Learn how to move with ease in the regional capital with the locals’ best tips.
Bari is the capital of the region of Puglia and the most populous European municipality overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It has a solid commercial-entrepreneurial tradition and has always been a focal point for trade and political-cultural contacts with the Balkans. Its port is the largest Italian passenger port on the Adriatic. It is also known as the city where the relics of Saint Nicholas are kept. This fact has made Bari and its Basilica one of the favorite centers of the Orthodox Church in the West and also an important center of interconfessional communication between Orthodoxy and Catholicism.
Among the monuments worth visiting: The Castello Svevo, built by the Norman King Roger II, it has been a fortress, a residence and now serves as a cultural center. The Teatro Petruzzelli, once destroyed by fire, rose from the ashes to regain its place as a beacon of the performing arts. The Teatro Margherita, a theater literally built on the sea, also once destroyed by fire, has been transformed into a museum of contemporary art. The Cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption, is a beautiful example of solstitial architecture: at 5:10 p.m. on the summer solstice, every year on June 21st, the sun's rays pass through the rose window and perfectly overlap the geometries of the marble mosaic in the middle of the central nave.
Bari, and especially Bari Vecchia, the old town, has undergone a redevelopment project in recent years and has moved away from its reputation as a seedy port city to become a charming Italian destination in its own right, with a vibrant, youthful population. The region's mostly mild weather has spawned many bustling outdoor restaurants and bars that are popular hangouts for locals. These are their favorite spots:
N' dèrr'a la lanze, on the small pier Molo San Nicola is the place of Baresi par excellence. It is a true open-air fish market, the symbol of Bari's gastronomy, where fishermen, just back from the sea, invite locals and tourists to taste the delicacies of the sea, strictly raw. To complete the experience, have a beer at El Chiringuito, a small bar on the pier, known as the place that sells the most Peroni in all of Puglia. The fact that one of the Peroni factories is located in Bari, founded in 1924, has strengthened the bond with the citizens, making them feel the Peroni beer as an unshakeable faith. This is where the real old Baresi have breakfast, but we may opt for an aperitif.
Located in the majestic Teatro Petruzzelli, this innovative and elegant café is the perfect place from breakfast to aperitif.
Formerly Bar Savoia, this café is one of the most historic in Bari. With a light French flavor, you can enjoy breakfast and aperitifs in their characteristic dehors overlooking the people strolling along the shopping district of Bari.
Bari's favorite pastry shop, founded in 1961, famous for its decadent cakes and delicious mignons. From the same family, Pino Ladisa opened his own café, Pino Ladisa Pasticcere Cioccolatiere, where he masters the art of chocolate together with pastries and gelato.
Opened in 1880 not far from the Swabian Castle, this is considered by many to be the best gelato in Bari. Here a Bari specialty has been revived: the sporcamuss are traditionally a puff pastry filled with cream: rigorously crunchy and with a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar, which is very likely to make your mouth dirty from the first bite. Here, however, the main ingredient inside is ice cream, a must try!
The most famous chain of pastry and ice cream shops in Apulia, founded in 1950 in Salento. Even if they had to industrialize their production to satisfy the great demand of their 25 shops, they managed to keep the original flavors and the excellent quality.
Lunch (street food)
The Panificio Fiore is one of the oldest in Bari, dating back to 1912, and one of the most appreciated and popular. It is located in Bari Vecchia, near the Basilica of San Nicola. Inside you can admire two columns that belonged to an ancient church of the sixteenth century. Every day there is a queue to taste the famous focaccia barese.
Panificio Santa Rita
This family bakery was founded in 1921 in Bari Vecchia. The focaccia barese here is thinner than at other bakeries, crispy and not too greasy. This makes it a favorite of many. In addition to the focaccia with cherry tomatoes and olives, try the calzone di cipolle, another traditional must in Bari.
If you ask a local to name his favorite focaccia, he'll probably say Violante's. A bakery opened in 1925 by the Violante family and still run today by the brothers Giuseppe, Mario and Leonardo. All the products are made with quality ingredients, kneaded by hand and baked daily. Unlike other bakeries, the focaccia here is made with peeled tomato sauce and not with cherry tomatoes, but always crisp, thin and very tasty.
Maria delle Sgagliozze
Maria, 90 years old, is the icon of Bari who makes sgagliozze in her house in Bari Vecchia and sells them from a small window. Sgagliozze are very simple slices of polenta fried in plenty of sunflower seed oil and seasoned with salt, the must of Bari street food.
If you want to know the real Bari, you can't miss a visit to Via dell'Arco Basso, better known as Via delle Orecchiette. The real protagonists here are the women who, with their skilled hands, produce thousands of orecchiette every day, sitting in front of each other at their wooden tables. Mrs. Nunzia, in addition to selling her own orecchiette, offers a service very similar to that of a home restaurant. It is even possible to book a lunch or dinner at her house, based, of course, on orecchiette.
Around 6 p.m., especially on weekends, the people of Bari usually meet with old friends or colleagues for a drink and some local street food. Not only in summer, but all year round, the favorite place is right by the sea. Pick up a panzerottini at El Focacciaro, a beer or spritz at Piccolo Bar and walk a few meters to the fascinating Lungomare, where you can enjoy an aperitif on a romantic bench overlooking the sea. An interesting alternative is La Biglietteria, a former foyer of the Kursaal theater, where you can enjoy an aperitif "vista mare" from the comfort of its outdoor seats.
In Bari you go to "Al Sorso Preferito" to taste the authentic Spaghetti all'Assassina, invented here in 1967, although not everyone agrees on how. This recipe is one of the symbols of Bari's gastronomy. Burned, crunchy, spicy: these are the three basic characteristics of the typical dish. The name killer is linked to the cooking technique: the pasta is cooked as a risotto in a tomato sauce and slightly burnt.
Other places to try l'Assassina: Le 2 aquile, Ai Due Ghiottoni
A young team runs this traditional little gem. The restaurant's stone walls, characteristic ceramics and candlelight create the perfect atmosphere for the delicious traditional dishes served here.
The Vettor Restaurant bases its idea of cuisine on the knowledge and the meeting of southern Italian and Japanese gastronomic cultures. It offers sushi with Apulian products, first courses from land and sea, fine meats, fresh local fish, vegan dishes and also gastronomic options for celiacs.
Winebar (with kitchen)
If you like natural wines, this is the place for you. The friendly staff will guide you in the best choice for your taste and you'll be able to combine your drink with exceptional dishes and tapas.
A restaurant and wine bar that has won numerous awards. To enter Perbacco you have to ring the bell, Bebbe Schino will open the door to his authentic cuisine and walls full of bottles of wine.
Do you also want to discover Puglia? Have a look at our holiday villas in Puglia here.
I’m an art director, foodie and life enthusiast from Rome with Umbrian roots. I lived in Florence to study arts, and in Puglia to work in hospitality, kitchen and events. Food is my religion and I love to share my favorite places because food always tastes better when shared.