Many people identify Apulia with Salento, the southern part of the region corresponding to the so-called “heel of Italy”, but the favorite towns by tourists are located also in the rest of Apulia.
I always found it odd that we talk little about the capital city, Bari, so I stayed a weekend in this city to find out why it is worth a visit and what are the differences compared to the most popular Apulian destinations.
The Bari peculiarities are many, starting with the dialect, which has nothing to do with that Salentino dialect (although I’m not an expert), to continue with the architectural style that distinguishes the districts and ending with the trading tradition, which perhaps it’s the aspect that has most marked the history of the city.
To plan my visit, I followed tips from the staff of the Hotel Barion www.barionhotel.it, located near the historical center and to the most beautiful beaches of Bari, a nice for a cultural holiday and to relax yourself.
Visit Bari by walk
One of strong points of Bari, in my opinion, is that this city is easy to visit by walk, since despite being a populous city (is the third largest city in Southern Italy), you can explore it on foot from the Murat quarter to Bari Vecchia, two complementary faces of Bari.
Bari Vecchia (Old Bari) is actually the San Nicola district and today is called Bari Vecchia to differentiate it from the “new” town, which was built from 1813 onwards, during the reign of Gioacchino Murat. I started my walk from Piazza del Ferrarese, which owes its name to a merchant from Ferrara, Stefano Fabri; I reached the alleys of the old city, once considered a dangerous area and today redeveloped thanks to recent urban renewal.
This area became the center of nightlife, in fact, here you will find many bars, restaurants and shops that enliven the city not only in summer.
By Piazza del Ferrarese up along the wall that from via Venezia arrive to the stunning panoramic terrace where stands the Fortino di Sant’Antonio Abate, dating back to the XVI century.
From the Fortino you see the alleys of the old town from above and some of the major attractions of Bari, as the Basilica of St. Nicholas, famous for its Romanesque style that captures the uniqueness of this church and the historical importance of this place, that it houses the relics of the Saint.
This connection between the Catholic and Orthodox Christian faith shouldn’t be underestimated: the Cathedral is the destination of pilgrimages of the Orthodox faithful and is the main venue of the city during the annual feast of St. Nicholas, which takes place from 7th to 9th May.
What to see in Bari
My walk continued towards Corso Vittorio Emanuele II in the heart of the historic center, where I was struck by the beauty of Palazzo Fizzarotti, a building that stands out for its neo-gothic Venetian style, and is one of the city’s jewels lesser known by tourists.
The building, in fact, cannot be visited but is home to a multi-purpose center in addition to professional studios and apartments. The exterior façade shows the painstaking work of two prestigious architects, Ettore Bernich and Augusto Corradini, who between 1905 and 1907 gave to this building an eclectic style, Romanesque and Gothic at the same time.
In an ideal Bari route, you cannot miss a stop at the Norman-Swabian Castle, which is also a mixture of different styles and ages. The exterior, the moat and wall, date back to Aragon domination, while the towers and interior date back to the Norman domination of the XII century.
The castle was destroyed and rebuilt by Frederick II, so now bears this name. The courtyard is embellished with medieval finds; inside there is also a media room, where you can see a video about the history of the castle. You can also visit the underground, the place where are the remains of the Byzantine era, prior to the construction of the fortress.
I particularly liked the Swabian Hall, because the photo exhibition inside shows all significant changes to the castle, really interesting for those who love history!
For information on opening times check out this website: www.viaggiareinpuglia.it. The entrance fee is only € 3.
After touring around the center, I have devoted the next day to visit a place that intrigued me from the first time I saw him in photo: the Russian Church.
It is located in the Carrassi district and you will immediately notice the dome emerald colored walking along Corso Benedetto Croce.
It was built in 1913 and the first stone was laid on 22nd May, the day that in the Russian calendar corresponds to 9th, the anniversary of the translation of St. Nicholas relics.
The church is surrounded by a garden, ideal shelter from the sun thanks to the lemon trees, a quiet corner to be enjoyed without haste.
I spent the rest of my second day in Bari at the beach, there are many beach resorts in the city and the best known free beach is called Pane e Pomodoro, including a bar open also in the evening.
In just 15 minutes’ walk you can go from the center of Bari to the beach, a great ease for those who don’t live in a seaside town. Hence, also, you can take amazing photos at sunset, so I suggest a stop in Bari in any season.
I’m sure that this part of Apulia will attract more and more tourists in the coming years; maybe it will be fashionable to go on holiday in Bari? When in doubt, think that through.
Preview photo Credits: Bari Lungomare MASON (alex555) https://flic.kr/p/7kcG14