The bright and bustling port town of Bari is often overlooked by tourists seduced by its more conventional Italian neighbours, however dramatic improvements in tourist safety have resulted in a reform of Bari’s reputation, meaning the historic heritage and amazing architecture of the city are ready to be discovered by the intrepid traveller. Authentic Italian culture pulsates from the beautiful Old Town, in which crumbling churches and shady squares reign supreme.
The delightfully disorientating labyrinth of Vecchia Bari, the town’s venerable historical quarter, is a cultural tapestry consisting of authentic Italian life and grand ecclesiastical structure. Locals open their windows wide and make fresh pasta next to stunning structures such as the Basilica di San Nicolas, the opulent church housing the tomb of the eponymous saint. The saint’s body is reputed to exude holy oil, bottles of which can be bought in the neighbouring shop. Other arresting sights are the remarkable Romanesque Cattedrale di San Sabino and the imposing Castle Svevo, an opposing fortress located beside the gentle sea.
Boasting an enviable location on the seafront, the incredibly impressive Pinacoteca Provincale Gallery houses an exceptional assortment of paintings and sculptures, the earliest of which originates in the 11th century. Prominent artists featured are Luca Giordano and Giovanni Bellini. Paying homage to the town’s rich historical heritage is the Archaelogical Museum, exhibitions from which are displayed at the Palazzo Simi while the building endures renovation.
The homely atmosphere, enticing aromas and rustic interior of Ristorante La Locanda di Federico are a warm, Italian embrace. Traditional homemade dishes abide to secret recipes passed down through generations, and perfected with fresh, flavoursome ingredients. Sample the freshly made tagiatelli smothered in a rich tomato ragout or opt for a wood fired pizza covered in tantalising toppings.(Piazza Mercantile, 63, 70122 Bari, Italy)