I don’t know what it is about Bari! A few years ago, I spent a fun filled night there on my way to Matera but I didn’t get to see the city. Coming in from Corfu, I inadvertently booked a room in Bisceglie thinking I had booked in Bari! So I finally made it back to Bari determined to spend a few days getting to know it.
Have you ever been somewhere that, no matter what, it seemed that nothing went right? Well, for me, it was Bari. The hotel I’d booked was in a different hotel from where I had to check in. Once I arrived for check in, they informed me that they didn’t accept credit cards. Off I went to get some cash…well, that was the intention. I went to several ATM’s at several banks but my card was declined! Back at the hotel, the manager offered me a room in the check-in hotel instead of the booked one so that I could pay by credit card. At least that dilemma was solved!
By this point, I was in a state of anxiety wondering why I couldn’t get cash! After locating a café with excellent wifi, I began an online chat with my bank to get some answers! It seems that there was a “high demand” for debit cards with chips so they cancelled the old cards after mailing out new ones. What about those of us traveling? They obviously did not consider all of their customers! I was informed that they could unblock my card for 30 days but then the card would be useless.
The following morning, I confidently strolled to an ATM to grab some cash. Card declined! Laptop in hand, I returned to the café to find that it was closed! Luckily, the wifi was available from the sidewalk where I plopped down to get the chat going again! Having seen all of my attempts to retrieve cash, my bank raised the alarm and blocked my account again!
Things eventually worked out and my friend in America mailed my new debit card to me once I was in Hungary but my first couple of days in Bari were stress filled, to say the least! I had actually begun strategizing on how I could continue my trip using only my credit card!
Due to my situation, my impressions of Bari were obviously tinged with negativity during those first couple of days. Luckily, I had a couple more days in Bari to rectify that! Wandering the alleyways of Barivecchia (Old Bari) was the best place to start!
The alleyways of Old Bari twist and turn so much that it’s easy to get lost but I was determined to see all of the tiny streets! The charm of the Italian way of life is evident throughout with doors open, women making pasta with their neighbors, men sitting in chairs smoking hand rolled cigarettes, and big sisters teaching little sisters how to ride bicycles. If you research Bari, you’re likely to read that this is not a safe area to wander. I never take others advice and am glad of it! I never felt uneasy and the area was charming and clean.
Bari isn’t a popular tourist destination. It is a port city and is home to a large university (University of Bari Aldo Moro). You only really need one day to see the sights. The Basilica di San Nicola (Saint Nicholas aka Santa Claus) contains the saints remains as well as a crypt dedicated to Orthodox pilgrims. The nearby San Sabino Cathedral is less famous but is the actual cathedral of Bari. Both churches are built in the Romanesque style. The Swabian Castle (Castello Svevo) is a fortress by the sea but I didn’t spend the money to enter and explore. It was a very striking and imposing sight as I found my way out of Old Bari’s alleys, though!
I spent a good deal of time in an extremely cute café, Bacio di Latte, on Via Sparano which is a mainly pedestrian strip of high end shops. Their wifi was excellent as were their apricot muffins! The staff were wonderful as well!
I didn’t have the best luck with service my first couple of days in Bari. In fact, I would say I received the absolute worst service of my life at L’Osteria del Borgo Antica near Porto Vecchia! Excellent service was given at Il Sottosopra Pizzeria Ristorante on Via Nicolo Piccinni which included a complimentary limoncello at the end of my delicious meal! The cheapest meal that I enjoyed in Bari was had at El Pedro, also on Via Nicolo Piccinni! It is a self-service restaurant in the buffet style in that you take a tray and choose from various pasta and meat dishes, desserts, salads, and breads; all for 3-4 Euro per portion! Finally, if you want to enjoy a beer and hang with the locals, KarmAmerican Bar offered me soccer entertainment, wifi, Peroni, and a room full of Italian men!
Despite a rocky first couple of days, I can say that I managed to enjoy the jewels that I found while in Bari. The slower pace I experienced there was a welcome relief as well.