Bari is the capital of the Puglia region in southern Italy, and boasts a population of half a million. As a coastal city, it has an old town that has seen more than its fair share of marauding pirates. Unfortunately, it seems that some of these pirates may have decided to become residents, because Bari’s reputation for being crime-ridden precedes it. In recent years, however, the city has shown signs of turning over a new leaf. I wanted to see it for myself, so I visited Bari a few weeks ago with an eye out for underhanded dealings.
The long and the short of it: I had a great time and I never once felt like I was walking through a bad neighborhood. In fact, some parts of Bari reminded me of the United States. Bari is known for its large number of department stores and boutiques, so if you like shopping, Bari is the place to do it. You can find designer brands for discount prices everywhere. Stores like United Colors of Benetton, Adidas, H&M, Timberland, and Footlocker are on every corner.
I traveled to Bari by train. From the central station it was easy to find my way around: Via Andrea da Bari, a large avenue filled with trees, fountains, and benches and lined with stores, runs from one side of the city to the other. A well-manicured park also greets visitors to the city. My girlfriend and I walked down the avenue scoping out cafes for later in the day. We explored a few side streets and found many more clothing stores.
At the far end of Via Andrea da Bari, we found the old town. The old town was built like a maze to protect it from coastal attacks, so pay attention or you might get lost. The old town is not very large however, and you’ll likely stumble upon the sea-side promenade without much trouble.
The old town holds several treasures, particularly the Castello Svevo and Basilica di San Nicola. That’s right, Saint Nicolas really does exist. The Basilica di San Nicola is the Saint’s final resting place. It is architecturally beautiful and has paintings that honor San Nicola, who is said to have performed many miracles. Most incredibly, he is said to have resurrected three boys who had been cut to pieces and put into a brine barrel by a butcher. The architecture inside Bari’s Duomo is also worth checking out.
Bari offers many of the amenities of a metropolitan city in a part of Italy with few large cities. It’s a great location to use as a base to visit Alberobello, the town famous for its white houses, known as trulli, or Castellana Grotte, a small, nearby town that has an impressive cave. Ferries leave Bari for Greece, Croatia, and Albania as well.
Written by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com