A trip to Puglia in its most representative city. Discover Bari like a local and find out why it should be on your bucket list.
Fall in love with Bari in seven local moves.
Puglia's most representative town is an explosive mix of modernity and ancient traditions.
Its historic centre, Bari Vecchia, perfectly sums up la baresità, from the narrow dialect of its signore making orecchiette in the streets to the palaces, churches and courtyards alternating between alleyways, chianche and heady smells of freshly baked focaccia.
Follow our suggestions and give your holiday in Puglia a more authentic flavour than ever.
Here are some practical, easy pointers for your Bari tour with an eye on the habits of the Baresi.
Find out when to make the most of Bari's charm, what's the cult place for an unconventional breakfast, and the ideal destination for a perfect day trip.
Here's what to do in Bari like a local.
7. Hunting for the best focaccia in Bari
Visiting Bari like a local means taking in all the facets of southern Italy's third most important city, a fascinating cultural hub and a dynamic centre in continuous ferment cooked in a concentration of art, sea and flavours.
Bari pampers you with its warmth and the irresistible verve of its people.
The simplest and most direct way to get to know Puglias's capital is to start with food.
Bari cuisine is as sparkling, imaginative and tasty as you can guess a Pugliese town might offer. And it's flexible, too. Not only orecchiette, horse ragù, brasciole, cavatelli, rice potatoes and mussels. These are all traditional dishes you absolutely must try, of course.
But whether you don't feel like sitting at the table while dying to wander around, you can find the right compromise in Barese street food. Walking the streets of Bari Vecchia with a piece of focaccia in your hands is an iconic gesture.
Every Bari resident has their favourite bakery, so don't be shy: ask a local for advice and try them all.
You'll probably still want to try something calorific and tasty after the last bite. So, go for sgagliozze, pieces of fried polenta typical of Bari, and popizze, round fritters to eat hot and crispy.
Last but not least, its majesty il panzerotto. Before ordering one at a friggitoria, pause for an examination of conscience: do you feel like having it as a snack? These half-moon-shaped doughs can be large and stuffed enough to replace a complete meal. A nibble for daredevils.
6. Walking around Bari
Leave your car outside your hotel or in one of the car parks on the outskirts. Shuttle services connect them with the city centre.
Although Bari is not a metropolis, traffic can be a nuisance for those travelling by car. Do as the locals do and prefer to get around with a moped or a bike. Or simply walk.
Follow the clues suggested by le chianche. In the past, these stone slabs used to be a kind of rudimentary GPS for the locals. If their edges are white, the road you are walking on leads towards the centre. If black, they head outside.
You are likely to get lost, but that's the beauty of it. Bari is wonderful to enjoy strolling through its narrow streets lined with sumptuous Apulian-Romanesque architecture and freshly laundered bedsheets swaying from the buildings.
Furthermore, making the acquaintance of the cheery ladies preparing orecchiette with unmatched skill is an experience you can only have by walking around the centre. Meet them in via Arco Basso.
La Città Vecchia, Bari's old town, is a restricted traffic zone, so you won't need a car to visit the most popular attractions. It's better to opt for a moped or bicycle to rent for longer trips.
Alternatively, you can use the public transport service or the railway network to reach outlying areas.
5. Breakfast in Bari n'derr'a la lanze
The day begins at Molo di San Nicola, where the more daring can try the real Barese breakfast n-dèrr'a la lanze, which literally means near the boats.
Experience Bari like a local and come here early in the morning for a sample of fresh catch to eat strictly raw. Fish and crustaceans are downed with a sip of beer, the cappuccino of the most daring Baresi.
The spectacle before you is a cheerful mosaic, with the Teatro Margherita reflecting on the Adriatic, colourful boats swaying in the port and the fishermen intent on the octopus curling: the so-called "pulpe rizze" obtained after beating the animal against a hard surface is more tender and tasty.
Bari's seafront promenade is the quintessence of the baresità, a jolly haunt frequented by locals in the morning and evening alike.
Nearby you can find the best-known and most popular meeting point for residents. Chiringuito is a small kiosk to stop by for a beer and a cheery chat. In the evenings, it teems with people in the mood for casual, relaxed fun overlooking the sea.
Chiringuito is only a few minutes from Piazza del Ferrarese and Piazza Mercantile, filled with clubs, pubs and cafes. Strolling around the historic centre of Bari in the evening will let you discover a different city, immersed in a sparkling and joyful atmosphere.
Talking about where to spend the evening in Bari…
4. Evening in Largo Albicocca
If you want to spend the evening in Bari like a local, all you have to do is let yourself be carried away by the gentle, rustic atmosphere of the old town by night.
Bari Vecchia is a constant discovery at any time of day. After sunset, with the romantic dim light of the characteristic street lamps and the irresistible aromas of regional delicacies wafting out from restaurant and pub kitchens, the city gets so sensual that it will be difficult to resist its call.
Largo Albicocca is among the places to note down for socialising with the locals. Especially since its makeover, this small but flashy square has become a magnet for residents and tourists alike. Stop here for an aperitif or dinner in the glow of thousands of LED lights hanging among the buildings.
The most authentic side of the Bari nightlife is revealed in the alleys and squares overflowing with bistros, pasticcerie, restaurants and friggitorie of every shape, style and size.
In Piazza del Ferrarese, the gateway to the old town, and Piazza Mercantile, you won't struggle to get into the right mood to enjoy a Mediterranean evening with all the trimmings.
3. Attending the feast of San Nicola
Outspoken, generous, tied to tradition. The people of Bari are proud of their symbols, and St Nicholas' Day is something of an institution. The city's patron saint celebrated with great pomp twice a year is probably the best known and loved of them all.
Streets, murals, the stadium, the majestic 11th-century Basilica that houses his relics and, of course, the abundance of Nicola on the city's registers are all named after him.
Just before Christmas, Bari dresses up for the religious celebrations, which attract believers from all over Italy. On the morning of 6 December, the Basilica fills up at dawn for the first mass of the day. Immediately afterwards, everyone pours into the streets of Bari Vecchia for the traditional breakfast with hot chocolate and Christmas sweets.
Don't miss the torchlight procession, the Christmas tree lighting in Piazza del Ferrarese, and the fireworks display on the Molo di Sant'Antonio.
In May, from the 7th to the 9th of the month, other events colour the second round of La Festa di San Nicola, commemorating the arrival in Bari of the saint's remains in 1087: processions, historical parades and the unmissable exhibition of the Tricolour Arrows.
Stay until the last day for the most authentic experience. Tourists and pilgrims have already left the city, so 9 May is known as Festa dei Baresi. The fireworks that close the celebrations are all for them. And for you.
2. Day trip to Giovinazzo
Less than half an hour from Bari, there is a medieval seaside village dotted with emerald green windows, which is still a secret to many travellers.
Giovinazzo is the perfect destination if you are looking for a day trip from Bari. The beating heart of the town is the charming little port. Small and romantic, with the silhouette of the cathedral and the white stone building facades in the background, you won't be able to resist taking plenty of photos.
What to do in Giovinazzo? At the risk of being trivial, the best way you have to visit Giovinazzo is to stroll around the squares and alleys of the historic centre. For instance, the passage linking Piazza Meschino to Piazza Duomo: it's called Strada Delle Cerimonie and is one of the narrowest in Italy.
Visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and enter the Chiesa dello Spirito Santo, with its roofing reminiscent of the typical Apulian Trulli.
Before returning to Bari, walk along the fortified waterfront at the sight of the colourful boats moored in the harbour while biting into a typical pizzella, a kind of focaccia covered in tomato sauce, crispy on the outside and soft inside.
1. Shopping in Bari like a local
On Thursday mornings, Bari bargain-hunters rendezvous is at the Via Salvemini market.
To shop like a local in Bari, this is where you must go. It's held in the San Pasquale district, not far from the university campus.
You can almost find everything from designer collections to vintage clothing at low prices. The instructions for smart shopping are few but to be followed strictly, taking a cue from the shrewdest Baresi.
First of all, come early in the morning to have a better chance of grabbing the best products, and don't be surprised to find a constant hustle and bustle already around 7 a.m. Then, arm yourself with patience to dig through the clothes piling up on the stalls.
The fauna flocking the market in Bari is highly varied. You will either run into penniless students or elegant ladies, searching equally for a designer piece, vintage fur coats or made-in-Italy shoes at bargain prices.
Noisy and colourful like every local market, come here to start the day with a total immersion in a genuine and amusing atmosphere.
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