Bari is like an onion - it has layers
We got to know Bari in installments. The airlines decided about it. The arrival times to Bari were arranged so that on the day of arrival we had time to see only a small part of the city and only in the immediate vicinity of the hotel. The next morning we moved further towards the Gargano peninsula and returned to Bari two days later for a proper sightseeing.
I mention it because this combination of events caused a funny situation and it gave me the idea of comparing Bari to an onion that has layers (whoever watched Shrek knows,).
First layer - Picone District
As I mentioned, our first impressions of Bari come from the vicinity of the hotel. We arrived in the late afternoon. Then we picked up the car from the rental company (which always takes some time) and from the airport we headed straight to the hotel. Parking in Bari is unfortunately not easy, so before we managed to find a free spot, we wandered around a bit.
I am curious about our faces then. The city that we saw outside the car windows was like some "forbidden district". Dingy streets, windows blurred with dubious graffiti, garbage littering the streets, stalls and tables resembling those for illegal three-card or dice games ...
It crossed my mind that it was good that I had decided to have my car fully insured at the rental company.
After twenty minutes of walking around the city, I finally found a piece of free asphalt, on which I (not quite legally) left the car while I checked into the hotel.
The owner of the hotel room in which we stayed, I immediately asked about the possibility of safe parking and it turned out that there was no problem. One phone call and in the price of the room, at no extra charge, we got a place in a nearby, XNUMX/XNUMX guarded car park. After a quick check-in, I went to the car park. A nice gentleman who manages the car park took the car keys from me and announced that he would park himself, because the car park is so tight that the cars are parked side by side, without the possibility of free exit. In order to leave with one car, you have to put aside three others that block the exit. Therefore, the car keys must be at the parking service for the entire time of parking. They will then be able to move my car, when it will be necessary to remove others that my car has blocked.
At the end, I only shyly asked if I would get a note, a receipt confirming that the car was left in the parking lot. The Lord joyfully announced that everything was fine, the receipt was unnecessary and that I could easily walk away ... in a word, everything would be fine.
Returning to the hotel, I had to go through a piece of the "forbidden district". My head was full of thoughts, doubts, dilemmas: what if there is no car in the morning? I don't have any proof that I left a car there. I was already preparing the morning battle in my head, I was already wondering what and where to report, where to call in connection with the car's death ...
Lost in dark thoughts, I returned to the hotel, passing local street crooks, between stalls and tables, which, however, were not used for gambling. Some of them were Chinese inventions for sale, crap everywhere. The rest were mainly used books and yearbooks of old newspapers for resale. Quite instinctively, I turned to the front door of a local grocery store the size of two large "Frogs". The interior has not been renovated for 20 years, but the set of cheeses, cold cuts and fruit bought for dinner and breakfast turned out to be brilliant.
Slowly, thoughtfully, avoiding the rubbish lying on the sidewalk and admiring the daubs covering the walls and shop windows I passed, I reached my hotel room.
Sitting on the hotel bed, I realized that despite all these circumstances, I felt no threat, no anxiety as I walked down the street. The forbidden district did not evoke negative emotions in me. More like curiosity.
In the morning, when we went to pick up the car, the sidewalks were cleaned, the stalls were still closed, the passage was free of chatty traders, and a supply of fresh products was unloading in front of the grocery store. In the evening, the sidewalks will be full of rubbish again.
The gentleman in the parking lot greeted us with a smile and after a few moments, having moved four other cars earlier, he gave us our car. As he said the day before: everything was fine.
We continued our journey from Bari, but we were supposed to come back in two days. It was then that a proper city tour was to take place. I was wondering what city we will see then? What is Bari really like?
So far, we've got to know a typical residential district, devoid of attractions, not for tourists, new and at the same time neglected like most cities outside the city center. Picone district.
Second layer: a new city - Bari Nuova
After two days on the Gargano peninsula, we returned to Bari. Now the actual tour of the city was about to begin. We chose the same hotel in Picone again for the night. We slept well in it, and the "forbidden district" had already been tamed by us and did not arouse such emotions as during the first contact. We even felt a slight fondness for this street mess. Again, I went to the unfinished grocery, where the lady at the cheese stand fished an insane-tasting mozzarella ball from the barrel for me.
The map showed the hotel was right next to the main entrance to the train station, and the Bari Nuova district starts on the other side of the station. To get to Bari Nuova, you only had to leave the hotel and enter the underpass leading to the "new" district. Due to the ongoing renovation and reconstruction, the other side of the station was still a mystery to us. The view in that direction was blocked by high fences protecting the construction site. So we entered the underpass on the side of the "forbidden district", and we came out on the other side in…. Milan! We were speechless. It was a shock. The feeling was as if we suddenly teleported to another reality. Wide, illuminated streets, tall, beautifully maintained, sumptuous and ornate tenement houses. A wide, polished promenade with palm trees and shiny, sparkling with a beam of lights, shop windows of the most expensive brands in the world ... after all, we only walked a few steps through the underpass.
The city in this part is full of glitz and wealth. It can easily compete in the most lavish part of the fashion capital: Milan. It is beautiful, clean and draws you along a comfortable promenade into its sumptuous interior. When the first shock passed, we immediately got carried away by the walking alley and we were pleased to know such a different face of Bari.
However, this was not the end of pleasant surprises.
Third layer: the old town - La Citta Vecchia
Walking along the main pedestrian street of the new city of Bari Nuova, you finally come to the intersection with Corso Vittorio Emanuele. It is the border between the new and the old city.
Moving to the other side of Corso Vittorio Emanuele is like a journey back in time several or several centuries back. Here is a distinctive gate that opens up to you a completely different, once again unique Bari.
Right outside the gate, the streets become very narrow and winding. The space that used to be a dime a dozen tightens, shrinks, and you get the impression that sometimes you will have to bend down or pull your stomach in to move on. However, the feeling of lack of space quickly subsides and the term "tight" does not fit the description. The word "cozy" expresses the spirit of the old town much better. The old town in Bari is like one home. Smells of baked bread, fresh washing, with open doors and windows, which ooze the dim light of the lamps, the sound of the TV and the evening bustle. The word "privacy" in old Bari doesn't seem to exist. Entrance doors are not closed here, windows are not closed here, curtains and curtains are not closed. While walking through the old town, you will even look inside many houses. You glance at the hostess who "glues noodles" from the dough in the open kitchen (these are the characteristic "orecchiette"). He'll probably smile at you and nod his head, because Bari isn't crowded yet. The locals are not tired of the newcomers yet.
Sometimes you will have to squeeze past the rack with freshly hung laundry, or go under the strings of which still drip slightly. Sometimes a stream of water spills from the front door of the house from under the washing just done, straight onto the paved street. After a while, the hostess will appear and use a broom to spread the water, washing away the dust from the whole day from the pavement. Thus, the pleasant aroma of soap water will fill the street for a long time. From time to time, the silence and the smell of the streets of the old town will be disturbed by exhaust fumes and the growling of the engine by an arriving scooter. Fortunately, many scooters already have an electric drive, so the silence and smell are rarely disturbed.
In the evening, cozy streets will be lit up by not very bright lanterns supported by the light of ubiquitous chapels, embedded in the walls wherever possible.
It is a great pleasure to immerse yourself in the old part of Bari, no matter how much time you spend here. You will miss this place forever.
Bari - map and sightseeing
For easier understanding of the city's topography, below is a map illustrating the three layers I described above. I also marked the location of our accommodation on the map.
In the case of the first layer (Picone district), it is rather difficult to talk about sightseeing. It is just a typical, not very well-kept part of an Italian city. Due to its location and very attractive prices of accommodation, it is well suited as a typical accommodation base, where you only come back to sleep. You can walk from the old town in 15 minutes. This is exactly how we treated our overnight stay here. We were outside the hotel all day, walking, sightseeing, eating and enjoying all the city's attractions, and we only returned to our room to sleep. If you do not want to spend a lot on accommodation in the old or new part of Bari, it is worth considering this option. More information about our accommodation will be provided later in the text.
The second layer (Bari Nuova) is a new part of the city. It was established in the late nineteenth century on the initiative of Joachim Murat, the ruler of the Kingdom of both Sicily, who was enthroned by Napoleon himself. Bari Nuova is very easy to visit as it is centered around the pedestrianized street (Via Sparano da Bari) which is shaped like a straight line connecting the train station with the old town. On both sides of the promenade, there is a rectangular network of streets in which it is difficult to get lost. The symbol of this district is Palazzo Mincuzzi. An exceptionally beautiful and magnificent building, crowned with a dome and a sphere, completely covered with one-centimeter glass tiles coated with gold foil.
As a curiosity, I would like to add that at the height of Bari Nuova there is the Madonnell district. It was established in the first thirty years of the XNUMXth century. Some of the buildings erected in this district are impressively large, austere, heavy and rigid, even authoritarian. It's not a coincidence. By order of the fascist regime, a proposal (or in fact an order) was made to build a new part of the city, according to the principles of fascist architecture. It was supposed to change the city's image and adapt its appearance to fascist requirements. This resulted in the creation of several huge public buildings and an impressive promenade along the seashore. Most of them have retained their original form today.
The beginning of the promenade at the train station
41.118903, 16.870004 - click and route
41.123315, 16.869479 - click and route
Corso Vittorio Emanuele Street
This is the border between the old and new city.
41.126162, 16.869366 - click and route
Madonnell district with fascist architecture
If you are interested in getting to know this characteristic building, it is best to take a ride along the seashore street. The buildings are located on a street that runs along the seashore, both ways from the GPS point I provided.
41.120963, 16.883953 - click and route
La Citta Vecchia
The third tier (La Citta Vecchia) is the old city. This is where you will probably spend the most time. There are a few must-see places here. Their list with short descriptions and a map showing their location can be found below. A walk between these points in any order will allow you to get to know the entire old town well.
The history of Bari is very long, dating back to 180 BC It has always been an important seaport and has benefited from it. Due to its strategic location, the city changed hands many times, being a tasty morsel.
In the XNUMXth - XNUMXth centuries the city was a meeting point for knightly crusades.
During World War II, an event took place in Bari, which is still known as the "Little Pearl Harbor". On December 2, 1943, the German air force raided the Allied ships stationed in the port. Within 20 minutes, the Germans sank 28 ships and killed about 2000 people, including many civilians.
1. The gate at Strada S. Giuseppe
41.126898, 16.869173 - click and route
A characteristic gate at the beginning of Strada S. Giuseppe, leading into the narrow streets of the old town. A good starting point for a walk.
2. Piazza Mercantile
41.128224, 16.872085 - click and route
Piazza Mercantile was once the center of commerce in Bari. Today, it is the most important point of evening life with countless restaurants that extend to the neighboring streets far beyond the square. It is here that the city's evening and night culinary life focuses.
Via Re Manferdi is a cul-de-sac from Piazza Mercantile, completely covered by restaurants. The color of your choice. Sit down, order and enjoy life! Below GPS coordinates of the beginning of the street:
41.128119, 16.872223 - click and route
3. Lungomare Imperatore Augusto
41.130539, 16.871386 - click and route
It is a street along which stretches the imposing seaside promenade. It looks best in the evening, when the endless rows of lights come on.
4. Santa Maria del Buon Consiglio
41.131687, 16.870245 - click and route
This church was ruined by ... conservation works. Well, in the 30s, probably under the pressure of the fascist lobby, someone came up with the idea of "revealing the Romanesque side of the city", which was supposed to be hidden in the layers of the church foundations. Therefore, demolition restoration works were undertaken and as much as we can see today was left of the church from the XNUMXth-XNUMXth century.
5. St. Nicholas
41.130521, 16.869644 - click and route
St. Nicholas is a powerful, austere Romanesque building. It was created to become the resting place of the relics of St. Nicholas, exactly the one that accompanies us during Christmas. The contemporary figure of St. Nicholas, known from the common culture, has little to do with the appearance of the real St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas of Myra, also known as St. Nicholas of Bari is a saint in two churches: Catholic and Orthodox. He lived at the turn of the 1087rd and XNUMXth centuries, famous for helping the poor and needy. For centuries he was one of the most revered saints in both churches. No wonder that everyone wanted his relics. Having them guaranteed a constant stream of pilgrims, which obviously translated into finances. Besides, the remains of St. Nicholas were supposed to work miracles and guarantee happiness. So they were stolen from Mira and brought to Bari by the Normans in XNUMX. Construction of the basilica began two years later.
The relics of such an important saint deserved a special resting place, so a basilica was built, the size of which is respected to this day. The former patron saint of the city, Saint Sabrin, had to give way to Saint Nicholas, who remains the patron saint of the city until today.
In the Basilica of St. Nicholas has one more figure, very important to Poles: Queen Bona.
Bona Sforza d'Aragona, coming from the Sforza family of Milan, came to Poland from Bari. It had a significant impact on the political life and culture of our country. Thanks to it, pasta, tomatoes, cauliflower, artichokes, green beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, spinach and her favorite root vegetables appeared on our tables. After the death of her husband, Zygmunt Stary, her influence was marginalized, and the conflict with her son, Zygmunt August, finally prompted her to return to Bari. A year after her return to Bari, she was poisoned by one of her trusted courtiers: Jan Wawrzyniec Pappacoda. The murder was initiated by the Habsburgs, who at the same time forged Bona's will, thanks to which they gained some very important benefits, taking over numerous goods.
The seized properties, despite the efforts of the Polish side, never returned to their rightful owners.
The queen's tombstone can be found inside the cathedral.
6. San Sabino Cathedral
41.128565, 16.868702 - click and route
St. Sabrin was the patron saint of Bari before the relics of St. Nicholas. After that, he had to give way to St. Nicholas, who is the city's patron to this day. The cathedral was built at the end of the XNUMXth century, and inside it is worth paying special attention to the wooden ceiling, which has survived to this day in perfect condition.
7. Castello Normano-Svevo
41.127694, 16.866651 - click and route
Castello Normano-Svevo is the castle from which Bona Sforza set off to Poland to become the queen of our country. After the death of her husband, King Sigismund the Old, she returned to him again. After a year in Bari, she was poisoned by her own courtier and ended her life here prematurely.
The castle was probably built in 1132 and 24 years later it was destroyed by the King of Sicily, William I. In 1233 it was rebuilt and strengthened by Frederick II. Later it was handed over to Bona, the queen of Poland, and after her death it was turned into a prison and barracks.
It is a unique castle in terms of architecture. He made a great impression on me. Its shape is extremely modern even for the present time. It is enough to look at the photo below and imagine a building that is identical in shape, but made of modern, contemporary materials, with a lot of glass.
It is amazing that such an unusual form was created in the Middle Ages. I sincerely recommend you to admire it in the evening, under artificial lighting.
How to travel to Bari
I have already described the topic of how to get to Bari and how to look for cheap flights to this city in the post in which I presented the plan of visiting Apulia. Bari was the main starting point in this plan. I recommend this entry, especially as you will find several other attractions that are worth seeing around Bari. Read: A guide to Apulia.
Car rental in Bari
Renting a car is not easy because it involves analyzing many offers. Most of the car rental offers are simply unattractive or contain unfavorable customer entries. I analyzed the issue in detail, chose the best deal, and then rented a car in Bari according to my choice.
A description of the entire process from the selection of an offer, booking, pick-up and return of the car with copies of relevant documents is included in a separate entry.
You probably won't find a more specific and factual entry, so I recommend: Bari - car rental without credit card and deposit?
Parking in Bari
Parking in Bari is quite a challenge. There is not an abundance of parking spaces in the city, so if you do not have the space guaranteed by the hotel, it may take time to look for a piece of free asphalt. So I suggest booking a hotel that allows you to reserve a parking space.
Below I am giving a few leads within the city center, but there is no guarantee that there will be vacancies there. I marked the location of the car parks on the Bari map.
Parking lot P1 by the street, along the promenade at Lungomare Imperatore Augusto, GPS:
41.132507, 16.871625 - click and route
Parking lot P2 in the vicinity of the castle Castello Normano-Svevo, GPS:
41.129847, 16.867878 - click and route
Parking lot P3 in the vicinity of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, GPS:
41.125703, 16.871140 - click and route
Accommodation in Bari
We chose the accommodation in Bari outside the city center deliberately. Mostly because of me. I knew that it is difficult to find a bit of a parking space in Bari, and that is probably the only thing I dislike when traveling. Although "I don't like" that is an understatement.
So we searched mainly for accommodation in which it is possible to guarantee a parking space near the hotel. By the way, it turned out that accommodation outside the city center is noticeably cheaper, and the distance to the historic city center is about a 15-minute walk, through the districts we wanted to visit anyway. In practice, I would waste more time looking for a free car park than it took us to go from the hotel to the city center.
However, if you decide to stay overnight in the historic center, it is good to know that it is not possible to reach the accommodation by car within its limits. It's just that the streets are so narrow that the car doesn't fit. You will first need to look for a free parking space in the area and then reach the hotel with your luggage in your hands.
Below you will find detailed information about our accommodation and a few others that I find interesting.
Even if you do not follow my suggestions, it will be a good starting point to look for your own that will suit you better.
Our accommodation - Interno2 Bari Centrale - [click]
The facility is located in the immediate vicinity of the railway station (maybe 100m from the exit from the underground passage under the station to the hotel). If you are not renting a car at the airport, the location can be very convenient: you get on the train at the airport and get off at the hotel.
For 3 nights for two people we paid PLN 475 (i.e. PLN 158 per night for two people). This price also included a guarded car park (!!!) for our car, for the entire stay (parking on the street you would have to pay about 1 EUR per hour). Our booking was in February so it was low season. In high season, prices will definitely be higher.
The appearance of the room was exactly like the pictures in Booking.com.
If I had stayed in Bari again and the offer was still so attractive, I would have chosen this place again without hesitation.
Overnight in the historic part of the old town of Bari, in the immediate vicinity of the Cathedral of St. Nicholas (marked as H1 on the map). The facility cannot be accessed by car. The offer includes laconic information that there is a car park next to the hotel, but if you go deeper into the description, you will find out that it is a "public car park in the neighboring streets", paid EUR 1 per hour. In practice, you will have to look for a vacant spot along the road along the promenade. Regardless of this, guests appreciate this location, due to its location in one of the most beautiful parts of the old town.
The facility is located in the historic part of the old town in the immediate vicinity of the Normano-Svevo Castle and the Basilica of St. Sabina (marked as H2 on the map). It's a very nice part of the old town and a great place to walk at any time of the day or night. Very close (less than 100m from the accommodation) there is a huge (for Bari) public parking (paid EUR 1 per hour), which is a big advantage in the event of problems with parking in Bari. The facility is highly rated by guests.
Comfortable and spacious apartment of high standard located (like our hotel) close to the train station, but on this nicer, pampered and shiny side of the city. At the same time, the price of the apartment is very attractive. A really worth considering proposal.
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