Just above the heel of Italy’s boot, Bari with an ‘i’ – not to be confused with Barry, Wales, of Gavin and Stacey fame or that bloke off Eastenders – is scarcely trodden by tourists, despite being the second-largest town in Southern Italy.
The port city has a lot to offer by way of history, nightlife and exploration, so whether you’re planning to eat, pray or love your way through Italy, hop on a cheap flight to the capital city of the Apulia region. Buon viaggio!
Italians are renowned for their incredibly rich, indulgent, tasty food and Bari does not disappoint. The main produce from the region of Apulia is wheat, olive oil and wine… mmmm, we’re definitely on board with that! The harbour is a key element of Bari, too, so the seafood is fresh and tasty AF.
A local speciality is polpo arricciato – octopus – and there’s no better place to dip your tentacle into this delicacy than at La Tana Del Polpo. The small, homely restaurant is highly recommended by tourists and locals alike and, if seafood isn’t your your thing, their pesto pasta also receives rave reviews. Student dish, this is not.
For an authentic Bari experience, you cannot miss Paglionico Vini e Cucina. This restaurant has been delighting foodies since 1875 (!) and with no menu, but rather a chalkboard displaying what's cooking that day, it’s all rather exciting. Grab some riso, patate e cozze (oven baked rice and potato, with mussels) for the carb-laden, seafood goodness you would expect from the Italians.
If you’d like to stay in the heart of Bari Vecchia, strolling along the cobbled streets and soaking up the vibes of the medieval district, rest your head at B&B dei Meravigli. Just a hundred metres from the Basilica di San Nicola and about 10 minutes walk from the Teatro Petruzzelli, the quaint B&B even offers bikes to hire. Cycle along the promenade and get your tourist on!
For somewhere that’s still pretty central, but a little more modern, Hotel Imago is a great choice. The hotel is situated just seven minutes from the tube station and the crisp decor is totally #interiorgoals.
The flights from the UK to Bari are fairly cheap though, so why not *splash* out on a sea view? The bedrooms and terrace at La Muraglia have such beautiful views of the harbour, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the luxury B&B for a high class hotel. Sun worship (safely, obvs), or watch the boats come in and out, it’s up to you – and all from the comfort of your own room.
For a seldom-yelled about town, there is SO much to do in Bari. Oxford Street may have their Christmas lights up already (they’re not actually on yet, but still…) but Bari takes the Christmas biscuit all year around, with the 11th-century built Basilica di San Nicola that holds the remains of *the* Saint Nicholas himself.
The town is very much a historical sightseers dream: Bari’s main cathedral is the grand, white-washed Cattedrale di San Sabino, standing since the 12th century, while the rather large Castello Svevo fortress is great to explore both inside and out. No matter how old we are, it still makes us feel powerful looking below to the small city and out to sea from a big castle, doesn’t it? Throughout the whole old town, there are lots of churches, ruins and chapels that warrant a visit and photo op.
Culture-buffs can also delight in a show at the Teatro Petruzzelli, Bari’s largest theatre and the fourth largest theatre in Italy. The striking red building is as stunning on the inside as its exterior, and hosts an array of opera and dance shows.
For many, the sea is a calming presence, and there is no shortage of blue waves in Bari! Take a stroll down the Lungomare Nazario Sauro promenade, take in the views and maybe even grab a drink, if you so feel. As promenades go, the Nazario Sauro is super scenic and is the perfect place to walk and reflect. It’s worth heading to the old port (Porto Vecchio) for a peaceful hour or so, too. In the morning, you can watch the traditional wooden fishing boats coming in after their morning catch.
In a similar vein, the grand seafront art museum, Pinacoteca Corrado Giaquinto, is great to explore solo. Full of historic paintings and ceramic art, let your mind wander and you’ll happily get lost for hours.
If a spot of retail therapy is more your thing, head to Via Sparano in the new town. The street runs from Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which is absolutely beaut, straight down to Piazza Aldo Moro, filled with designer and high street brands.
Via Sparano is also home to a range of bars and restaurants ideal for a bit of post-shopping fuel or, if you’re after something a little more picturesque, Piazza del Ferrarese and Piazza Mercantile, with its outdoor seating and prime people watching positions.
Maintain the post-dinner buzz in the hearty Joy’s Pub. There’s a real ‘home away from home’ vibe with its classic Irish pub atmosphere, and is a great place to cosy up and chat over the day’s events. Another chilled venue is Taverna Del Maltese - well, at the beginning of the evening, at least. The cosy tavern is a great place to enjoy a coffee in the afternoon, a glass of wine in the evening, and then the smooth acoustic live music comes out and the place really bustles.
If dancing is more your thing, Demode Club is where it’s at. The venue hosts gigs and concerts for both little and large acts and doubles up as a rock, hip hop and 90s club so you can dance your holiday sandals off. For something a little more traditional, head to a pizzica night. This traditional folk dance is full of passion and sass – just like Bari’s locals!
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