Despite being the second largest city in the south of Italy, Bari is often skipped over by travellers on their way to popular Lecce, perhaps down to the fact that it's much more urban than its neighbours. But, we think, that's what gives this place its charm, making it a great spot to explore beautiful architecture and lively culture; so, be sure to add Bari as a stop on your Italian road trip.
Located in southern Italy, Bari is the capital of the Puglia region, and a port city on the Adriatic Sea connecting it to neighbouring Greece, Albania, and Croatia. This city has been dubbed the Bologna of the south owing to the mix of ancient and modern, as well as the huge student population, making Bari a bustling Italian destination - despite being slightly off the beaten path. Our advice? Plan a trip to Bari before other tourists discover it!
The architecture dotted throughout Bari is one of the major draws of this city. The old town, or Bari Vecchia, is one of the most interesting areas, with its maze of winding streets and historic landmarks. A key place to visit is the Basilica di San Nicola, an important pilgrimage destination thought to house some of the remains of St. Nicholas (yep, Santa Claus). The Basilica is also home to one of the most important Romanesque sculptures in Southern Italy, a cathedra (bishop's throne) made for Bishop Elias in the 11th century.
Strolling through the old town is, in itself, special in Bari. The narrow streets are alive with locals and full of small churches, shops, and ancient houses, giving this area an amazing atmosphere. One of the best sights to look out for arethe Italian nonnas (grandmothers), who sit leisurely in the streets making traditional orecchiette pasta which you can buy fresh as you pass by. This part of town is a true slice of authentic Italy.
The Murat Quarter of the city is the modern centre, however you can find historic architecture here too, including the Teatro Petruzzelli, one of the largest theatres in Italy, the Fizzarotti Palace, and the University. These sights sit happily amongst shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs in this part of the city, making it equally as vibrant as the old town, just in a more contemporary sense.
A trip to anywhere in Italy wouldn't be complete without eating delicious food at every opportunity, and the speciality dishes and ingredients vary in each region of the country. In Puglia, the cuisine generally revolves around three main ingredients: wheat, olive oil, and wine. Local, fresh ingredients are used alongside these staples, meaning the offering is fresh, simple, and seasonal.
Often regarded as the most famous dish of the region, the orecchiette pasta, which translates to 'little ears' after its shape, is definitely one to try. Whether you cook it yourself after buying it from the nonnas in the old town, or have it served traditionally in a restaurant with cime di rape (a leafy broccoli sauce), it's a delicious way to sample the heritage of this city.
Meat is less common here than in other regions in Italy, so expect to eat lots of fresh, locally caught seafood, ricotta cheese, beans, and vegetables, washed down with some of the region's speciality wine. Buon appetito!