Bari Mini Guide
About the City
Bari is considered to be the second most important commercial city in Southern Italy after Naples
. Despite this, it has a more relaxed and peaceful old town which the city’s council is now trying to promote. There, at night, Bari comes alive as a number of bars and clubs have taken over some of the old buildings.
A Brief History of Bari
Bari was a port before Roman times but rose to prominence as the empire grew. In later years it was fought over regularly and was razed to the ground in 1246. It was rebuilt and much of the old town dates from around that period. In 1943 it was the scene of a covered up chemical warfare incident when a shipment of mustard gas exploded in a German raid on the Allied held city. Accounts are sketchy but some say up to 2,000 died.
How you can get to Bari
These days, getting to Bari is simple and very cheap. A number of budget airlines use the airport including Ryanair which flies the greatest number of routes. Many people also arrive on the international ferries or by train from the north of Italy.
Things to See in the City
There’s plenty to see in Bari but focus on the charming old town, known locally as Bari Vecchia, for beauty. There you’ll find such delights as Basilica St Nicholas with its gleaming gold ceiling and the art gallery now housed in the Fortino San Antonio. Sadly, most churches in Bari are closed to the public and access to them is limited to Sundays and special occasions.
Outside the City
Bari is a big and busy city so many people take the opportunity to head out on hot days up or down the stunning coastline to relax on peaceful pale sandy beaches. There are also a number of other notable towns nearby including Matero which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Activities to Enjoy
A favourite activity for tourists is to walk along the old city walls where they pass the waterfront. There, during the day you can watch the ferries come in and out, see the local fishermen landing their catches or just people watch over an ice cream. If you're in Bari close to Easter, the city puts on a spectacular festival for Holy Week, bizarrely lasting nine days. There are processions, fireworks and more.
Shops and Stores
Local products including the wines of the region are always a good buy. Try the sweet Moscato di Trani for something different. Leather goods and jewellery are good buys too in the city.
Eating and Drinking
There are numerous excellent restaurants in Bari and as a port, the main food is based around fish, however other regional favourites include calzone and the local ragu, a meat and tomato stew. The bars of Bari have enjoyed a renaissance over the last few years with the regeneration of the old town. They range from traditional to very modern.
Special Events and Festivals
Bari lays claim to St Nicholas as its patron saint and reinforces its claim to him through two major festivals. The first at the beginning of December called the St Nicholas Festival and held on his feast day, the second and bigger, held at the start of May which includes fireworks, historical re-enactments and music concerts. Bari also celebrates St Trifone with the releasing of a giant balloon to celebrate the November festival. His statue is paraded through the streets and a huge fireworks competition and concert acts as a grand finale.
Bari, although a little untidy in its modern suburbs, has a heart of gold in its beautiful old town. There the city is divided into historical quarters, each with its own flavour. Most of the hotels are on the outskirts of the city and so a hire car or the use of public transport is essential to get to see the best of the city.
We would also recommend heading out along the Puglian coast for a peaceful day discovering the beautiful sandy beaches dotted between craggy headlands.