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Our Weekend In Bari Guide For An Amazing Getaway From Rome

A weekend in Bari, Italy needs some planning and if you are looking for what to eat and see on this amazing getaway you should use this as your tour guide.

Weekend in Bari - Walkable City

Beautiful Walks Around The City

If you are spending time in Rome, you may want to get away for a weekend and check out some of the other amazing cities that are an easy train ride away. Bari, Italy is one such city that I would highly recommend you take some time to visit. If your plans include other cities in the region of Puglia, then Bari is probably already on your list.

Bari is the capital of the Apulia (Puglia) region and is on the Adriatic Sea in southern Italy. It is the second most important city economically, in the south after Naples. It is an important port, it has a university and it is known as the city of Saint Nicholas, yes, THAT St. Nicholas.

Bari is made up of four different urban sections. To the north of the city is the very tightly built old town, a.k.a. Bari Vecchia with the Basilica of Saint Nicholas, the Cathedral of San Sabino and the Hohenstaufen Castle. To the south is the Murat quarter, where we stayed recently, the more modern center of the city and more modern residential neighborhoods that surround the center of Bari.

Is A Weekend In Bari Enough?

Bari is a smaller city, but with plenty of things to see. It is a perfect getaway from Rome for a weekend, but when you factor in the travel time, around 4 hours, I would suggest you make it a long weekend. We recently spent 5 days there, but I think you can see it all in 3 or 4 if you plan your events and meals accordingly.

Weekend in Bari - Old Town

Bari Vecchia – Old Town Bari

Is It Worth Visiting Bari?

I strongly recommend visiting Bari because there are enough things to do and see to keep you busy, informed and entertained for your entire time in the city. There is an amazing history of Bari and Puglia, combined with some very regional and delicious foods that aren’t well represented in other parts of Italy. You can also use Bari as a jumping off point for visiting other parts of Puglia if you are extending your stay.

Is The Train Ride From Rome To Bari Pretty?

The Italo train from Rome to Bari is an enjoyable train ride with a mix of beauty that includes the city of Caserta, traveling through many mountains and hills and after crossing the boot, views of the Adriatic Sea from Trani down to Bari. The only challenge was due to the frequency of tunnels that interrupted the cellular signal both on my phone and the Wi-Fi offered on the train. Not a major problem, but a bit of an annoyance.

Weekend in Bari - Train Station

Easy Train Ride From Rome

Is Bari Walkable?

Bari, Italy is a very walkable city. In fact, if you planned on visiting the Bari Vecchia section (Old Town Bari), it is almost impossible for a tourist to navigate through those tight streets with even the smallest of cars. I would recommend planning on walking the city. There are also walking tours that you might consider checking out, although we skipped it this time, but we will probably take a tour on a future visit.

How Do You Spend A Weekend In Bari Italy?

For us, there are only two things to do in any beautiful city in Italy, and that is to walk around looking at sites and plan where we will be eating our next meal. Check out the two sections below where we recommend what to see and where to eat in Bari.

What To See In Bari, Italy

The Basilica Of Saint Nicholas

I found that one of the most interesting sites in Bari, in my opinion, is the Basilica of Saint Nicholas. While it certainly is a beautiful basilica and has historical significance, the history of Saint Nicholas and his relationship to the American version of Santa Claus is fascinating. Saint Nicholas (a.k.a. Santa Claus) is the one saint who enjoys the most widespread cult of personality in the life of the Catholic Church, after that of the Virgin Mary.

Weekend in Bari - Basilica of Saint Nick

Basilica of Saint Nicholas

The Architecture Of The Basilica Of Saint Nicholas

The Basilica which houses the remains of St. Nicholas (i.e. Santa Claus) stands imposingly in the Bari Vecchia, which is the old part of the city. It is five minutes from the sea and 15 minutes from the Bari Centrale train station. The style is Romanesque, giving this majestic example of Apulian Romanesque art a massive and sober appearance, characteristic of Norman architecture.

On the outside, the Basilica of Saint Nicholas reveals its history from the external architecture, which seems inspired more by the structure of a fortress than a church. It should not be forgotten, in fact, that in the Norman period it was used several times as a defensive fortress.

After you enter the Basilica, from the central nave you have a view of the upper galleries, called women’s galleries, which direct your gaze towards the large separating arch, beyond which the beautiful tabernacle stands.

The Basilica has three naves divided by twelve gray granite columns 31 inches in diameter. The length of each nave is 190 feet, the width is different: the central nave is 85 feet, while the lateral ones are under 30 feet.

The Crypt Of Saint Nicholas

In a lower level of this basilica is the tomb or crypt of Saint Nicholas. This is a popular pilgrimage site, including from Eastern Europe, which saw a large increase since the fall of the USSR. Every December 6th, the city of Bari celebrates Saint Nicholas Day, which is the main feast day full of transitions, myths and solemnity.

Weekend in Bari - Svevo Castle

Svevo Castle

The Castello Svevo In Bari

When you walk around Bari Vecchia, you can help but notice the imposing Norman castle that dominates the skyline. This is Svevo Castle, also known as Castello Svevo, Swabian Castle and Houhenstaufen Castle.

Why Is It Called Castello Svevo?

The origins are historically attributed to the Norman king Roger II, the Castle was built on pre-existing Byzantine housing structures and, after the harsh intervention of William I the Evil, it was recovered by Frederick II of Swabia between 1233 and 1240. Swabia translates to Svevo and is a region in southwestern Germany.

When Was Castello Svevo Built?

The Castle was built in 1131 on pre-existing Byzantine housing structures and in the second half of the 13th century , Charles of Anjou implemented a restoration program aimed at strengthening the north wing of the Castle, which at the time was directly lapped by the sea.

What Is In The Castello Svevo?

I think it would be polite to describe the interior of the castle as not being cursed with too many artifacts. Only the ground floor was accessible to visitors and there are a lot of open spaces with two small archaeological excavation areas, where pre-existing structures from the Byzantine era are visible.

There are two rooms that provide an audiovisual presentation that describe the history of the Castle, Bari and the Puglia region that I found very informational.

Also, there are rooms in the west wing on the ground floor of the Castle that house the Plaster Cast Gallery, a collection of plaster reproductions of the sculptural apparatus of the most important Apulian monuments and cathedrals.

Weekend in Bari - Svevo Castle Entrance

Entrance To Svevo Castle

When Can You Visit Castello Svevo?

The castle is open to the public six days a week, they are closed on Mondays, and the hours are from 9:00 AM until 7:00 PM. You can buy a ticket up to one hour before closing and there are reduced price tickets available if you are in one of the discount categories that you would typically find all over Italy, like children, students, handicapped, etc.

On the website, the price is listed as €7, but in actuality I paid €8 because of a surcharge that I noticed when I visited another museum in Rome. The reason for the additional Euro is:

€1.00 from 15 June to 15 December 2023, in compliance with the Legislative Decree. 1 June 2023 n.61 “Urgent interventions to deal with the emergency caused by the flood events that occurred starting from 1 May 2023″

Aldo Moro Tributes Around Bari

There are memorials and dedications to Aldo Moro around Rome due to the events surrounding his death in 1978 that took place in Rome. There are other cities that celebrate the life of Aldo Moro, and one of them is Bari, Italy.

Who Is Aldo Moro?

Aldo Moro was born in 1916 in Maglie in the province of Lecce in the heel of the boot that is Italy. He was among the founders of the Christian Democrats and he became its secretary in 1959. He was a minister several times and as prime minister he led several center-left governments in Italy. In 1978 Moro was kidnapped and killed by the Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse), who were a far-left Marxist–Leninist armed organization.

Why Are There Tributes In Bari?

Even though Aldo Moro was born in Maglie, Italy, his family moved to Bari in 1934 when he was 18 years old and where he stayed for 29 years. Aldo Moro studied law, and later became a professor, at the University of Bari, which was later named after him.

Weekend in Bari - Aldo Moro

Tribute To Aldo Moro

The Aldo Moro Piazza

When you arrive in Bari by train and you exit the Bari Centrale station the first thing you are greeted with is the Piazza Aldo Moro. This piazza is dedicated to the statesman and includes a huge fountain and a bust of Aldo Moro. This is a transportation hub for the city buses and is a very bustling part of the city.

Where To Eat In Bari

One of my favorite things about Italy is that there are very different, and delicious, regional foods that make exploring Italy that much more fun. The unique foods of Bari will be described below, which are my favorites: Focaccia, Spaghetti all’Assassina, Panzerotti, Cafè Leccese and Riso, Patate e Cozze.

You may find these available in other regions of Italy, but the Barese version is unique and delicious, so if you are in the area, you should check them out.

Who Makes The Best Focaccia In Bari?

The delicious focaccia of Bari is an oven baked bread that traditionally has tomatoes, olives and oregano as toppings, but there are an almost infinite number of options to try. There is a lot of delicious olive oil, both on the bottom of the bread, but also as a topping, so you will want to be sure to bring plenty of napkins.

Unlike the version of focaccia that Italians and visitors enjoy in Genoa, the Barese don’t typically enjoy theirs for breakfast. That said, the popular bakeries (Panificio) open around 9:00 am and can sell out, so you will want to make sure you get there early and save it for your favorite meal.

Weekend in Bari - Eat Focaccia

Amazing Focaccia

We tried two different bakeries that were amazing and you need to try as well. Both of these are popular on social media, so you can expect crowds but it is worth the effort. Our two recommendations are:

  • Panificio Santa Rita – This bakery is in the old town (Bari Vecchia) section of the city, at: Str. dei Dottula, 8. There are two different lines, one for those only getting their daily bread (pane) and the other for the focaccia. In the focaccia line, if there is a crowd, you will need to get a number and wait outside until it is called.
  • Panificio Fiore – This bakery can be found at: Strada Palazzo di Città, 38, which is also in the Bari vecchia section of the city. Like Santa Rita, they open at 8:30 and draw a crowd. My experience was in the late summer, and one thing to keep in mind is that this ancient building doesn’t seem to have any cooling, so when you walk in you will feel like you were hit in the face by a furnace.

Who Has The Best Spaghetti all’Assassina In Bari?

It is generally accepted that a chef named Enzo Francafilla invented this Killer Spaghetti (Spaghetti all’Assassina) at his restaurant in Bari, called: Al Sorso Preferito, which is still around today. Looking at their menu, it seems like they have moved on from their invention, but the tradition has been picked up by others.

My favorite place is Urban – l’assassineria Urbana, which can be found at: via Nicolai, 10. Their Killer Spaghetti is amazing, their wines were delicious and the menu is what I would call an eclectic mix of traditional, Asian influenced and slightly Mexican as well. They offer, in addition to the spaghetti, tacos, poke and one of my favorites, Bao. We had a delicious lunch with very helpful staff.

Weekend in Bari - Caffè Leccese

Caffè Leccese

Should I Drink A Caffè Leccese?

I prefer my espresso bitter and angry, which means I don’t usually add sugar, but I have not had a more refreshing drink than the Caffè Leccese that I enjoyed at Salvatore Petriella’s Caffè and Bistrot found at: Via Salvatore Cognetti, 14.

The Caffè Leccese is a local delicacy that involves an espresso coffee and an almond syrup. Many recipes I’ve seen online describe it as having sweet almond milk, but this is not correct. The very sweet almond syrup is added to espresso and served over ice, which results in a thicker, sweeter drink that is perfect on a hot day. 

Is Panzerotti A Specialty Of Bari?

This might not be the healthiest option, but Panzerotti, which is a deep-fried, stuffed bread that you need to try at least once in your life. If it is done right, the Panzerotti isn’t greasy, isn’t two bready and the filling needs to be screaming hot.

My favorite place for Panzerotti is at Mastro Ciccio, which is found at: Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 15. You will need to navigate past the very impressive octopus sandwich before arriving at the Panzerotti. I tried the Criminale, which is a bit spicy and loaded with cheese and onions, but if you don’t like spicy, there are other options that include: Mozzarella, Beef, Pork and Octopus.

Weekend in Bari - Traditional Rice, Potatoes and Mussels

Riso, Patate e Cozze

Traditional Rice, Potato And Mussels

Rice, potatoes and mussels, known as Riso, Patate e Cozze is a traditional Bari dish. I believe this is considered Cucina Povera due to the inexpensive nature of the main ingredients: rice, potatoes and mussels (the most inexpensive and available seafood around Bari).

The waiter who delivered my plate took a second to tell me that this was a traditional dish, cooked in a way that might be a little unexpected because unlike Risotto, this is baked in a pan/dish that results in something a little different than what I might expect. It was delicious and I strongly recommend trying it at La Uascèzze, which is in  Bari Vecchia at: Vico S. Agostino 2-3-4.

More Weekend Getaways From Rome

This is a pretty short list of food in Bari, but if you are planning a weekend getaway from Rome, these are definitely a “Must Try”. I haven’t even mentioned the famous Orecchiette, the fried polenta, fresh fish and taralli that are also a treat, but that will have to wait for another post because this is getting long. If you enjoyed these suggestions of what to see and eat on a weekend in Bari, Italy, check out some of these other posts that include other cities that are easy to reach and worth the effort.

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