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A Taste of Puglia – Bari

A Taste of Puglia – Bari

Bari is the 2nd largest city in Southern Italy and is the capital of Puglia (Apuglia). It has a population of around 350,000. It is also a major city port facing the Adriatic sea.

bari - the capital of puglia

boats on the water

It is more like 2 cities, the ancient and modern. Even then there is a mixture of styles and influences in both. This is because Bari was conquered by so many people, the Greeks, Romans, Goth, Byzantines and Normans to name a few.

pillars

view over the bari harbour

Vecchia Bari (the old city)

As the new Bari was built and wealthy residents moved out of Vecchia Bari (the old city), it became known as a den of petty crime and drug dealing. With its maze of tiny alleyways it was the perfect hiding spot. A road was even built around the old Town so that residents from outside didn’t have to pass through.

piazza

buildings

Now it has been renovated and the old buildings restored. It is a fantastic, atmospheric place and it feels as though you are stepping back in time.

It is a very tight knit community and doors are always left open. The windows of the houses are very small, making them quite dark inside, so residents spend most of their time outside. The old women sit on chairs outside or shout across balconies. Gossiping is a major pastime and there are no secrets in Vecchia Bari.

community in bari

Locals Making Orecchiette

The nonnas will also be out side making Orecchiette, the local pasta for which the region is famous. It is unusual as no eggs are used, just semolina flour and water. It’s name means little ears. It tastes delicious. Another local speciality is riso, patate e cozze which is rice, potatoes and mussels.

lady making Orecchiette

Basilica di San Nicolas

The Basilica di San Nicolas stores the relics of St Nicholas who is otherwise known as Santa Claus. They were brought to Bari in 1087 and are stored in a tomb in the crypt. It is an important pilgrimage destination for both Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

Basilica di San Nicolas

Basilica di San Nicolas door

view of Basilica di San Nicolas

Other noteworthy sites include the Cathedral of San Sabino.

Cathedral of San Sabino

There is also an enormous castle, Castello Normanno-Svevo which was built around 1132.

Castello Normanno-Svevo

Castello Normanno-Svevo in Bari

trees at Castello Normanno-Svevo

view of Castello Normanno-Svevo

One of the main pleasures is just wandering around and losing yourself (literally) in the labyrinth of small streets and alleyways, soaking up the atmosphere and going back in time.

da nicola market stall

walking through the alleyways

Free Walking Tour

In the morning I went on a free walking tour. Our guide Anna was full of enthusiasm and knowledge. She also knew everyone in Vecchia Bari and everyone greeted her as we walked. We were introduced to one of the best loved Orecchiette makers and were even invited into someone’s house. Everyone gave us greetings, the motto in Bari is ‘no-one is a stranger’.

We also met another lady who provides broccoli flowers for local cafes and restaurants.

lady in Bari who provides broccoli flowers for local cafes and restaurants

It was one of the best walking tours I have done. It was lovely to meet some of the local characters and was a good orientation of the old city. We also saw some of the new town with its mixture of modern and Art Deco buildings. There are huge tree-lined shopping streets like Parisian walkways and Art Deco theatres.

There is also a huge cistern system under Bari.

There is also a beautiful marina.

marina in Bari

Lynn at the marina in Bari

The area by the harbour is where the locals head for fresh seafood.

bari harbour area

harbour in bari

Bari is a lovely place to visit and an excellent gateway to the rest of Puglia. My walking tour was with free walking tours Bari: Info@freewalkingtourbari.it

san nicola taumaturgo statue

 

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