The old Bari is something you don’t want to miss, when visiting Bari, no matter how long you stay. The atmosphere, the buildings and little tight streets – everything looks like you’ve stepped back in time, and you can’t help but relax and enjoy it.
The old Bari (Bari Vecchia in Italian) is the historic part of the city, which stands on a little peninsula. The old Bari used to have a wall surrounding it, and the remains of this wall are visible from the sea. This area looks quite typical for a southern Italian town – it is a labyrinth of small streets, laundry hanging over from every balcony, old signoras making pasta (with their front doors wide open so you can see the process), kids playing football and delicious smells coming from open windows.
If you want to make your way through the old town using a map, try – inevitably, you will lose your way, because it is impossible to follow the map and not your sight in Bari Vecchia. But don’t worry, just keep walking and any street will surely lead you to the main square, where you see the Basilica of Saint Nicholas – the patron of Bari. This place is one of the main reasons Bari has such a strong flow of tourists – and especially religious tourists. The remains of Saint Nicholas, one of the most worshiped Christian saints, are kept in the crypt of this Basilica. In fact, the ground level is a regular Catholic church, and the crypt is shared between Catholics, Russian Orthodox, Greek, Armenian and other Christian churches – they all have their own days of the weeks for services. The Basilica was built in 11th century and, according to the legend, the remains of San Nicola were stolen by Romans from Turkey.
Another significant church to visit in Old Bari is The Cathedral of Saint Sabinus. It was built in the 13th century, and nowadays it’s a classic example of Roman-style architecture.
Slightly outside of old Bari there’s the main castle of Bari – it is a unique fortress, built by the emperor Federico II. The castle is an absolute must-see; take your time to see the inside and learn about the art of fortification in medieval times.
Overall, Old Bari is quite small, so you likely won’t spend more than half a day wandering the tangled streets. But for lunch go to Piazza Mercantile – there is where all the nice restaurants and trattorias are! There’s no better pleasure than sitting in the shade, having your fresh-made orecchiette – traditional pasta of Apulia – with a glass of wine, watching people passing by and just enjoying life.