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Old Bari, the ancient heart of the Apulian capital

Thursday 14 december 2017

The ancient district of San Nicola, among churches, votive niches, the Byzantine cathedral of San Sabino, the Norman castle, the Basilica of San Nicola, then a taste of rice, potatoes and mussels.

Old Bari, the ancient heart of the Apulian capital

It is on a small peninsula between the old and the new port, closed to the east by the walls that separate it from the promenade, which rises the district of San Nicola, called by its inhabitants Old Bari.

As a large historic village in the heart of the Apulian capital, Bari Vecchia is located between the Murat district and the Adriatic Sea, and consists of a picturesque succession of narrow streets and squares enclosed between the ancient walls, where forty churches are joined in a hundred and twenty votive kiosks.

Bari vecchia

Photo by Yallers Puglia

Near the bustling port area, among the most important in Italy, there is one of the most striking historical areas of the Italian south, the heart of the traditions and culture of the city, once unsafe and not valued, today a pleasant destination for a tourism that more and more it sees in Bari Vecchia an important historical and architectural showcase.

The area is visited without asking a precise itinerary. We let ourselves be guided by curiosity, by the desire to discover it, by the beauty of its most hidden corners, by its many courtyards, by the suggestions of its foreshortenings, enveloped in intense perfumes and bright colors.

We started from Piazza del Ferrarese, one of the focal points of city life, in which, recently, ancient traces of the Via Appia-Traiana were discovered, to continue in the nearby Piazza Mercantile, the political center of the medieval city, on which overlooking the Palazzo del Sedile, where once stood the nobility of Bari, dominated by the Column of Justice, where the fraudulent debtors of the past were entrusted to the will of the people.

Bari vecchia

Photo by Gianpiero Azzarello 

The religious architectural heritage that is slowly unveiling is extraordinary. The Byzantine Cathedral of San Sabino in 1034, a classic example of Romanesque-Pugliese, rebuilt between 1170 and 1178, has a dome of 35 meters high, a classic example of Romanesque-Pugliese, and a rich interior with traces of the original mosaics present in the past on the floor.

Do not miss the Basilica of San Nicola, another treasure in Romanesque-Pugliese, built in 1087 to house the relics of the patron saint of the city. Today it is a popular destination for pilgrims from all over the world, devoted to St. Nicholas, but especially Russian Orthodox citizens, with whom the city of Bari has important relationships.

Also worth seeing is the Church of San Marco dei Veneziani, erected to thank the people of the lagoon for freeing the people of Bari from the occupation of the Saracens in 1002, and the Monastery and Church of Santa Scolastica, dating back to the period between VIII and Eleventh century.

Bari vecchia

Photo by Rocco Campo

Then many other churches, from that of San Gregorio, from the period between the eleventh and twelfth centuries, to that of the Trinity, that of San Giorgio dei Martiri, Santa Chiara, San Giuseppe, that of Santa Pelagia, the Church of Jesus, the Church of Santa Teresa dei Maschi, that of San Michele and that of Vallisa.

An exciting visit to the old city, including architectural treasures, glimpses of exciting beauty, picturesque corners but also many artisan shops and numerous shops selling local products, then restaurants, trattorias and bars.

A stop in a restaurant in the city is worthwhile to savor some local specialties. We allow ourselves a nice dish of rice, potatoes and mussels, to continue with a taste of eggplant parmigiana.

Take a stroll along the city walls, overlooking the sea and overlooking the harbor.

Bari vecchia

Photo by Rosy Ignomiriello

Not only religious treasures but also civil architectural emergencies make up the mosaic of the San Nicola district, including the Norman Swabian castle built by Frederick II of Swabia and built on previous Byzantine and Norman fortifications. Dimora d'Isabella d'Aragona in the sixteenth century, was, in the nineteenth century, first prison and then barracks.

Also interesting is the Fortino of Sant’Antonio Abate, wanted by the Prince of Taranto Giovanni Antonio Orsini del Balzo, then demolished by the Bari in 1463 and then rebuilt, which combines a rich colony of historic buildings that make this kind of village in the heart of the Apulian capital, among the main cities of the Italian south, architectural showcase of great interest. Among the other important buildings in the heart of Bari are Palazzo Macario, noble Noicattaro, dating back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Palazzo Verrone, Palazzo De Gemmis and the seventeenth-century Palazzo Gironda.

Villages not to be missed if you're visiting Bari:

Main Photo by GFranca Fo @frankessa

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