On the Adriatic coast in Italy, opposite Dubrovnik, lies the city of Bari. With 320,400 inhabitants, it is the second largest economic center of the southern region of the country after Naples. The old town of Bari is located on the harbor and the modern residential and commercial districts extend from the coast to the mainland.
Bari was founded during the Roman Empire and served as an important gateway to the Adriatic Sea. The city later changed rulers several times, including the siege of 1071 and the civil war in 1117. As a coastal city with access to many shipping routes, Bari has a diverse economy, including agricultural and textile processing industries.
Tip 1: Basilica of Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of Bari. The Cathedral of St. Nicholas was built in the years 1087-1197 in the Byzantine architectural style. Like the construction of the Cologne Cathedral, whose relics were stolen from the church of Sant’Eustorgio in Milan, the story began with the theft of the relics of a saint.
The city saint of Bari is St. Nicholas. His relics were stolen in 1087 by southern Italian merchants from his tomb in the church in Myra. Myra (now Demre) is located in Turkey. Nicholas worked as the bishop of Myra in the Lycia region of Asia Minor in the first half of the 4th century.
Saint Nicholas is one of the most famous saints. His commemoration day is December 6 (or December 19 according to the Gregorian calendar), which is celebrated in Christianity with numerous folk customs.
On May 9 (or May 22 according to the Gregorian calendar) the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of the “Transfer of the Relics of St. Nicholas of Myra to Bari”.
Today, the Basilica of San Nicola is considered an important pilgrimage church for believers from all over the world, especially the Russian Orthodox Church.
Tip 2: The Castello Svevo
In the historic center of Bari lies the Castello Svevo di Bari, the “Swabian Castle”. The impressive 12th-century fortress was built on the ruins of a Byzantine castle and is today one of the fortifications worth seeing in the Puglia region.
On the outside of the Castello, in addition to the moat dating back to the Hohenstaufen period that surrounds the fortress on three sides, it is possible to visit the defensive ramparts from the Aragonese period and the four towers Minorenni, Monaco, Vento and Semaforo. An intact drawbridge leads to the courtyard and the inner defensive structure of the fortress. The Castello now houses the Museo della Gipsoteca and the Administrative Office for the Environment, Art and Culture of the Puglia Region. In addition to a permanent archaeological exhibition, there are regular cultural programs and temporary art exhibitions.
Tip 3: Basilica of San Sabino
The white lantern tower of the Cathedral of San Sabino dominates the old town of Bari and guides visitors to one of the most famous sights of the Apulian capital. Built from 1170 to 1178 on the ruins of a Byzantine cathedral, the new Bari Cathedral is a valuable example of Romanesque architecture in Puglia. The simple façade in whitish-gray limestone is interrupted at the front by a rose window decorated with numerous figures of fables.
Three portals lead to the interior of the cathedral. The three-nave interior is lavishly decorated and amazes visitors with a mock gallery and an imposing portico. The altar area with the bishop’s chair and the altar structure is reconstructed, partly with original elements. In the crypt of the cathedral, amid medieval frescoes, are the mortal remains of St. Sabinus, Bishop of Canusin. A valuable icon of the Virgin Mary, patroness of the cathedral, can also be seen in the crypt.
Tip 4: Old Town
The old town of Bari juts out into the Adriatic Sea like a corner. In the beautiful old town you can find the colorful life and the magic of medieval coziness that Bari has preserved. In the narrow streets there is a real Italian joie de vivre. You can buy souvenirs for tourists, but also watch the typical fruit sellers and the Nonna in front of her house, shaping with skillful hands the pasta specialty of Puglia, the orecchiette.
The historic center of Bari is located directly on the sea and from the city center you can walk to the beautiful beach on the Adriatic Sea. Bari is a landing place for cruise ships and from Bari there are regular ferries across the Adriatic Sea to Croatia and Albania.
Already in ancient times Bari was an important port. The Via Appia Traiana, a Roman road built under Emperor Traian, ended here. In Piazza del Ferrarese you can still see an original piece of the Via Appia.
Tip 5: Strada delle Orechiette
In the heart of the old town you will find a very special place, the Strada delle Orechiette, which I would like to recommend you to visit during your trip to Bari.
In the winding “street of the ear pasta”, which is actually called Strada Arco Basso, housewives make handmade pasta in the traditional way. This is a spectacle not to be missed. If you feel like it, you can even buy the fresh pasta directly from the ladies and take it home as a souvenir.