Bari is the capital of its province and of the Puglia region, it is also in the middle of the so called Bari Land. Third largest city in Southern Italy, its metropolitan area has about one million inhabitants. The city overlooks the Adriatic Sea and due to its favorable location and its port (the largest passenger port in the Adriatic Sea) has become over the time one of the largest malls in Southern Italy and a strategic point in the Mediterranean for international trade and politic-cultural contacts with Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Since 1930 the Fiera del Levante has been held in Bari, it is the largest fair in Southern Italy and it’s the second one after Milan’s. It is attended by exhibitors from all over the world and it’s mainly focused on industry and agriculture.
The city of Bari consists of three parts: Bari Vecchia, the old city, the 19th century district called Murattiano and the new city. Its origins are very uncertain, and its development has been marked by the frequent changes of power that the city experienced having being ruled by different domains. It is certainly known that it was invaded and occupied by the Romans in the 3rd century BC. It was during this period that it became an important seaport and road junction thanks to the construction of the Traiana Road linking Benevento to Brindisi which was a variant of the Appia Road. After the fall of the Roman Empire it was repeatedly invaded and conquered by the Lombards, Saracens and Byzantines.
In 1071 a rebellion against the Byzantines marked the rise to the power of the Normans which in 1087 brought the stolen relics of St. Nicholas of Myra (Turkey). The construction of a temple in honor of the saint was immediately ordered, the Basilica of St. Nicholas, which with its imposing facade is one of the most important examples of Romanesque architecture in Puglia. Together with the square, the Basilica is definitely the heart of the old town. The remains of the Saint are still contained in the beautiful crypt under the central altar; St. Nicholas is one of the most venerated Saints among Orthodox Christians. The Basilica is therefore one of the few places frequented by believers belonging to various Christian denominations. It is a tourist destination for religious pilgrimage and represents the meeting point of two Churches: Roman Catholic and Greek-Orthodox. The city grew a lot under the Norman rule and intensified trade relations with the East.
At the end of 1100 the Cathedral of Saint Sabino was built, another wonderful example of Romanesque architecture. After the fall of the Normans Empire, Frederick II took the power and in 1233 ordered the construction of the Swabian Castle. One of the symbols of the city, the castle has a trapezoidal central nucleus with four corner-towers and it’s surrounded by the ancient moat. Very suggestive is the inner courtyard decorated in Renaissance style by Bona Sforza and the entrance hall with cross vaults. The castle is open to the public and hosts permanent exhibitions and cultural events.
In 1813, during the Napoleonic domain, Joachim Murat ordered the construction of the new district (“Murat district”) which with its grid-like streets is absolutely a must see area. Main buildings of this district are: Government House, Margherita Theater built on the sea in Liberty style, and the great Petruzzelli Theatre. Sparano St., the luxury shopping street ending in Umberto the 1st Square with the great fountain that was opened on completion of the Apulian aqueduct.
Another interesting itinerary is the old town with its narrow streets and rich in buildings and baroque and Renaissance churches. Among the others we recommend Saint Marco, Saint Gregorio, and Christ Church. Finally, the promenade (Lungomare) of Bari, opened in 1927 to connect the “Fiera del Levante”. Long 15 Km, it is a great place to get away from the busy city center go for a quiet walk and watch the huge cruise ships and ferries go past as they leave the port. Here you can admire lovely and elegant buildings which were built during the fascist era.