Bari town 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.
Bari town 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.
Bari town and its coast also offers a variety of amazing beaches, for a full list visit this post
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Activities and tours
There are several tours available that can give you a great overview of the city’s history, culture, and architecture. These are just a few of the many tours available in Bari. You can choose the one that best suits your interests and schedule.
- Bari Walking Tour: This is a popular tour that covers all the major landmarks and attractions of the city. You can explore the old town of Bari, visit the Basilica of San Nicola, the Castello Svevo (Swabian Castle), and the beautiful Piazza del Ferrarese.
- Bari Bike Tour: This is an eco-friendly and fun way to explore the city. The bike tour covers all the major landmarks and attractions, but at a more relaxed pace.
- Bari Food Tour: This tour will take you on a culinary journey through the streets of Bari. You will have the opportunity to sample some of the best local food and wine while learning about the city’s culinary traditions.
- Bari Segway Tour: This is a unique and exciting way to explore the city. You will ride a Segway through the streets of Bari, taking in all the major landmarks and attractions.
- Bari Night Tour: This tour takes you on a journey through Bari’s vibrant nightlife. You will visit some of the most magical monuments and the twinkling lights of the seafront promenade on foot.
Places to see near Bari town
Here are some of the top places you can visit near Bari:
- Alberobello: This is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its unique trulli houses. Alberobello is about 40 km away from Bari and can be reached by car or train.
- Polignano a Mare: This picturesque seaside town is located about 30 km south of Bari. It is known for its cliffside old town and stunning beaches.
- Castellana Grotte: This town is home to some of the most spectacular caves in Italy. The Grotte di Castellana is a network of underground caves that are over 90 million years old.
- Matera: This ancient city is located about 80 km southwest of Bari. It is famous for its unique cave dwellings called Sassi and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.
- Trani: This coastal town is located about 40 km north of Bari. It is known for its stunning Romanesque cathedral, beautiful harbor, and charming historic center.
- Giovinazzo: This medieval town is located just 20 km northwest of Bari. It is home to a beautiful old town, a stunning seafront promenade, and a lovely harbor.
- Monopoli: This seaside town is located about 45 km southeast of Bari. It is known for its beautiful beaches, charming historic center, and impressive castle.
All of these destinations can be reached by car, train or bus from Bari.