What to do and see in Bari: guide to the city and its surroundings

Seasonal tourism is one of the cornerstones of the change of pace in Puglia, which can certainly count on cities with art and cultural attractions scattered throughout the region, which are worth the trip at any time of the year. Bari is today the epicenter of a very lively system, a coastal town by the sea, which boasts an ancient history, as evidenced by the excavations of the settlement Peucezi, which date back to the Bronze Age. Its position has made it a commercial crossroads, which for centuries has enriched the city also culturally, between rises and falls, from the strife between the Lombards and the Byzantines to the flourishing Swabian era (which will be followed by a whirlwind of dominances). Until 25 June 2022, the Swabian castle, the architectural symbol of the medieval city, will host a large anthology of Aurelio Amendola (Pistoia, 1938), photographer who for over sixty years of activity has been confronted with works and portraits of many masters, from Michelangelo to Burri, passing through Warhol, Kounellis and Lichtenstein. An itinerary with over 200 photographs, which also establishes a relationship to the history of the city, in the section dedicated to the Cathedral of San Sabino, with unpublished images of the artist. Another opportunity to visit Bari and discover its main sights, with some cruises out of the city.

The Swabian castle in Bari
The Swabian castle in Bari


To get closer to the city, you can start by verifying on the spot the curious precedence that does Bari city with the longest beach promenade in Italy and Europeextended by over 15 kilometers.
It will be sufficient to walk along the most central stretch – close to the old town -, walk towards Pane e Pomodoro beach, or in the opposite direction, walk towards the port before arriving at the San Cataldo lighthouse. Entering the citadel of Barivecchia opens up a further scenario: urban planning, with the labyrinth of alleys (including the now famous “via delle orecchiette”, in the Arco Basso area, for tourist use and consumption) and the buildings in white stone, dates back to the Middle Ages. At the edge lies Swabian Castlea 13th-century fortress, later a Renaissance residence, now a museum (with plaster-cast gallery) and exhibition center.
Among the sights of the tour are also the Romanesque-Apulian-style cathedral (but it hides on a baroque crypt), with its soaring bell tower, the Romanian Orthodox Church of San Gregorio (the oldest in the city, built in the 10th century) and the Basilica of San Nicola , the radiant center of Bari’s connection to the city’s patron saint, the protagonist not only of the religious imagination but also of the cultural (a visit to Nicolaiano Museum clarifies this ancient relationship and preserves a number of works of art that trace the history of the basilica and the worship of the believers towards the saint Mira, on whose remains the basilica, consecrated by Pope Urban II, was founded). Outside the citadel is the well-ordered chessboard of the nineteenth-century Murattiano district.

Archaeological Museum of Santa Scolastica, Bari.  Exhibition department on the first floor, the ancient people of Puglia.  Peucezi
Archaeological Museum of Santa Scolastica, Bari. Exhibition department on the first floor, the ancient people of Puglia. Peucezi


The prestige of the collections preserved in one of the oldest archeological museum institutions in Puglia was accompanied a year ago by the important renovation of the rooms and visiting routes of the Santa Scolastica complex, a former Benedictine monastery that houses the institution. . Today at the entrance to the museum, parts of the Hellenic walls and the monastery’s medieval cisterns can be visited before entering the nuns’ old dormitory, from where the visit unfolds: on the ground floor, the sections dedicated to the archeological history of ancient Peucezia, present-day land of Bari (6). and 3rd century BC); on the first floor, the sections dedicated to the theme “Prehistory and Protohistory of the Land of Bari”; in the bastion from the sixteenth century, a video mapping installation that reconstructs the original environment. Next to it is the archeological site of San Pietro, which shows an urban stratification that from the Bronze Age – at the time of the oldest settlement in the area – moves up to the Roman age before being incorporated into medieval buildings. Often the museum also hosts contemporary art exhibitions.


Corrado Giaquinto Art Gallery, Bari
Corrado Giaquinto Art Gallery, Bari


On the fourth floor of the Palazzo della Provincia di Bari you will enter the city’s art gallery. Apulian art from the 11th to the 20th century it is represented here in a path that ranges from a large medieval section to the core of Venetian paintings from local churches, to works from the Neapolitan school in the Baroque period to the collection of paintings from the nineteenth century. A precious corpus tells the work of Giaquinto, a painter from Molfetta who lived in the eighteenth century, one of the leading exponents of Rococo in Europe.


The preliminary city.  Exhibition display at Spazio Murat, Bari 2018
The preliminary city. Exhibition display at Spazio Murat, Bari 2018


Built between 1912 and 1914 in the bend of the old harbor, the Margherita Theater since 2018, it has taken on the function of an exhibition space for contemporary art (together with Spazio Murat on the former food market and the former fish market, it is now a hub for contemporary art and culture in the city). On the other hand Petruzzelli Theater, inaugurated in 1903 to give the city a prestigious and spacious space (still today it is the fourth largest theater in Italy). Since the first performances, expectations were maintained, and today the bill continues to confirm this call. Side curiosity: in 1973, Petruzzelli will be the “biographical” scene for Monica Vitti and Alberto Sordi in the film Star dust, which reconstructs a parenthesis really experienced by the theater, with the occupation of Anglo-American troops to make it a place of recreation for the troops during World War II. But the oldest city theater still in operation is Piccinniinaugurated in 1854.


New Era Museum, Bari
New Era Museum, Bari


Right in the heart of the old village New Era Museum has been running since 1991 to open a window into the world of contemporary art, in a gallery that provides space for Italian and international artists from today’s stage (currently exhibiting Daniela Perego). Self coworking Faro Futuro, recently born close to the old lighthouse (hence not far from the important exhibition center Fiera del Levante), it is proposed as an exhibition venue for the present. Also Weigh the project space, inaugurated in the summer of 2021 in the Libertà district on the initiative of Bianca Buccioli, Nicola Guastamacchia and Flavia Tritto, who have chosen to focus on an area plagued by many frailties. Through a program of exhibitions, workshops and residences, we aim to promote research and production of contemporary art in Puglia (until 5 May, the main character is Cristian Rizzuti, with Disappearance points).


QM San Paolo Museum District Bari
QM San Paolo Museum District Bari


Part of a more widespread regeneration program of peripheral urban art through street art, launched on a regional basis, the QM project (museum district), by the association Mecenate90, has recently changed the face of the San Paolo district involving ten artists (5 national and international, 5 locals) called to intervene in as many buildings in the most populous area of ​​the city (the model is the one from the Tor Marancia Condominium Museum in Rome). The first cycle of murals, completed last autumn, will soon be accompanied by the results of a new phase of interventions (ten more works). And to redefine the space, intervention from Renzo Piano’s school is also expected. Currently, the itinerary ranges from the tribute stone to Saint Nicholas of Bari, signed by C215 (the French Christian Guemy), to the angel from Rizek, to Chekos’ intense female face, to the reflection on the dangers of Hogre’s digital media. But among the city’s murals, David Tremlett’s intervention on the monumental complex of Santa Chiara and San Francesco della Scarpa deserves a visit, with the 27 backgrounds of Wall surfaces (2019).


Pino Pascali Foundation, Polignano
Pino Pascali Foundation, Polignano


Born in 1998 after a significant donation of works and memorabilia belonging to the artist Pino Pascali (who died at the age of 33 in 1968), gave the museum life for a foundation in 2010. The current headquarters of the former slaughterhouse Polignano, in the port area south of the city, was inaugurated two years later, to house the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions, as well as to support the winners of the annual Pino Pascali Prize. In short, it’s all about promoting modern Apulian art, here supported by serious research work and valid preparations.


Lama degli Ulivi Botaniske Have, Monopoli
Lama degli Ulivi Botaniske Have, Monopoli


Not far from Monopoli, three hectares obtained in the most ritualistic landscape of the Apulian landscape, among millennial olive trees that leave room here for a fascinating botanical garden, built on an ancient blade, a karst depression that is peculiar to the territory, which in turn hides caves, underground spaces and rock churches (two, dated between 1000 and 1200, by the monks who fled from the Ottomans). From a botanical point of view, they admire each other over 2000 plant species, not only natives but arriving from all over the world. Moving to the seaside resort – which will host the second edition of the exhibition in early September 2022 Panorama of italics, after the intervention in Procida – we visit the ancient center dominated by Charles V’s Castle (but also the air raids that run under the city, 8 meters deep, now also a temporary exhibition space for contemporary art).

Giardino botanico “Lama degli Ulivi” Monopoli

Pans with Apulian focaccia, Panificio Adriatico, Bari
Pans with Apulian focaccia, Panificio Adriatico, Bari


Let’s start with the basics. To taste a good focaccia from Bari, the right address is that of Adriatic Bakerywhich also offers variations on the theme of the classic recipe with extra virgin olive oil, olives and cherry tomatoes and then taralli and freselle.
Still in town, not far from the boardwalk, is there Vector, an informal meeting place suitable for a break before or after the theater, near Petruzzelli; the gastronomic proposal is fusion, inspired by Japanese culture, the quality of the fish is a guarantee.
East Winery instead it is a cozy wine bar with gastronomy and cuisine, centered on natural wines. You can also eat outdoors, the menu changes daily, written on a blackboard, according to the market, including lampascioni cooked with oil, vinegar and mint, squid and baked potatoes, stewed chicory catalog and sponsali, pork bowler.
Outside the city, towards Trani, you can reach it Lulaa bread-making project by Luca Lacalamita (formerly Enoteca Pinchiorri), which enhances the identity of the territory through peasant bread, taralli, focaccia and pastry, which are as precious as they are genuine and rich in flavor.
Do you go south when you reach Putignano, one of the most interesting designer tables in Puglia and Italy: the kitchen is Angelo Sabatellisolid ambassador for a gastronomic thought devoted to experimentation, which, however, does not forget the roots.


Livia Montagnoli

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