"Magnificent Bari" Top 5 Page for this destination Bari by BlueLlama
Bari Travel Guide: 130 reviews and 326 photos
I came to be in Bari by accident, really. It seemed like the best way to get to Albania, a trip I'd been planning for some time. In the event Albania didn't come off and I ended up spending a little longer in Bari than I'd imagined.
It is a city you can easily spend a few days in and I'm glad I didn't use it as just a stopping-off place. In fact, it seems suffer from two misconceptions. The first was my own mistake, that the best thing about Bari is its connections to other places. The other is that it's more than a bit dodgy.
We spent our first morning on the doomed Albania attempt. Funny really, because we should have realised earlier that fate was against us. The very helpful man at the Tirrenia Navigazione window at the port was completely amazed at our desire to see Albania at all. While the computer refused first to connect to the booking system and then print out the tickets, he urged us to go upstairs to where the tickets for Montenegro and Croatia are sold. We went up. It was closed. We came down. He tried another approach: stay in Puglia. So much to see! Not like Albania, dirty and depressing. Although, he reflected, there are knock-off clothes and shoes to buy. Everyone on the boat will be Albanian.
Well, we did finally get our tickets, by which time we'd been joined in the empty ticket office by a couple of Albanian families and groups, children excited about the trip. Our friend at Tirrenia wished us luck. But after a failed attempt to get hotel reservations and several calls to Tirana, we ended up trudging in the boiling heat back to the terminal for a refund.
This time the port with its various ferries and liners at anchor looked less thrilling and more mocking. During the day, the port is largely calm at this time of year. Not many boats depart during the day and there was little activity, just quiet ticket offices and the odd car arrived early for the evening sailings.
But as we left the port we really began our Puglia adventure. And another day at least in Bari awaited.
Walking out into the sunshine, we had no idea where to begin, but at least we knew we could spend some time in the city, which had looked a lot more promising than the guidebooks let on. We went back to the maze of streets of Bari Vecchia, which we'd strode past earlier that morning, and spent some time really seeing Bari itself.
The small streets lead onto piazze, the largest of which are flanked by the city's colossal white churches. The first we visited was the basicila of San Nicola, the saint who is Father Christmas. All white from the outside, the inside was more ornate. And the best is in the crypt where the saints remains are housed in a glass and gilt casket. The shrine is the only place I've ever really seen relics worshipped, and one woman stayed praying on her knees on the stone flagging the whole time we stayed. There are also ancient columns, one rescued from the sea after centuries under water.
Perhaps I was spoilt after that, but the other churches didn't seem so extraordinary. Not that they aren't impressive.
We didn't notice much in the way of danger - see my general info tip about police presence! - either in the old or the new parts of the city. It felt as safe as most large Italian cities and more so than certain ones. People were polite, helpful.
And there is plenty to do for a couple of days. The old town deserves a few hours at least and that doesn't include the churches and cathedrals. I found the basilica of San Nicola impressive among all the religious buildings I've seen in Italy.
- Pros:Old streets and buildings, excellent food, helpful and sympathetic local people
- Cons:When the shops are closed and you've wandered around Bari Vecchia there's not an awful lot to do
- In a nutshell:The thrill of Bari will always be the lure of other ports across the water, but there are more subtle attractions.
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