Бари / Bari

For a few days of exploring Puglia, we were able to immerse ourselves in the authenticity and unique character of the region! And we reserved the last day for lazy walks around its peculiar capital – Bari. Aimlessly wandering under the fragrant laundry from the balconies of the old town, sighing at the endless blue waters of the Adriatic Sea and eating delicious food…

Where is located, how to get there and where to stay

Bari is the second largest and most important city in the south of the country, after Naples. Since ancient times it has been considered Italy’s gateway to the east! It sends and welcomes numerous ships every day, so it is easy to visit by ferry from Greece, Croatia, Montenegro or Albania. It’s connected to the rest of the country by a good railway line, with the direct train from Rome taking about 4 hours.

See car rental options in Puglia

It is easiest to visit by plane! The international airport is only 10 km away and is conveniently connected to the city center by metro, train and bus. We also used it, but upon landing we rented a car through our partners from Autoeurope. If you are visiting Bari with the idea of touring some part of Puglia and seeing as much as possible, I advise you to use a car to make your stay as comfortable and efficient as possible.

For our stay, we booked an apartment near the central part – Suite House 78. Everything was clean and tidy, we received very good communication with the host, and various compliments were left for us in the spacious kitchen. The location is perfect and within walking distance of everything interesting.

See more places to stay in Bari


Where to park

Bari is a relatively large city and like everyone else in Italy, parking isn’t easy. It’s good to use paid parking if the place of stay doesn’t have one… The good thing is that as a port city where many cruise ships depart from, Bari has several large car parks. We stopped at the multi-storey Parcheggio Quick San Francesco. Through the site you can reserve and pay for a place in advance!

We parked for 24 hours and left the car keys – a practice I don’t usually like too much, but I had no choice anymore… Everything was great until the next day we went a few hours before the end of our stay to leave our luggage… The car was gone, and since the day before, everyone pretended not to understand a word of English in order to give us some kind of explanation. Eventually one garage door it opened and inside was our Skoda, placed on a car channel… I didn’t get a logical answer to my questions, I decided not to dig deeper, because we only had a few more hours around the city…

I have never had problems with paid parking lots, but here I was unpleasantly surprised, and therefore I recommend you to use someone else, for example Parcheggio Saba Porto.

Time for lunch

We arrived at noon and immediately headed to the main street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, separating the new and old parts. We didn’t expect to see it filled with fences and chairs, but it turned out that Pope Francis himself would be in Bari the next day! We quickly crossed it to enter the casual atmosphere of Mastro Ciccio. A place that is the epitome of Apulian street food, and their motto is “Mordere la Puglia” – Bite Puglia! A must-try is the octopus sandwich, prepared according to a special recipe…

Let’s walk around Bari

We couldn’t wait to immerse ourselves in the atmosphere of this port city! We start with the nearby Piazza del Ferrarese, connecting the old part with the modern boulevard and the seafront. There comes the dilemma of whether to sneak through the narrow labyrinths of Bari Vecchia, or walk along via Venezia to catch some February sunshine, with a view of the city’s old port. We choose the second option and start a light climb along the walls of the defensive fortress Fortino di Sant’Antonio, built in the 15th century.

On the left we enjoy the seascapes, and on the other side a view sneaks up on the balconies of via Re Manfredi, leading right to the heart of Piazza Mercantile. Following the scent of freshly laundered clothes, we head down to Bari’s main square for a closer look! Besides the many restaurants and bars, its main landmarks are the small Baroque fountain (Fontana della Pigna), the stone lion with the column of justice (Colonna della Giustizia) and the facade of the former town hall (Palazzo del Sedile). Unfortunately, the main building was destroyed by fire in the early 17th century, and the clock tower and roof loggia were added during the restoration.

More about the history of Bari

Despite its millennial history and extremely strategic location, the administrative center of Puglia is often overlooked as a tourist destination at the expense of other cities in the region. Its first inhabitants were most likely Greek tribes, and from the 3rd century BC it became an important trade port, part of the boundaries of the Roman Empire. This role has been preserved over the centuries, as it has been repeatedly occupied, looted and destroyed… It passed through Ostrogoth, Byzantine, Saracen, Norman, Spanish, Austrian, French rule to join the Kingdom of Italy in 1860. The marks of the many foreign influences are scattered all over the city!

💡 Its location made it a starting point for the Crusaders as well as a major depot for the Mediterranean slave trade.

The relics of St. Nicholas

The most famous landmark in Bari is undoubtedly the relics of St. Nicholas! The universally venerated saint was born in Patara, and subsequently became Archbishop of Myra and died there on December 6, 342 (both ancient cities are in Lycia, southwestern Asia Minor, or present-day Turkey). It was from there, in 1087, that Italian sailors stole his relics and brought them to Bari, changing the history of the city and turning it into a thriving religious center. They were initially housed in the “Saint Benedict” monastery, and in 1089 they were moved to the newly built crypt consecrated by Pope Urban II.

To the Basilica of St. Nicholas (Basilica Pontificia San Nicola)

We take several narrow streets, occupied almost entirely by the tables of restaurants preparing to receive visitors for an afternoon aperitif. The distance to the cathedral square is extremely short and takes about 5 minutes. And there, preparations are boiling for tomorrow’s mass of Pope Francis. It was this that prevented us from entering the temple to see the relics of St. Nicholas…

The idea of building the Basilica of St. Nicholas (Basilica Pontificia San Nicola) was born with the arrival of the holy relics in the city and the conflicts that arose for their preservation. It was built in the Romanesque style on the remains of the Byzantine castle Catepano, which explains its atypical construction at first glance. The crypt was ready in just two years to receive the relics, and the entire basilica was built in the period 1087-1103.

The charming Bari Vecchia

It’s time to wander through the narrow labyrinths of Bari Vecchia! And as cliched as this may sound for any Italian village, here the feeling is different… authentic! To a forgotten and natural Italy! Тo walk around the buildings in faded pastel colors, with wrought-iron balconies and wooden shutters on the windows, is the best way to understand what makes Bari such a charming city. Also you can feel the locals… Or at least the aroma of their laundry! One of the most memorable things around Bari Vecchia.

Although the city is already used to welcoming tourists, it never seems overcrowded. You can easily explore the most iconic places and capture the perfect moments if you love photography! You shouldn’t miss the Duomo of Bari – Cattedrale di San Sabino. The Bishop’s House is located in the ancient Piazza dell’Odegitria and was built in the 13th century, in the same Romanesque style as the Basilica of St. Nicholas. You can continue past the parked motorbikes and under the stretched awnings to another small square – Largo Albicocca.

💡 In the south, Italians are much more temperamental, but also many times more devoted to three main things – football, family and religion! The numerous sanctuaries around the buildings in the central part speak in support of the latter.

Puglia’s little ears (orecchiette)

No walk around Bari is complete without passing through the most important street – Arco Basso! And her specialty is the “little ears” (orecchiette) in a literal translation from Italian. This is the most popular pasta in Puglia, and this area has become a symbol of Bari, where friendly local old ladies prepare the pasta in front of passers-by. Here you can buy the freshest and most delicious orecchiette to take home! This is unadulterated Italy!

Dinner time

For dinner we had chosen a restaurant in the newer part of Bari – Terranima. There you can find typical Puglia dishes prepared with great attention to detail. The atmosphere is cozy, rather homely. And instead of choosing from the menu, we decide to leave ourselves in the hands of the friendly owner Pietro, who takes us through the flavors of the region. We had a great evening enjoying “simple cuisine” with seasonal ingredients – the secret to delicious Italian food!

Bari Vecchia’s Night Lights

Bari has developed a reputation as a little doubtful and dangerous city, which stops some of its visitors from taking evening walks. But I advise you to feel the night atmosphere of Bari Vecchia! In the evening, young people gather in the squares, eat, drink and have fun until late. This happens even in the winter months and shows how alive the city is. We passed through some now-familiar streets, the lanterns of which illuminated more the laundry than the pedestrians, to reach the Piazza Mercantile.

Morning around the castle (Castello Svevo di Bari)

Good morning Bari! We start the day heading to another iconic place – Castello Svevo di Bari. The imposing fortress, also known as Swabian Castle, was built in 1132 by the Norman King Roger II. Subsequently, it was seriously damaged and almost destroyed, so that it could be restored in the first decades of the 13th century by the then emperor of the Holy Roman Empire – Frederick II. Today it combines several structures belonging to different periods of history and can be visited for an entrance fee. The tour also includes a museum exhibition with ancient artefacts discovered from all over Puglia.

The huge moat and high fortress walls add a different vision to the city. The area around the castle is nice to walk around and we enjoyed spending time around it. The contrast with the overhanging facades of Bari Vecchia around the Arco Alto square is particularly impressive.

Breakfast time

While the city was in feverish preparation for the speech of Pope Francis, we couldn’t wait to drink a cup of aromatic cappuccino in a traditional place in the old city. So we ducked under the laundry-strewn balconies and awnings stretched over them to reach Antica Pasticceria Portoghese. You can choose from sweet and savory delights, and you must try the Focaccia Barese. I guarantee you that Puglia has the tastiest focaccia in all of Italy! You may know you have found the perfect place when the locals come one after the other to pick up their orders and most of them greet the owner like a relative! Great place to start the day in Bari.

Around the coast

Pope Francis was already giving his speech, holding the attention of the crowd, and we headed to the promenade (Lungomare Nazario Sauro) – a favorite place for tourists to walk. We started in front of the former Teatro Margherita theater to enjoy the timelessness around the fishing boats bobbing in the still water. In the immediate vicinity is the fishing port where you can find the freshest seafood in Bari. The alley is perfect for walks at any time of the day!

We didn’t have much time left in Bari, so we turned to the Murat district opposite. I decide that after the many photos from Puglia, this is where I can put the camera away and just watch… That is why there are no photos of the sophisticated buildings in the Art Nouveau style, built according to the French model. The neighborhood was planned and accordingly named after Joachim Murat, husband of Caroline Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon I. The main pedestrian street is via Sparano da Bari, housing many luxury boutiques in its wide space.

For a final

Bari is authentic, in the best sense of the word! He is for slowing down… No sightseeing or worrying about missing something. Here, it is enough to glimpse the calm sea horizons, breathe in the salty air and smell the aroma of freshly baked focaccia from somewhere…