More and more travelers to Italy are discovering the wonders of Puglia, the region that comprises "the heel of the boot" of Italy. For many, their trips to Puglia begin in Bari, the large seaside city with a castle, a major airport, train station, and port, and a charming old town center. While Bari is a great place from which to begin a tour of Puglia, it also has many interesting sights and is worth exploring for a day or two, or using as a base for day trips around Puglia.
Bari is on the southeastern coast of Italy in the Puglia region, between the Salento Peninsula and the Gargano Peninsula. It's about 450 kilometers southeast of Rome and 250 kilometers east of Naples.
Where to Stay
The 5-star Grande Albergo delle Nazioni is on the waterfront near the center. The 4-star Palace Hotel is in the center. If you are looking for a beach hotel, it's best to head just south of Bari to nearby towns like Monopoli or Polignano a Mare, both of which are known for their beaches.
Bari is on the rail line running along the eastern coast from Rimini to Lecce and about four hours by train from Rome on the rail line across Italy. The train station is centrally located in the city, a short walk from the historic center, and next to the bus station. It's one of the busiest stations in Italy, outside of the major cities, and it's the transportation hub for trains serving the rest of southern Italy. Public buses also run throughout the city, many departing from the train station.
Bari also has a major port, from which ferries run to the Balkans, Greece, and Turkey. City bus 20 gets you from the train station to the port. Bari-Palese airport has flights from other Italian airports and airports in Europe. Buses connect the airport to the city.
Weather and When to Go
Bari can be very hot in summer and rainy in winter so spring and fall are probably the best times to visit.
- Historic Center - Once enclosed by medieval walls of which parts remain, the old quarter is an interesting place to wander. Inside the walls are churches, a few theaters, small squares, and narrow streets.
- Basilica di San Nicola - The Church of Saint Nicolas, the saint often associated with Christmas, is Bari's top tourist attraction. Built in 1087 to house the saint's remains, the church features several different architectural styles and houses a number of artworks. The crypt, where the saint's tomb is kept, has beautiful mosaics.
- Cathedral - Originally dating from the seventh century the current building was reconstructed in the twelfth century. Romanesque and Baroque elements can be seen in the cathedral and there are good 14th-century frescoes and traces of the original mosaic floor.
- Castle - Castello Svevo was originally constructed in 1131 on the remains of Byzantine dwellings and an 11th-century religious complex and after being badly damaged, was renovated from 1233 to 1240 by Frederick II. In the sixteenth century, Isabella of Aragon made adaptations to transform the castle into a royal residence. There's an interesting Museum of Gypsum Works and an exhibition space inside.
- Seaside Promenade - The Lungomare Imperatore-Augusto, along the sea just outside the historic center walls, is a pleasant place to walk. In the morning you can see fishermen unloading and selling their fish in the small fishing harbor near the Margherita Theater.
- Shopping - Corso Cavour and Via Manzoni are good streets for shopping as is Via Sparano, a pedestrian street lined with shops that runs between Piazza Aldo Moro (by the train station) and the old town, about a 10-minute walk.
Where to Eat and Drink
For dining and drinking, head to the historic center area. Osteria Travi Buco is a good restaurant, fairly inexpensive, on the edge of the historic center. You'll find bars and inexpensive restaurants with typical dishes in the lively area around Via Venezia and Piazza Mercantile. Try the burrata cheese, seafood, and the typical pasta dish, orecchiette con cima di rape. In nice weather, there are lots of outdoor tables. Corso Cavour, one of the main streets, has several gelato shops and bars. Between the train station and the old town stop in at Baretto, a historic cafe on Via Roberto di Bari.