Why the Italian coastal town of Bari should be your next mini-break destination

·3-min read
 (Cristian Macovei/ Unsplash)
(Cristian Macovei/ Unsplash)

When you think about Italy, you probably think of big-name, heavy hitters such as Rome, Sicily, and Tuscany. Bari, a low-key, coastal town in the south east, is less likely to spring to mind. But despite it being off the beaten track, it is well worth a visit - or maybe exactly because it is.

Bari is the capital of the region of Puglia, which forms the “heel” of Italy’s boot, and will charm you with its turquoise waters. It also conveniently has an airport with budget flights from the UK (it’s three hours from London) and makes for the perfect first stop on a Puglia road trip. If Lecce, a 2 hour drive away, is the South’s Florence, then Bari is its Bologna - a vibrant, historic town, popular with young people.

 (Luisa Denu/ Unsplash)
(Luisa Denu/ Unsplash)

Where to stay

If you’re looking for a budget stay, then try the Castle Apartment. It’s an air-conditioned flat, right in the heart of the city, next to the castle, with one bedroom, a living room and a kitchen. Thinking more luxe? Plump for the 5 star Grande Albergo Delle Nazioni hotel. It comes with a glorious rooftop swimming pool, spa and is pet friendly.

Things to do

 (Andrea Mininni/ Unsplash)
(Andrea Mininni/ Unsplash)

Explore Bari Vecchia, the city’s old town. While away hours getting lost in narrow streets, surrounded in pastel tone coloured houses, wrought-iron balconies and shuttered windows.

Pay a visit to the ancient castle Castello Normanno-Svevo. It was built in the 12th century and will thrill history lovers.

Head for the water but not the working port that will connect you to Greece, Albania, and Croatia, rather the Old Harbour with its lungomare. The picturesque seafront, built by Mussolini, is the longest and grandest in Italy and peppered with lively bars, restaurants and cafés.

What to eat

If you’re still by the water, make sure to try the fresh sea food. Fishermen bring in their daily catch, such as mussels, squid, octopus and cuttlefish, for you to gorge on. You can buy to cook at home, if you’re self-catering, or hit one of the nearby restaurants like La Muraya Ristorante.

Sample all the available street food, which you can find all over the city. Don’t miss freshly baked focaccia, or delicious panzerotti - think a small calzone filled with tomato sauce and mozzarella.

Every Italian region has its very own signature pasta. Round these parts it’s ‘little ears’ - the Puglia orecchiette. Try it here.

Beaches

The closest, albeit not the prettiest, is Pane e Pomodoro. It’s a short 15-minute walk from the city centre or you can take the bus. But be warned, the sands can get a little crowded on the weekends.

If you’re looking for something slightly different, head to Cala Porto. It’s a 30-minute drive from Bari and famous for its smooth pebbles which make the beach sparkle in the sunlight.

Cala Paura is also a 30-minute drive from Bari and has spectacular limestone cliffs, crystal clear water and white-washed houses. It is very popular with the locals.

Car hire

 (Kirsten Velghe/ Unsplash)
(Kirsten Velghe/ Unsplash)

It’s a good idea to rent a car, as Bari is the perfect gateway to a Puglia road trip. Even if you plan on staying relatively local, you should still do day trips to destinations nearby like Alberobello, a quaint medieval village on the outskirts of Bari. It will take you about an hour to get there. You will find traditional Apulian houses, called Trulli, that were built in the 14th century. Insider tip: if your hotel doesn’t offer parking, you can use the multi-storey car park near the port. It is only around 10 Euros for overnight parking.

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