Looking for a culture-packed city break in 2018? Then Bari, situated on the gorgeous Adriatic Sea, with its eclectic mix of historic attractions and quirky nightlife, might be the perfect place for a holiday this year.
Bari is the vibrant capital of Puglia and it is regarded one of Italy’s most important cities. While the tourist-filled areas of Rome, Florence and Pisa keep increasing in popularity, this stunning destination is one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Effortlessly photogenic, it makes for a laid-back getaway with a different. And, to sweeten the deal even more, think of the glorious Italian ice cream that awaits you.
What’s more, with quiet, picturesque towns like Ostuni and Matera surrounding the city, there’s more than enough to discover. Make your way through meandering streets, rolling landscapes lined with verdant olive groves and fragrant lemon trees. The surrounding region is filled with an array of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with fascinating Italian culture to be found at every turn. Whether you’re heading off on a family break or you’re in search of a romantic getaway, you’re sure to love a holiday in Bari.
The city is split into two distinct halves, offering a welcome mix of old and new. The Old Town, or Vecchia Bari, is a symbol of the city’s medieval past, complete with narrow streets and Romanesque architecture. You’ll find some of Bari’s top attractions here, including the iconic Basilica. Hailing from the 11th century, this famous site is a wonder from the outside with its majestic adornments and Romanesque features. Better yet, inside are the remains of Saint Nicholas, or Father Christmas as he is better known.
While there are numerous religious buildings in and around Bari, you’ll want to head to its main squares first – Piazza del Ferrarese and Piazza Mercantile. These pretty squares host the most stunning architecture, set amid charming coffee shops and restaurants. Sit in one of the squares and enjoy people-watching while sipping on an authentic Italian coffee.
If you’d rather explore Bari’s modern side, head to the other side of town. Built at the start of the 19th century, it’s a world away from the Old Town’s ancient streets. You’ll find a vibrant shopping district with enough options to suit the most discerning shopper, alongside a pleasant promenade boasting an enticing array of bars and restaurants.
Italy has an excellent reputation for fine cuisine, so it’s not a surprise that holidaymakers choose to visit Bari for its food and drink. As you might expect, the favoured dishes of Puglia are focused on fresh pastas and vegetables, with fresh fish often featuring on the menu due to its proximity to the sea.
When visiting Bari, it’s well worth trying their authentic dishes from the region. A holiday in Bari wouldn’t be complete without fresh pasta. Orecchiette, cavatelli and fricelli can all be found in many of the city’s traditional trattorias and once you’ve sampled them, you’ll never want to go back to dried pasta again! Of course, you’ll find pizzerias at every corner in Bari too. Tuck into every type of pizza imaginable, or try one of the local breads. Foccacia, spicy Taralli and the famous Altamura bread are all created in this part of Italy, and are particularly delicious when dipped in local olive oil.
Spending your Bari holiday with little ones, or got your teenagers in tow? While you won’t find a head-spinning mix of theme parks in this part of Puglia, there are a few options to keep the kids occupied. Head to Bari’s beach just outside the city centre and you’ll have a welcome day away from cultural attractions. It’s the ideal place for kids to paddle in the clear blue water, while you can focus on settling down with a book on the sun lounger.
For those who don’t mind travelling further afield, Splash Parco is a great option for the entire family. Located in nearby Gallipoli, this waterpark-meets-amusement attraction offers everything from swimming pools and slides to a wild west train ride and roller-skating ride. It’s guaranteed to keep them happy for a few hours! Alternatively, head to Fasano for an exciting adventure at the town’s wild animal park. Open every day from April to September, it will excite all animal-lovers in the family.
While Bari holidays are perfectly catered to those seeking a laid-back getaway, there are a few activities to keep content those who want a bit of adrenaline-fuelled fun. Thanks to its excellent surroundings, Bari lends itself well to bike tours and you’ll find many organised trips for you to join in. Make your way across rolling hills, winding streets and scenic landscapes on two wheels as your expert guide leads you through some of Puglia’s most photo-worthy trails.
If you’d rather tour the area on two legs, make sure you book in a visit to the nearby Castellana Caves. The caves are a network of enormous caverns formed over millions of years, now the home of an array of stalactites and stalagmites. There are two tours available; one lasting just under an hour and another longer trail that takes in the stunning sight of the Grotta Bianca.
If you crave a bit of time by the sea alongside your city break, Bari is your best bet. While the area doesn’t have big-name stretches of sand to land your beach towel, there’s a pleasant beach located just a ten minute drive from the city centre. A mix of golden sand and shingle, Pane e Pomodoro beach is perfect for tourists looking to escape the bustle of the city for the day – although it can get quite busy during the summer months.
Heading further out, you’ll find a few beaches in neighbouring resorts. Trani, Barletta and Bisclegie, located just north of Bari, offer a number of white sandy beaches with unbeatable views out to sea. Some even have water sports available, so why not try your hand at parasailing, snorkeling and even banana boating?
Don’t expect neon-lit nightclubs and bustling bars on holiday in Bari – instead, evenings are more likely to be about fine dining and café culture. The Old Town is a great place to head after sundown, where you’ll find locals and tourists lingering at coffee shops and traditional trattorias. Visit La Vineria, a cosy wine bar that specialises in local wines, or settle in at Premiata Norcineria, a pub that serves up plenty of charm with its many drinks and Italian tapas dishes. Evenings in Bari are best spent relaxing with a fine glass of locally produced red wine.
For those seeking nightlife in the new part of the city, there’s a quirky mix of places to visit. Among the collection of bars and restaurants along the promenade, Barcollo is a favoured spot. It’s a cocktail bar that doubles as an ice cream shop, which, unsurprisingly, has a loyal student following.
Italy is known to be a romantic country for couples to visit, and Puglia is certainly no different. While Bari’s medieval streets and traditional restaurants evoke a distinct romance alone, there are a few attractions ideal for those wanting to spend quality time together.
Keen shoppers should take a leisurely stroll to the Old Town during the daytime, where you’ll discover street vendors selling delicious local food without high price tags. Browse the market stalls, soak up the sunshine in the square and bag yourself some souvenirs at the little artisan shops.
Why not try and learn how to make some amazing Italian food at an authentic cooking class? There are a variety of courses to be found throughout the city, with many of them getting booked up well in advance. Head on over to a traditional kitchen, where you and your partner will spend a few hours learning how to prepare delicious local dishes before savouring them with a glass of local wine. Buon appetito!
Any visit to Bari would be incomplete without taking in any of its culture, which can be found around every corner. While the cathedral must feature on your to-do list, there are a number of other religious buildings to catch a glimpse of on your trip. Look out for the impressive sculptures and architectural triumphs in the Old Town particularly.
There are also plenty of museums and art galleries in Bari for you to get your cultural fill. Head to the Scavi de Egnazia museum to delve into the area’s archeological past. For music fans, a visit to the impressive Teatro Petruzzelli is a must too. You’ll be able to see operas and ballets there, and have the chance of catching some Mozart, Verdi or Bellini. The building is worth a look even if it’s just for the majestic architecture. A holiday in Bari in 2107 certainly won’t leave you wanting more.