For people working full-time for the entire year, the tiny period of annual leave is a true blessing. But there’s always this nagging question – where should you go? Since the time’s limited, there’s usually time for one place only. One that we’d recommend is the wondrous Italian town Bari. What should you see in Bari? What attractions await you there? What monuments can you see in the town center? Here is our list of the most worthwhile places in Bari.
Bari – where is it and how to get there?
To start off, Bari’s a city located by the Adriatic Sea, in southern Italy. It’s the capital city of the Bari province and the Apulia region. If you’re considering going to Bari during winter, click here. Bari, being one of the biggest cities located by the Adriatic Sea, is a crucial industrial trade center, equipped with a commercial harbour and a naval port. You can access Bari in multiple different ways – you can go by car, by bus or by train with a few transfers. Or if you don’t want to make it more difficult than it needs to be, you can use a plane, which is the most sensible option – obviously quickest, the most comfortable and actually the cheapest. Going by car is the second best alternative, but only when we have lots of time to spare.
Let’s say, that we’re travelling by plane. We land on the Bari Airport. Now, we have some options. To get to the centre of the town, we can rent a car, use a train (avg. 17 min ride, costs 5 EUR), or a bus nr 16 (avg. 40 min ride, costs 1 EUR at the ticket machine, 1.5 EUR if bought directly from the bus driver).
Visiting Bari – a guide
When asking ‘what to see in Bari?’, we have to acknowledge something from the very beginning. The city’s separated into two parts – the Old Town (La Citta Vecchia) and the New Town (Bari Nuova). The Old Town is full of narrow, winding alleys, squares, courtyards and churches. The New Town, as one may expect, is more modern and elegant. What about the attractions then?
Basilica San Nicola (Basilica of Saint Nicholas)
The Basilica is located in the northern side of Bari, by the Largo Abate Elia 13, near the boardwalk. It’s a place visited both by the Catholic and the Orthodox Christians. The basilica is watched over by the Dominican Order, and the church services take up an eastern style.
Saint Nicholas has been the patron of Bari since the 10th century. His celebration takes place on the 7th of May, and festivities related to it last for almost a month. The Basilica is, without a doubt, a must see place in Bari. It’s open for tourists from 9:00 to 20:00 everyday. Inside, there’s also a museum, that’s open from 10:30 to 18:00 (the viewing takes approximately 2 hours). Inside of the museum, you’ll find many antique exhibits, like the Relics of Saint Nicholas, a Tomb of Queen Bony and many others. The tickets cost 0.5 EUR.
Cattedrale di San Sabino (Bari Cathedral)
The building dates back to 7th century, and is a shining example of the Roman architecture style (with some aspects of Norman, as well). Its snow-white facade’s decorated with a gigantic rose window. Inside, you’ll find frescoes dating back to the 13th century and various paintings (mostly by Tintoretto, P. Veronese, P. Bordone). It’s quite a charming place, located right in the centre of the Old Town, without a doubt worth seeing, especially for anyone even remotely interested in architecture. The cathedral’s free to enter. On a side note, the spot, on which the cathedral is built, was once taken up by a Byzantine castle.
The main square of the Old Town, previously the heart and soul of Bari. Here you’ll even find palaces, once belonging to the local authorities – Palazzo del Sedile (the building process started in 1543, finished in the 19th century) and Palazzo della Dogana (built in the 16th century). You’ll also encounter many restaurants, although it’s worth noting that most of them open at around 19:30 (!), so it’s not really worthwhile to look for a place for an early supper. The main attraction of the square is the Colonna Infame (Pillar of Shame), once used by the locals, to publicly shame debtors.
Castello Normano Svevo
On the Federico di Svevia square, you can find the magnificent Castello Normanno Svevo. Originally built in the 12th century by the Normans, only to be rebuilt years later (1233 – 1240) by the Emperor Frederick II. This mighty, double walled fortress can be entered through a remarkably well kept stone bridge. Generally, it’s one of the best preserved monuments of Bari, and currently serves as a museum. It has a fairly unique shape, a standardised central courtyard and towers tall enough to mark its presence from afar.
Inside, we can see a sculpture exhibition and exhibits from famous painters. In the Aragonese hall, there’s a full time photography exhibition, showcasing the history of the castle. On the ground floor, you can watch a short movie summarising the history of the place. Apart from all the attractions directed at adults, there are also things to do for children, that revolve around the castle’s past. The ticket costs 8 EUR for adults. The price is quite steep, but what the castle offers in return, makes this a great deal nonetheless.
The whole charm of this place revolves around Orecchiette, the local pasta shaped like tiny little ears. Here, by the coast, at the edge of the Old Town’s centre, you can see for yourself how the pasta is made, from the physical shaping to the drying process. It’s a perfect spot to visit having already seen both of the churches of the Old Town. The place’s obviously directed at relaxation purposes, giving us a chance to rest for a while, have a drink, and bathe in the alluring atmosphere of Piazza Ferrarese.
The Lungomare Coast
A perfect spot for a romantic walk, accompanied by magnificent views. This seaside is arguably one of the longest wharfs in all of Italy, with incredible views of the Adriatic Sea. On your way, you can also visit the local fish market for some fresh catch. At the end of it, there’s also a playground, if you’re there with your children.
The Petruzzelli Theatre
One of the biggest theatres in all of Italy. It’s located outside of the Old Town entirely, you’ll find it while strolling down through the new centre – the Corso Cavour street. It was added to the city’s equipment in 1903. It’s the biggest private theatre in Europe, currently owned by the Messeni Nemagna family. Although, February 2nd was the date on which the theatre was officially inaugurated, it was October the 26th that stuck out as the memorable date for the theatre, as that was when the place burned down. Only recently, in 2009, it was rebuilt and came back to service.
There’s a 40 min tour through the theatre, giving you all the information about the past of the building and the general runthrough about art in Italy. The ticket costs 5 EUR.
Valle dei Trulli
Valle dei Trulli is a famed valley, located in the province of Taranto, which is known for its characteristic houses called Trulli. In the past, they were built with limestone rock, with their roof shaped like a cone. Trulli are included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list. The valley itself is not present in the center of Bari, but you’ll surely encounter similar buildings in the city as well.
Orecchiette, the famous pasta of Apulia
The whole centreof Bari oozes with this rural feel and, in fact, you can encounter many grannies on the streets, making the famous, ear-shaped pasta of Apulia, Orecchiette. It’s usually served with tomato sauce and local cheese. Usually, you can acquire the pasta from most local restaurants, and we thoroughly recommend doing so, the cost is usually around 5 EUR.
Museum lovers will not be disappointed by Bari either. The most important ones you should see are the: the Diocesan Museum, Provinciale Pinacoteca, Corrado Giaquinto, the recently opened Nicolaino Museum.
Roman Churches in Bari
Bari has some exceptional churches you can visit, we recommend:
- S.Marco (1002)
- S.Gregorio (11th/12th century)
- The gothic Church and the Monastery of the Franciscans (facade from the 18th century)
- The baroque Sta Teresa dei Maschi Church (1696)
All in all, Bari is a wondrous city, where everyone should find something for them, and everyone should give it a shot. Be it cathedrals, museums or something as trivial as the walks by the Adriatic seaside – Bari delivers.
Tips for tourists going to Bari:
- The center of Bari is fairly small, you can easily get around by foot.
- In Bari, the main station is split between two main railway companies. FSE mostly covers Apulia and Basilicata. Not all rides are present on the Trenitalia site.
- The Bari Airport is very close to the center, you should stick to the bus
- In Bari, expect more Apulian Paninis than pizzas
Tourist attraction map
- The main station
- Petruzzelli Theatre
- Piazza del Ferrarese
- Plazza Mercantile
- The Lungomare coast
- Basilica San Nicola
- Basilica San Sabino
- Castello Normanno Svevo