Last Updated on December 10, 2023
The city of Bari is located on the Adriatic Sea. It is the capital of the southern region of Puglia, as well as the second largest city in the south. Bari has the largest port on Italy’s Adriatic coast, and with its access to numerous shipping routes, the city is the foremost economic center in the region after Naples.
But Bari is more than a port.
It’s an off-the-beaten-path destination boasting spectacular food, castles, churches, and friendly people. Getting to town is easy via high-speed train from any city in Italy, or by plane from any major city in Europe. You can also take the adventurous route, crossing the Adriatic Sea by ferry from Albania, Montenegro, or Croatia.
Whichever form of transportation you decide, Bari will be proud to show you its southern hospitality.
Here is a list of the best things to do in Bari, Italy.
1. Bari Old Town
Just wandering in the labyrinth of streets of the Old Town brings me joy. These streets are full of architectural heritage as well as crawling with smells, and sounds. Make time to browse during the day as well as at evening when most Italians go outside to talk and catch up with neighbors.
The Old Town’s architectural heritage is evident in buildings and through many arches that you will see while walking around town.
In the past years, the government has invested in the neighborhoods, restoring buildings and controlling mafia groups. Walking around Old Town is safe, and you will see that this is a vital part of the stories of Bari.
2. Basilica Di San Nicola
This Basilica is a solid example of Roman architecture, dating back to the 12th century. The first Norman church built in Southern Italy, it was constructed to house the remains of St. Nicholas, also known as Santa Claus.
Today, the Basilica is an important place of pilgrimage for both Catholics and Orthodox Christians believing that St. Nicholas’ tomb has special powers. Next to the church, there is the Museum Nicolaiano displaying items related to the Basilica.
3. Cathedral of St. Sabinus
This is the main church of Bari located at the entrance of Bari’s Old Town. Its architecture is Apulian Romanesque and it was built in the 13th century. The church keeps precious archeological finds in its basement, like a small Byzantine church and civic buildings from the Roman Empire.
Inside the church, there are 16 columns that support the structure, as well as marbles that enhance the icon of the Madonna Odegitria. The relics of St. Sabinus are on the main altar. The church also houses the Diocesan Museum which has important artworks.
4. Castello Svevo
This is one of the most important monuments of the city of Bari. The Castello Svevo was first built by the Norman King Roger II in the 13th century above a residential building from the Byzantine era. After the destruction of the city of Bari by William the Bad, the Castello was rebuilt by Frederick II of Swabia between the years 1233 and 1240.
Isabella of Aragon and her daughter Bona Sforza transformed the Castle in the 16th century, building a massive curtain wall with bastions around the building for protection.
Today the castle is a museum with spaces open to the public to use for exhibitions of art or special events.
5. Homemade Pasta
Via dell’Arco Basso is a street known for cleaning laundry and drying fresh pasta. Here, grandmas wake up early to make homemade orecchiette, the city’s renowned ear-shaped pasta, which is dried in mesh screens of wooden trays outside their doorways.
Ladies sell their pasta to locals and tourists by the kilo. Grandmas here have been continuing this tradition for centuries.
6. Teatro Petruzzelli
Teatro Petruzzelli was built in the Umbertino style, an Italian style of the late-19th century. The building’s architecture melds glamorous with the modern buildings of the new district. It is Italy’s fourth biggest theater, and the largest private theater in Europe. It is one of the most important cultural buildings in the region of Puglia.
The building was inaugurated in 1903, destroyed by an arson attack in 1991, and reconstructed in 2009 exactly to its former splendor.
The theater seats 1,500 spectators with a variety of rich, artistic programs through the year. Famous performers like Frank Sinatra and Luciano Pavarotti have enchanted their audiences here.
7. Porto Vecchio
In this harbor, you can see colorful fishing boats any time of the day by the calm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. However, the most interesting time is in the morning when you see fishermen unload and sell their fresh catch of the day at the pier.
8. Eat Gelato
It would be a sin to leave Bari without trying one of its specialties, gelato. In any direction you turn, you will see a shop selling the delicious snack.
Flavors available are dependent on the season, but they will have some surprising Italian options.
9. Beach and Lido San Francesco
At the east of the center of Old Town, you can find the beach and Lido San Francesco. This area is the one of the most relaxing spots in town. The Mediterranean Sea provides golden sand and clear, blue water beaches. These are the perfect conditions to bring calm to the business of everyday life.
Here you can also find shops, restaurants, and bars. You will be happy you are in Italy.
10. Lungomare Nazario Sauro
Bari’s coastal line makes for a tranquil promenade, known as the Lungomare Nazario Sauro. This scenic walkway with historic architecture and whitewashed buildings on one side and with sublime, blue sea views on the other runs for more than half a mile from the harbor of Porto Vecchio to the Parco per Cani.
Evening walking on the promenade is a local pastime, as well as the perfect place for a glorious sunset.
11. Piazza Mercantile
Piazza Mercantile has been the heart of the city’s commercial business district since the 14th century. Locals and tourist gather here to visit restaurants as well as to watch international cultural events.
The piazza is surrounded by historical buildings that once represented the power of local aristocrats, such as the 13th century column of Justice and a stern looking stone lion.
This piazza is a hub for city nightlife in Bari during the summer months.
Special to BookCottages.com by Daniela Perez