Bari Introduction Walking Tour, Bari

Bari Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Bari

In the 3rd century BC, the Lapygian coastal city of "Barion" was colonized by Rome. Now called "Bari," it is located on the upper heel of the Italian boot in the region of Apulia. Bari has been referred to as the "California of the South of Italy."

The city is divided into sections called "quarters." The Old City Quarter is located on a peninsula in the north. The narrow streets, lanes, piazzas, and architecture invite strolling and exploring. One may be tempted to lose oneself in the old quarter.

Women are sitting at tables in the "Ears Pasta Street." They make and sell their own ear-shaped Orecchiette pasta. The 12th-century Romanesque Basilica of Saint Nicholas is dedicated to the saint of Christmas fame. Bari Cathedral dates from the 11th century.

Swabian Castle is a Norman castle built in the 12th century. It is just off the Bari Promenade. St. Francis of Assisi slept here as a guest of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. Today it is a museum.

The Bari Promenade leads to the Piazza Ferrarese, Piazza Mercantile, Margherita Theatre, and the fishing fleet of the Old Port. Visit Bread and Tomato Beach for its powdery white sand and clear turquoise water.

Bari celebrates the Feast of Saint Nicholas, held from the 7th to the 9th of May each year. There is a procession of the image of Bari's patron saint through the streets and by boat ending with a fireworks show. The event kicks off a season of fairs, concerts, theatres, parades, and gastronomic events.

The Olive Festival is held in October. The Fair of the Levants is an international trade fair happening every year in mid-September. In June, the Mediterranean Music Festival is held with musicians from all over. Christmas and New Year in Bari is a time of miracles. There are creches decorations in every window.

Bari is about enjoyment. The people of Bari are used to visitors and pilgrims visiting year-round, hoping for miracles and really great seafood and pasta. Come here to join them.
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Bari Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Bari Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Italy » Bari (See other walking tours in Bari)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Piazza del Ferrarese (Ferrarese Square)
  • Piazza Mercantile (Merchant Square)
  • Basilica San Nicola (Basilica of Saint Nicholas)
  • Cattedrale di San Sabino (Bari Cathedral)
  • Castello Normanno-Svevo (Swabian Castle)
  • Strada delle Orecchiette ("Ears" Pasta Street)
  • Corso Vittorio Emanuele II (Vittorio Emanuele II Lane)
  • Lungomare e Murat (Bari Promenade)
Piazza del Ferrarese (Ferrarese Square)

1) Piazza del Ferrarese (Ferrarese Square)

Ferrarese Square is named for Stefano Fabri, a 17th-century merchant from Ferrara. Fabri was active in the development of the square and the loggia of the Seat Palace (Palazzo del Sedile), the old Town Hall. The Ferrarese Square opened in 1612 and was meant to be an extension of the Merchant Square (Piazza Mercantile) and assist with goods landing in the port.

Ferrarese Square overlooks the Old Port (Porto Vecchio) and the Emperor Augustus waterfront. On one side is the Old Fish Market and the access ramp to Venice Street (Via Venezia). The cultural space of Murat Hall (Sala Murat) is on the left with the apse of Vallisa Church. At the rear of the square is the Starita Palace (Palazzo Starita), built on the remains of an old arsenal.

The Ferrarese Square serves as access to the narrow streets and alleys of the Old Town of Bari (Citta Vecchia). During a recent renovation of the square, parts of the ancient highway of Appia Street (Via Appia) were uncovered. These days the square is full of bars and restaurants and busy nightlife.

The square is a venue for concerts, performances, and festivals, particularly the Feast of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of Bari. The festival takes place on the 8th and 9th of May. Fireworks on the mole of Sant'Antonio light up the shore as the statue of Saint Nicholas arrives by boat to land at Ferrarese Square.

Pilgrims flock to the square, praying and hoping for miracles. Their nickname for the city is "Ziazi," "Aunt and Uncle."
Piazza Mercantile (Merchant Square)

2) Piazza Mercantile (Merchant Square)

Since medieval times, Ruga Francigena, the Pilgrims' Route leading to the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Bari, has originated from the area of Merchant Square (Piazza Mercantile). The square was connected to the port by the fortified Tower of Sant'Antonio, erected in 1440 by Prince Giovanni del Balzo Orsini.

The ruling family of Renaissance Italy, the House of Sforza, undertook urban renewal projects following the devastating fire and explosions of 1601. The square received a major overhaul. The Seat Palace (Palazzo Sedile) was quickly rebuilt with a bell tower and clock. A gate was opened to the Ferrarese Square, consolidating the business center of the city.

Journalist Lino Patruno compared Merchant Square to a model never "stopping winning our hearts as if it were for the first time." Historically, the square has been the commercial and political heart of the city. It is the home of the Seat Palace (Palazzo Sedile), the old Town Hall. Today, it is the meeting point of the people of Bari.

The Merchant Square is paved with stone. The Seat Palace, with its 16th-century Clock Tower, is the backdrop. The 16th-century Customs Palace (Palazzo della Dogana) caries the stone relief of the Sforza lion, reputed to ward off evil. The Baroque Fountain (Fontana Barocca), also known as the Pine Cone Fountain (Fontana della Pigna,) with its stem arising from a stone basin, has a relief of the Madonna.
Basilica San Nicola (Basilica of Saint Nicholas)

3) Basilica San Nicola (Basilica of Saint Nicholas) (must see)

Saint Nicholas of Myra, in Asia Minor (Anatolia), is not to be confused with Saint Nicholas of Lyra, a 13th-century Franciscan scholar from Lyre, Normandy. Nicholas of Bari was, it is said, a prolific worker of miracles. He is the patron of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, the unmarried, and students.

Born in the 3rd century, he survived the persecutions of Diocletian and became Bishop of Myra. In 1087, merchants from Bari removed his bones from Saracen-controlled Myra and brought them home to Italy. A church was consecrated in 1197 to house his relics. It was built during the era of Norman rule in Apulia.

The Basilica of Saint Nicholas, built in the Puglia-Romanesque style, has a more or less square plan, giving it the appearance of a castle. Two stout towers flank the facade. The interior has a nave and two aisles with granite columns. The presbytery is divided by three arches held up by Byzantine columns. There is a "women's gallery" above the aisles.

The exterior is made with white blocks of limestone. The plain facade has minimum decorations. The inside, with its columns, arches, and gilded vaults is more inviting. The relics of Saint Nicholas are kept in a vault filled with marble columns and brick cross-vaults. The sacristy holds precious gifts donated by Popes, kings, and bishops.

The high altar is covered by a ciborium or baldachin of the 12th century. The central apse floors are inlaid with marble and oriental motifs of mythological flora and fauna. The resting place of Saint Nicholas is under the central altar of the crypt. Access to the crypt is by two staircases at the ends of the side aisles.

The basilica is located in the Largo Abate Elia district on the seashore by the Emperor Augustus waterfront (Lungomare Imperatore Augusto), a short distance from the Bari Centrale railway station.
Cattedrale di San Sabino (Bari Cathedral)

4) Cattedrale di San Sabino (Bari Cathedral) (must see)

King of Sicily, William I, also known as Il Malo ("the Wicked"), destroyed the Byzantine cathedral in the sack of Bari in 1156. There had been a church on the site since the 6th century. Churches and public buildings were razed. The Basilica of San Nicola was the last one standing.

The Bari Cathedral, consecrated in 1292, is a fine example of Apulia Romanesque, very like the Basilica of San Nicola. The plain facade is in three parts, set off by two pilasters. Each part has a portal. The main portal is in the center, below a large rose window. Over the window is a lintel with carvings of fantasy creatures.

The rebuilt bell tower is made of stone, the same as the original. It has an ornate lantern tower over the Moorish-style dome of the cupola. Inside there are three aisles and 16 columns, and arcades. The transept is pure Apulian Romanesque, as is the false women's gallery and the rebuilt pulpit.

The crypt holds some relics of Saint Sabinus that were brought to Bari in 844. The smaller apse holds two sarcophagi, one for the relics of Saint Columba and the other for other sacred artifacts. The Palace of the Curia, adjacent to the cathedral, is home to the Diocesan Museum.
Castello Normanno-Svevo (Swabian Castle)

5) Castello Normanno-Svevo (Swabian Castle) (must see)

Also known as the Houenstaufen Castle, the Swabian Fortress was built circa 1132 by the Norman King Roger II. The castle was destroyed in 1156 by King William I ("The Wicked") of Sicily in his busy jaunt through Bari. It was restored by Emperor Fredrick II in 1233.

The castle is surrounded by a moat. Each corner of the castle walls has a tower bastion. The "Tower of Minors" was a juvenile prison. "Traffic Light" is a maritime aide. The "Tower of Saint Francis" is said to have sheltered the saint as a guest of Frederick II. The "Tower of the Wind" on the northwest corner is exactly that.

The ogival arch west gate opens to a vestibule of high cross vaults, columns, and pilasters. A loggia faces a Renaissance courtyard with an Aragonese staircase. North of the courtyard is a passage to the 10th-century church of Saint Apollinaris. Today the castle houses the Bari Directorate for Architectural and Landscape Heritage.

There is a story that in 1221 Frederick II hosted Saint Francis of Assisi in the Swabian Castle. The Emperor sent a courtesan to seduce the saint. As she approached his bed, it was covered with fire. She fled in terror. Frederick (who had been spying on the saint) was very impressed. The courtesan could not be reached for comment.
Strada delle Orecchiette ("Ears" Pasta Street)

6) Strada delle Orecchiette ("Ears" Pasta Street)

They say to get to know the real Bari, one must pay a visit to the Street of the "Little Ears" (Strada delle Orecchiette). It's Low Arch Street (Via dell'Arco Basso). There is a tunnel with a low arch that opens up to a hidden place among the twisting lanes of Old Bari (Bari Vecchia). It is a timeless place that somehow feels like home.

The attractions of the street are the women skillfully creating "Ears" (orecchiette) pasta in front of their homes. They sit behind wooden tables encroaching on the cobbled street, making a comforting, entertaining show for anyone passing by. They smile and chat with each other as they work, once in a while stopping to sell some of their pasta.

Not only do they sell homemade pasta, but visitors may also book a meal at a local home. The actual "ears" pasta section of the street is found between numbers 1 and 25. The "Ears" Pasta Street is just a short walk from the station. One can buy a sack of freshly handmade orecchiette, troccoli (thick spaghetti), cavatelli (small pasta shells), or taralli (Italian snack).
Corso Vittorio Emanuele II (Vittorio Emanuele II Lane)

7) Corso Vittorio Emanuele II (Vittorio Emanuele II Lane)

Vittorio Emanuele II Lane (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II), a main road of Bari, runs about a half mile from the Margaret Theatre to Garibaldi Square. The lane has several governmental and cultural buildings along its length, including the Town Hall (Palazzo Dei Comune).

The 19th-century project envisaged by Ferdinand II, King of The Two Sicilies, was the construction of a "Bourbonic citadel" of public buildings. As it turns out, only the Prefecture building (Palazzo della Prefettura) and the Puccini Theater fit the bill. After the unification of Italy in 1861, the Ferdinando Road became Vittorio Emanuele II Lane.

In the latter part of the 19th century, the lane was widened and extended to Garibaldi Square in the west. In the 20th century, the Margaret Theatre (Teatro Margherita) was built at the east end, effectively blocking winds from the Adriatic Sea. It is a pleasant if busy street, with plenty of statues, palms, palaces, bars, and restaurants.
Lungomare e Murat (Bari Promenade)

8) Lungomare e Murat (Bari Promenade) (must see)

Lungomare (Seafront) is a 15-kilometer-long waterfront promenade on the shore of the Adriatic Sea. There are great views of the harbor and the marina. The promenade is perfect for a stroll any time of day, but especially at sunset or early morning. Several seaside cafes are offering fresh caught seafood and drinks.

Sights along the way include the Basilica of Saint Nicholas, the Archaeological Museum, the Merchant Square (Piazza Mercantile) and the Ferrarese Square (Piazza Ferrarese), the Fort of Sant'Antonio, the Margaret Theatre Art Exhibition space, and Giuseppe Mazzini Square.

Joaquin Murat, or Gioacchino Murat, was brother-in-law to Napoleon Bonaparte. Gioacchino was a valuable officer to Napoleon. Among his rewards was the Kingdom of Naples. One of his acts in Bari was to order the construction of a new area next to the Old City (Citta Vecchia). The first house was built in 1816.

The area was laid out as an urban grid. It encompasses Vittorio Emanuele II Lane, Umberto I Square, and the University of Bari. It borders the districts of Saint Nicholas, Madonella, Carassi, Picone, Saint Paschal, and Freedom (Liberta).

During the Fascist period and later, after World War II, the district experienced controversial architectural changes. Mussolini's imposing influence can be detected in the modernist buildings along the waterfront.

Walking Tours in Bari, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Bari

Create Your Own Walk in Bari

Creating your own self-guided walk in Bari is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Bari's Historical Buildings Walking Tour

Bari's Historical Buildings Walking Tour

One of the dicta usually attributed to an 18th-century German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is that "Architecture is the frozen music." To this, one can only add that it's the music of time, especially when it comes to places like Bari, where the intricate details and craftsmanship of historic buildings are a testament to the human ambition to leave a lasting impression and the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles