Visit To Puglia: Day 2 – Bari

IMGP5258WE arrived in the port city of Bari, the capital of the region, and parked in the shadow of the Castello Svevo (Swabian Castle). Originally built by Roger II of Sicily around 1131, it was destroyed in 1156, and rebuilt by Frederick II of Hohenstaufen.

IMGP5260Across the road from the castle is the entrance to the maze-like Old City, or Bari Vecchia. Parts of the old city were until recently regarded as no-go areas because of the high crime rate.

While some of it has now been gentrified through a regional government scheme to encourage young entrepreneurs to open shops and bars, the narrow streets of Bari Vecchia still provide stark evidence of the poverty that still afflicts much of the south of Italy. But while the buildings looked shabby, the streets and courtyards were busy with the bustling life of the city.

IMGP5313Washing hung to dry from every balcony, despite the light rain that had been falling all morning .

The shops and bars were noisy with passionate debate. It was atmospheric and evocative – very different from the pedestrianised shopping boulevards of the neighbouring 19th Century Murat district.

In the heart of the old city is the Cathedral of San Sabino, dedicated to St Sabinus of Camosa. Started in 1034, it was destroyed in the sack of the city in 1156, and rebuilt between 1170 and 1178. The Romanesque interior was elegant and simple, unlike the baroque splendours of the grand cathedrals of the north.

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The boys playing football outside the cathedral were a reminder that there is more than just spiritual religion in Italy.

IMGP5323Leaving the cathedral, we continue through Bari Vecchia to the Basilica di San Nicola. It was founded in 1087 to receive the relics of the saint, which now lie beneath the altar in the crypt. Millions of children, of course, know St Nicholas as Santa Claus.

IMGP5331While we were in the basilica, guests started to arrive for a wedding. As they waited for the bride to arrive, the rain stopped and the sun began to break through the clouds.

IMGP5353After the ceremony, bride and groom made their way to the city’s promenade to celebrate with their guests. It was a happy way to depart from this fascinating city.

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