arabs and the Normans. Now it is metropolitan which has a big university and large urban culture. The old city is still intact and a perfect suggestion for a city trip or a home base for a trip in Puglia.
Here are our five tips to convince you to stay a little longer in this beautiful city.
1) Look for Pasta in the old centre of Bari
The medieval old town is called ‘Bari Vecchia’ and is a maze of small streets, pretty plazas and churches. It almost feels like the decor of an Italian film set. Children are running around whilst the elderly man watches over them in the narrow streets. In the meantime, the Nonna’s are making fresh pasta for lunch.
Puglia – Bari – Cooking Pasta. The Nonna at work.
The pasta is traditionally dried outside of the small houses and you will find them all over the old city when walking around here there just before lunchtime. The typical Pasta of Pulgia is called Orriccetie and rolled by hand. A class of its own with the speed and expertise they are made. When it is lunchtime the nonnas are cooking their dinner. It smells delicious and it feels homey when walking around.
2) Go for some Streetfood
Street food is hip and happening in Bari and it is delicious. There are many delicious food trucks and stands all around the city. Food sharing and takeaway is also a standard in many of the small restaurants. Be sure to try a few.
To start our day as an Italian we went out to one of the coffee bars to enjoy a perfect cup of coffee. Italians sure know their coffee and it tastes strong and robust. They normally start off with a Cappuccino combined with something sweet. It is normal to drink multiple espressos standing at the bar all throughout the day. It is also much cheaper than sitting at a table and a perfect way to meet the locals.
The fresh juice bars and salade takeaway were a big hit for us as lunch. For dinner, we went to the ‘Mastro Ciccio’. A trendy take away concept bar where you can choose your own menu. Definitely tasty and not too expensive. Combined with a local craft beer a must try in Bari.
Our food journey started right after we arrived late in the evening and still needed something to eat. Luckily there was a square with some restaurants and stores nearby. To start this trip and our first time in Italy we decide to go for a pizza and we bumped into ‘La Pazzeria Dregher’ the restaurant looked pretty crowded so off we went.
Inside this small take away corner, we ordered ourselves a salami and mozzarella pizza and some drinks. The cooks immediately started to prepare our pizza whilst singing very loud in Italian. We would hear this typical song for our whole trip, so it became our holiday theme: Watch the clip here. While we were entertained, the pizzas were baked in the oven. A perfect way to start our first experience in Italy. We took our delicious pizza, which we ate at the promenade, sharing this moment with the locals that enjoyed the cool evening breeze walking down the streets.
3) Visit the Basilica di San Nicola
Basilica of Saint San Nicola is well worth a visit for the beauty of the alter but we know St Nicola for another reason. In the Netherlands and Belgium, we have a kids tradition kinda like Santa Claus which involves giving away presents and candy.
San Nicola was a Turkish saint from Myra who lived around 300AD. The legend is that he travelled around helping poor children. He was the patron of sailors, travellers and children. The Basilica was built in 1087 for the recovery of the stolen relics of St Nicola. They were stolen from the original grave in Myra by sailors. They believed the Saint desired to be buried in Bari for his final resting place as he would have mentioned on one of his trips. The bones are still displayed in the crypt of the church.
The Romanesque Basilica is well decorated. We especially liked the crypt which is supported by 28 carved columns.
4) Relax at the Harbour
The harbour of Bari gives you a view over the Adriatic sea and a pleasant place to watch the sun goes down at the end of the day. The old market place at the old harbour is a hangout for the locals to enjoy a beer which can be bought at a small bar inside the market. Enjoy the sunset and the cooler temperatures. Listen to the sound of the city and sea while the colourfull boats are floating around in front of you. Waiting for another day to start to go out on the sea.
5) Visit the Svevo castle
The castle is located in the old city and is impressive on its own on the outside. The inside was under construction as we visit the castle but there were two temporary exhibitions present which was also quite interesting. Especially the one for opera singer Tito Schipa for whom we developed special feelings for. The voice of that man really enchanted us and now has a special place in our heart.
Bari is a vibrant and urban place where you can easily spend a few days of your trip. We would definitely recommend this city for a city break. There is always something going on in Bari and at night you feel that the city comes alive. The combination of the old architecture and the food varieties makes it a perfect place to stay.
Travelling sometimes makes you test your improvisation and stress level skills. We ended our trip in a rather special way because we forgot our driver’s licences at home (we discovered later on). We had a car trip planned so we desperately searched for options. Unfortunately, it was all in vain so we had to come up with a solution. We decided to check out our train options and luckily there was a direct train connection with our next destination Ostuni. We took our bags and bought ourselves a ticket for only 5 EUR (MUCH cheaper than a train ticket in the Netherlands) and made a trip through the olive trees and vineyards of South Italy. Afterall a perfect way to travel around and luckily for us a good option. The journey by train took about an hour and we arrived totally relaxed at our next destination Ostuni.
Our next blog will be about the white citadel Ostuni. Hope to meet you next Sunday.