We The Italians | Italian culture and history: Bari, gateway to the East

Italian culture and history: Bari, gateway to the East

Italian culture and history: Bari, gateway to the East

  • WTI Magazine #136 Feb 20, 2021
  • 2997

The ancient and popular heart of the city, Bari Vecchia, is the ideal starting point to the discovery of the city's most authentic characteristics: among the alleys of this district history and the daily life of the inhabitants are interconnected. Here you will find the three main monuments of the city: the San Nicola Basilica, the San Sabino Cathedral, the Norman-Swabian Castle, as well as many other palaces and churches of extraordinary architectural value.

But this is also the place where traditions and flavours express their most genuine spirit. It will not be difficult, for example, to see women busy preparing the famous local pasta, orecchiette. In the evening, Bari Vecchia becomes the lively centre of the city nightlife.

Bari has a long tradition of trade and for this reason it was known as the "gateway to the East". Symbol of this is the San Nicola Basilica: a place of worship recognized by both Catholics and Orthodox Christians. It is one of the few churches in Italy where one can attend religious services of both faiths. The basilica, in Apulian Romanesque style, was built before the end of 1200 to house the relics of San Nicola which, according to tradition, were stolen by devout sailors in the city of Myra (currently in Turkey) and then brought to Bari in 1087. Also of extraordinary architectural value isĀ  the San Sabino Cathedral, in Apulian Romanesque style, characterized by a majestic rose window.

The majestic Norman Swabian Castle overlooks the historical downtown of Bari. Commissioned by Frederick II in the thirteenth century and subjected over the centuries to expansion and renovations, it is now home to interesting shows and exhibitions.

Attending an opera or ballet at the Petruzzelli Theatre is not only to satisfy one's passion for art and music, but also to take part in the story of a difficult rebirth. Since its opening in 1903, Petruzzelli, the fourth largest theatre in Italy, has been hosting top-level cultural events. This wonderful building in Umbertino-style was devastated by a fire in 1991. It was subsequently rebuilt and since 2009 it has fully resumed its activities, with an intense schedule of opera and dance events as well as concerts.

The seaside promenade in Bari is one of the most beautiful in Italy: on the one hand the view opens onto the Adriatic Sea, on the other hand it features beautiful glimpses of some of the most architectural-stunning buildings in the city. It is particularly relaxing and pleasant to take a stroll on the seaside promenade during the summer evenings, maybe before stopping for a tasting of the flavourful dishes offered by the typical restaurants downtown: from orecchiette to raw fish recipes, up to aperitifs paired with tarallucci and friselle.