The Basilica of San Nicola is the symbol of Bari and,together with its square,the heart of the Old Town,Bari Vecchia.
Consacrated in 1197,this is the first and greatest example of the Apulian Romanesque,with its imposing facade in white calcareous stone flanked by 2 cut towers.It was built in the 11th century in the old area of the Byzantine Court of Catapano,to house the remains of the saint (still contained in the beautiful crypt,consacrated by Urbano II) stolen by the Barese sailors from Myra(Turkey) in 1087,event that marked the city's history,become a destination of many pilgrimages,from the East Europe too.
Inside the basilic,2 masterpieces of the medieval sculpture are contained: the ciborium and the Cattedra di Elia.There is also,in the central apse,the mausoleum(1593) of the great Polish Queen Bona Sforza,daughter of the Bari's duchess Isabella d'Aragona and died in Bari in 1557.
The Basilica of San Nicola is surely the main attraction of the city.
It's also interesting to visit the nearby museum of San Nicola in its new role,where it's possible to admire a rich sacred heritage about the Saint.
In the internet site below,it's possible to fin all the possible infos about the Saint,the Basilica,the Museum,Bari,the Patronal Festival,etc...
The Cathedral of Bari,that dates from the XI century and was rebuilt in the XII century after the destruction by the Norman Guglielmo II il Malo,is another great example of the Apulian Romanesque,though it was modified during the 17th century from a Baroque point of view.The Cathedral is dedicated to San Sabino,the mortal remains of which are preserved in the crypta under the icon of the Madonna Odegitria,according the tradition,painted by San Luca.Characteristic of this structure is the old baptistry,accessible from the left aisle and called "Trulla",now converted in the sacristy.Its high bell tower (the other one collapsed) commands the skyline of the city.
It's also interesting the Cathedral Museum,where it's possible to admire the Exultet of the XI century,rolls of parchment with the Easter Preys and sacred pictures that helped the believers to understand the liturgy .
Alberobello,a small town in the province of Bari declared by the UNESCO a World Heritage of the Humanity,is considered "the Capital of the Trulli".The "trulli" are particular drywall white constructions characterized by the typical conical grey roofs with strange symbols,connected with Christian,primitive and magic traditions.The origin of the trulli is really singular: the zone of Alberobello,first called Selva,was a feud of the counts of Conversano,that haven't the royal authorization to set up a new built-up area;so the count Giangirolamo II Acquaviva d'Aragona imposed to his farmers to built drywall homes,dismantleble,in a single night,in case of royal inspection.
They are known all over the world for their singularity and beauty and represent one of the best examples of the Italian popular architecture.
The trulli are also situated in the countries around Locorotondo(BARI),Cisternino(BRINDISI),Martina Franca(TARANTO) and other small town of the beautiful "Valle d'Itria".
The words "imposing" and "castle" are often used in the same sentence and as such are a bit of a cliche, but t'hell, The Norman Swabian Castle here at Bari is definitely imposing with its situation just outside the old city. Originally a Norman stronghold, the local citizens reportedly destroyed it twice before it was rebuilt by Fredrick 2nd of Swabia in the first half of the 13th century and it has seen several changes of use since.
Unfortunately I didn't have the time to go round the interior but it certainly looks like an interesting building and the views from the ramparts should be worthwhile.
The entry fee was only 2 or 3 Euros at the time of my visit and the castle seemed fairly devoid of tourist hordes.
With Norman origins,the Castle,that dominates the Old Town,after the distruction by Guglielmo il Malo in 1156,was rebuilt in 1233 by Federico II,who,according the legend,empted here San Francesco.Its structure,characterized by a trapezoidal central nucleus,was modified during the XVI century by Isabella d'Aragona and Bona Sforza,that transformed it in a cultural center,adding imposing defensive bastions on 3 sides.
Now,after a decadence period,it is the seat of the Gallery of plaster casts and of temporary exhibitions.
- Price: 2 euro
- Opening time: tue-sun 8.30-19.30
Bari is considered the bridge between the West and the East thanks to its geographical position,and the Fiera del Levante,the biggest and most important Trade Fair of the Southern Italy,is the symbol of this aspect of Bari.It's a fixed appointment for Bari's inhabitants and not only,in fact many tourists decide to visit this fair every year.According to me,the main attraction is the "Padiglione delle Nazioni",a sort of casbah where traditions and colours from all the world merge.
The Fiera del Levante is organized in September for about a week,but,during the year,other various exhibitions are also organized in the same area.It's traditionally inaugurated by the Italian Prime Minister who,in front of the local authorities and entrepreneurs,talks about the next economical targets of the Government.
The main symbolical historical buildings in this area are:
- the Mincuzzi Warehouse (via Sparano 70),symbol of the Barese commerce set in the heart of Bari,was projected in 1920 in Liberty style.Characterized by a gold-plated dome,by an Art Noveau internal architecture and by valuable materials for the decorations,it has been for many years the seat of one of the most prestigious and exclusive high fashion shops in Bari,a "temple of elegance";since 2002,it is the seat of a simple Benetton shop.
- the Banca d'Italia Palace (Corso Cavour 4),situated between the Camera di Commercio and the Petruzzelli Theatre,was projected by the engineer Accolti Gil and inaugurated in 1932.
- the Camera di Commercio Palace (Corso Cavour 2) was built in 1889 in Art Noveau style to house the institution of the "Camera Consultiva di Commercio di Bari",founded in 1849 during the reign of Ferdinando II with the target of elevating the economical level of the city.
- the Fizzarotti Palace (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 193),in Neo-Gothic venetian style,was built in 2 different phases: the ground and first floor were built in the XIX century;the other floors were added in the first years of the XX century on the initiative of the local banker Emanuele Fizzarotti who committed the works to A.Corradini and E.Bernich.It's particularly interesting the first floor decorated by a scene that represent the incoming of the Venetians to set free Bari from the Saracens in 1002.
- the Acquedotto Pugliese Palace (via Cognetti 36,behind the Petruzzelli Theatre;INFO: Admission free;visit on booking or every Saturday-Sunday 10-12,closed on July and August;www.aqp.it),Barese seat of the Apulian Aqueduct Body,was projected by Cesare Brunetti and inaugurated in 1932.The artistical heritage,characterized by a great refinement,of this building by the master Duilio Cambellotti,the "artist-craftsman" who dealed with the internal decorations and furniture inspired to the water theme,using valuable materials and looking for every detail,really deserves a visit.
Sitting on the terrace of La Cecchina Restaurante I have the local drinking water fountain immediately before me. This provides a series of constantly-changing snippets of local life: a priest stops off with his little guided tour and they refill thier water bottles; a delivery guy pulls up in his van and does the same; a pair of builders sluice thier faces, necks and forearms, drink gulpingly and then fill thier own bottles; a small boy struggles to fill what looks like a 20 litre plastic jerry can which he then drags off. A quatrain of office people arrive, immaculately suited, open up thier panini, crack a couple of beers and have their business lunch, a slurp each from the fountain as they leave. And as it all calms down in the heat of the afternoon, the local pigeons arrive to have their share.
Hopefully the photos tell the story:
Founded in the III century d.C.,Trani is a real jewel and surely one of the best cities of Puglia.Its symbol is the beautiful Romanesque Cathedral,which overlooks the sea and the harbour,built in XIII century and dedicated to San Nicola Pellegrino.In front of it,there is the Swabian Castle(www.castellipuglia.org),built on the sea by Frederick II in 1233.From Piazza Duomo,where the Cathedral stands,it's possible to explore the Old Town,with its narrow lanes,churches and historical palaces.Skirting the harbour,full of life especially in the summer nights with its restaurants and bars,you can arrive to the beautiful gardens on the sea of the Villa Comunale.
According to me,the most beautiful and elegant city of the Bari's Province deserves surely a visit!
Inaugurated by the king of Naples Gioacchino Murat who laid its foundation stone at the beginning of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II in 1813,the Murat Quartier or Borgo Murattiano (the commercial and economical center of Bari) is characterized by rationality,with its long and orthogonal streets,where it's very difficult to get lost.During the XX century,it was deeply modified to face up the city's expansion,so a big part of its original architectural heritage got lost,but,at the same time,it was enriched by some great and innovative examples of architecture,scattered in this area.
The main streets are:
- Corso Vittorio Emanuele II,the wide boulevard built on the site where the old wall surrounded the Old Town,which starts from the Margherita Theatre,built on the sea in the old harbour in Liberty style and now closed for reconstruction,and ends with the public garden of Piazza Garibaldi,near the Gothic Venetian Fizzarotti Palace.Halfway,in Piazza della Libertà,the Prefecture Palace (XIX century),a former Dominican monastery in rococò style,is erected,in front of the Municipal Theatre (1840-1854;designed by A. Niccolini),dedicated to the great Barese compositor Niccolò Piccinni and set between the two wings of the Town Hall.
- Via Sparano,the 800mt long pedestrian street,the most fashonable street in Bari,a sort of paradise of the exclusive shopping.It goes from Corso Vittorio Emanuele II to Piazza Aldo Moro,seat of the railway stations,passing through Piazza Umberto I,a big green square seat of the "Università degli studi di Bari".The main buildings in Via Sparano are the imposing Mincuzzi Palace and the San Ferdinando's Church (1844-1849).
- Corso Cavour,the beautiful tree-lined road of the Borgo Murattiano,adorned with Art Nouveau style buildings,where the Camera di Commercio (1889),the Banca d'Italia building (1932) and the Petruzzelli theatre (1903) stand.
The nave and aisles are divided by marble columns with well carved capitals. 3 plain transverse arches add support. The ceiling is flat and has Baroque paintings. There is a large gallery above the aisles. A simple choir screen with 2 capital topped columns separates off the chancel which contains a fine ciborium. Behind this, difficult to see, is the fine 16C monument to Bona Sforza (once Queen of Poland and Duchess of Bari). Its sarcophagus is black, the rest is carved white marble.At one side is the magnificently sculpted Bishop's Throne (11C), supported by suffering Atlantes struggling to uplift the penitent (or a very fat bishop?).At the other side a space is reserved containing Eastern Orthodox icons for such pilgrims
Bari has a pleasant Lungomare, taking in a marina, tree-shaded spots to sit and watch the world go by and some lovely buildings to admire. This is a great place to watch the cruise ships and ferries go past as they leave the port and turn towards Greece, Croatia or elsewhere. At all times of the day or night you'll be able to see one of the larger ships, and we saw several we'd seen moored earlier heading out to sea.
I walked along the Lungomare on a Sunday afternoon and it was a perfect time to get away from the deserted city centre. Although calm and quiet, there is plenty of life on the water with jet skiers and small boats. You can even swim here although I'm not sure I'd fancy it personally...
On the other side of the street are some of the older residential buildings that seem to be characteristic of Bari. I noticed buildings with fantastical details of lions and other creatures around the city but there is a concentration of these elegant buildings with unusual touches in this area.
The Petruzzelli theatre is one of the most famous symbols of Bari.It was built between 1898 and 1903,in reply to Bari's cultural needs and ambitions,after a competition advertised by the Municipal Administration that decided to grant the public property for the private construction of a great theatre.The winning project was presented by the Petruzzelli brothers,that drew up a "particular" contract with the Municipal Administration,reason of struggle between the 2 parts and of the reconstruction's delays.
It had a capacity for 3200 spectators (now 1500...the 4th Italian theatre in size) and it was characterized by a great artistical wealth,especially thanks to Raffaele Armenise,the painter who had the job to fresco the dome,with the rapresentation of the greatest tragic and comic poets of the antiquity,and the curtain,with the rapresentation of the Venetian landing to free Bari from the Saracens.
Inaugarated in 1903 with the performation of the "Ugonotti" by Meyerber,this theatre became one of the most important theatre in Italy (together with the Scala in Milan,the San Carlo in Naples and the Massimo in Palermo) and Europe,not only a lyric temple but a great container of all kinds of culture:many world artists,such as Carla Fracci,Frank Sinatra,Luciano Pavarotti,Liza Minelli,Ray Charles,Rudolph Nureyev,Riccardo Muti,The Queen,etc...were protagonists on this stage,where,among the others,were performed for the first time the "Ifigenia in Tauride" by N.Piccinni (after the success obtained in 1779 at the Opera theatre in Paris) and the Neapolitan version of "I puritani" by Bellini.
Unfortunately,in 27-October-1991,after the performance of the "Norma",an arson destroyed the theatre,leaving a big wound on Bari and on its cultural heritage.
The Petruzzelli Theatre has been restored to its former glory and officially reopened on 4/10/2009 with the 9th Sinfony by Beethoven...Finally it was returned to the city and it has once again become the hub of cultural life in Bari.
The crypt windows are of "translucent" marble or alabaster making it rather dark. There are 7x4 ancient columns and capitals all different in material, all hastily assembled from the numerous Greek ruins round about. There is a silver altar and the Saint's remains beneath behind a grille. Upon arrival the relics were exuding a liquid (which was called "manna") which had miraculous protective properties. The phenomenon and its effects have continued to this day.(Source :crypt condensation?). Small vials of this are provided to piilgrims in some manner . I did not see any place selling them, but we were told every believer in Bari keeps a vial in their home or on their boat. Obviously how the fluid is presently obtained is a church secret.
The crypt is floored with a coarse but colorful mosaic tilework.
Alberobello is a small town about 50 km from Bari. It is famous for its unique trulli constructions. The Trulli of Alberobello are part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites list since 1996.
The Italian term il trullo refers to a house whose internal space is covered by a dry stone. It may have a symbol painted on it. Such symbols may include Christian symbols like simple cross, a cross on a heart pierced by an arrow (representing Santa Maria Addolorata, ie Our Lady of Sorrows), a circle divided into four quarters with the letters S,C,S,D in them (for Sanctus Christus and Sanctus Dominus according to one source, but more likely the initials of Santo Cosma and Santo Damiano, the two saints the local basilica is dedicated to) and some others (description from Alberobello guide).