Bari is a busting port city on the Adriatic Sea. It is the capital of southern Italy’s Puglia region. The beauty of this undiscovered city lies in the maze like old town dotted with narrow streets. Puglia, in the southwestern region of Italy is also known as the “heel of the boot.” Bari and the Puglia region have been largely overlooked by many Italy visitors. However, the areas have grown as both cultural and historic spots to visit in Italy. It is ideal for beach lovers and those hoping to have a more authentic Italian experience.
The city is a major ferry port in the southern Adriatic. The port is used for connecting Italy with numerous destinations including Croatia, Greece, Montenegro, and Albania. There are up to 15 ferry crossings daily from Bari. These includie the popular Bari to Dubrovnik ferry which sails overnight for a morning arrival. Bari is also home to Puglia’s largest and busiest airport. The airports acts as a gateway into a beautiful region. Here you can see white-washed towns, serene beaches, and endless groves of olive trees lining the countryside.
If you visit Bari Old Town or Bari Vecchia, go and explore on foot. Get lost in the maze of streets and piazzas. As you stroll the Old Town Bari, you’ll find a tight-knit community with doors and windows wide open.
The Old Town (Bari Vecchia) and the Murat both essentially connect and blend into each other. This is where you’ll find the most historic and authentic sightseeing locations.
The Basilica San Nicola looks like an imposing fort. The facade is truly impressive without being too ornate at the exterior. Once you enter, you’re not overwhelmed with dozens of frescoes. But the gold ceiling is just spectacular. It features sculptures and mosaics throughout the sanctuary and crypt. The church took over 100 years to build and was completed in 1197. Did you know what makes the Basilica unique? It is because it’s shared among the Catholic and Orthodox faiths.
The bones of St. Nicholas, from where the legend of Santa Claus comes from, are in the crypt. Interestingly, they were rescued from their original resting place after Saint Nicholas Church in modern-day Turkey was thought not safe for the Saint. This happened after Muslim Turks came to power over the Orthodox Christians. To this day, Basilica San Nicola is visited by Catholics and Orthodox Christians alike. And it’s a must on your Bari sightseeing itinerary.
Admire the Bari Castle a.k.a Castelo Normanno-Svevo from Bari’s Lungomare or the seafront promenade. One of the first things you’ll notice is how well the castle exterior has weathered. This despite the fact that it’s nearly 900 years old. It was built in 1132 by the Norman King Roger and refortified 100 years later after coming under attack.
Today, you won’t find the interior of the Castelo furnished as it once was. Instead, it’s used for permanent and temporary art and archaeological exhibitions.
If you explore around the outside ramparts, towers, and moat, it is free. But to enter the museum, you require a ticket to enter. Also note that unlike many things to do in Bari, the castle does not close for the afternoon. It’s open all day.
Life in Bari
The Porto Vecchia or old port is where the local fishermen head out in the blue boats to catch fresh local fish. The picture postcard sight can be seen throughout the Puglia region. It is so refreshing when just a simple walkthrough to hear the chatter of the local fishermen is entertaining in itself. Porto Vecchia is also a great spot to grab a coffee, take a stroll, & enjoy the view. You can also go for a guided walking tour for a local look at daily life.