Bari lies in the Southern Italy, in the Puglia region. In fact, it is the capital of this region, making it the perfect portal to the rest of the Apulian area. This is perhaps its main purpose for most of its visitors. Nevertheless, there are several things to do and see in Bari itself. Even if you just stay for a day before moving on to more stereotypically ‘beautiful’ areas of Puglia.
Throughout the Middle Ages, Bari was one of the main slaves ports of the Mediterranean. This served Arab states, and was the stopping point of slave ships taking slavic slaves over to be mercenaries and servants. It kept its links with Arab tradition for a long time, given its southern position. It has also played a significant role in the history of Christianity. This is where the Council of Bari in 1098, at which both Catholic and Orthodox bishops attempted to come to agreements regarding the Great Schism. Its involvement in this is still visible in its Basilica of St Nicholas. This was built in the late 11th Century, and to this days has chapels for both Catholic and Orthodox pilgrims. This basilica’s crypt is also home to the aforementioned saint’s relics.
The old town of Bari is quite nice to walk around. Its tiny cobbled streets create a sort of maze, though it is so small you cannot get lost for long. Here you will find a strong sense of community as doors are open and people chat and shout across the streets. For a breath of fresh air, you can take a walk along the old city walls. In the newer areas of the city you can visit the pleasant piazzas such as the Piazza del Ferrarese and Mercantile. The latter is great place to grab a drink or bite to eat. It is quite spacious, has some fountains and is a delightful spot to watch people go about their day-to-day business.
Here in Bari you can also visit the 13th-century Chiesa di San Sabino which holds the tomb of St Columba. You can also visit the Bari Castle. This Norman structure is in great condition considering it dates back to the 12th Century! For some art, the Pinacoteca offers a pleasing variety of pieces. Its art often follows the Puglian school of art, and dates back to the 12th-19th Centuries. It moreover offers beautiful views out over the Bari area. In the evenings, it is nice to take a passeggiata along the Lungomare Nazario Sauro. This seafront promenade gives onto the serene harbor area with its many small fishing boats.
Bari has its own airport. It is also very well connected with the rest of the region, making it very easy to simply stop over for a night or two before exploring the rest of this characteristic part of Italy.