Bari, on Puglia’s east coast, is one of the most important port and university cities in southern Italy. Bari’s medieval historic center, Barivecchia, is one of the most fascinating in Puglia. Once completely enclosed by walls, the old town is a warren of narrow, winding streets and small squares. Bari has a harbor, seaside promenade, pedestrian shopping street, opera house, and plenty of good places to eat.
Top Things to See and Do in Bari
For a good introduction to Bari, take a 3-hour Bari History and Culture: Walking or Bike Tour.
- Via Sparano, between Bari’s historic center and Piazza Umberto I near the train station, is a good place to start your visit. The lively pedestrian street is lined with modern shops, bars, and places to get gelato.
- Wander through Barivecchia, the old town that juts out into the sea. Walking along Strada Arco Alto, you may see women making orecchiette pasta (Puglia’s typical pasta) or see it for sale, drying on racks outside houses. Top churches to visit are the Basilica of Saint Nicholas and the Cathedral.
- The Basilica of Saint Nicholas, a pilgrimage church, was built in the late 11th century to hold the remains of Saint Nicholas, or San Nicola, the patron saint of seafarers who is more commonly known as the Saint Nicholas associated with Christmas. Mosaics and columns with Byzantine and Romanesque capitals decorate the crypt below the basilica where Saint Nicholas’ relics are kept. On December 6, Feast Day of Saint Nicholas, a flask is lowered into his tomb to extract some of the myrrh believed to exude from his relics. Other highlights of the church are an 11th century Romanesque bishop’s throne and the Renaissance marble tomb of Bona Sforza. The Basilica Museum houses more art works from the church, including an exhibit of 12th century candlesticks.
- The Cathedral of San Sabino, constructed in Apulian Romanesque style in the 12th century, originally dates back to the 7th and 8th centuries. Baroque features were added later but much of it was returned to its original Romanesque appearance when it was restored. The interior has 14th century frescoes and mosaic floor remnants from the original cathedral. Go down into the crypt to see the relics of Saint Sabino and the icon of the Madonna Odegitria, said to have been brought there in the 7th century. The Diocesan Museum displays religious artifacts including the Exultet, an illuminated manuscript of Byzantine origins.
- Between the cathedral and the old port is Bari’s Svevo castle, built by the Normans in the 12th century and enlarged by Frederick II in the 13th century. A Roman fort originally stood on the site and remains of what may have been a Byzantine Church were found below the castle. Inside the castle is an art exhibit and plaster museum.
- Walk along the Lungomare, the seaside promenade between the walls of the old town and the sea. In the morning, you may see fishermen arriving in the harbor with their daily catch. It’s also a good place to stroll in the evening and see the sunset.
- Petruzzelli Theater, a historic opera house, is Italy’s 4th largest theater. It’s used not only for opera but also for concerts and other performances. They often offer afternoon guided tours, listed on the web site.
- Piazza Mercantile is a lively square with restaurants and bars with lots of outside seating in nice weather. Corso Cavour is a good street for gelato shops and shopping. Il Baretto and Stoppani pastry shop are historic cafes on Via Roberto di Bari, between the old town and the train station.
Where to Stay
- Palazzo Calo’, in the old town, has a terrace with great views.
- Bozzi 1910 is a condo hotel near the old town and seaside promenade.
- Il Cigno is a bed and breakfast with views on Corso Cavour between the train station area and Petruzzelli Theater.
- 200 Rooms & Terrace is a bed and breakfast with easy access to the train and bus stations.
Getting to Bari
Bari can be reached by train directly from Rome or from cities along Italy’s east coast. From the train station it’s a short walk into the old town. The bus station, connecting to the airport and other towns in Puglia is by the train station. Top east coast towns in Puglia to visit by train are Trani and Giovinazzo to the northwest and Polignano a Mare and Monopoli to the southeast. The rail line runs all the way to Lecce at the start of the Salento Peninsula.
A private train, Ferrovie Appulo Lucane runs to inland towns such as Altamura and Gravina in Puglia and Matera in the nearby Basilicata region. The small station is around the corner from Bari Centrale.
Bari-Palese airport has flights from other Italian airports and European airports. The airport is connected to the train station via metro line trains. Ferries leave from the port on the west side of the old town for Greece, Albania, Croatia, and Turkey. City bus 20 runs between the train station and the port and buses cover most parts of the city.
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