Bari is unheard of by many tourists as it is overlooked by its neighbours for more popular and famous destinations. Looking at a map of Italy and wanting an authentic experience of a city by the beach, we choose to soak up the sun in Puglia’s capital, Bari. However, arriving here and learning about the historical old town and the nearby must see beaches of Monopli, Pugliano de Mare and Ostuni to visit, I realised there would be not as many lie ins as I hoped for.
Bari town is split up as modern and history merge together as one, past and present, creating a mismatch of culture that represents Bari. Chuck in a few nice beaches and locals that are as friendly as your grandmother, you get the city of Bari. The main district that leads you onto the beach is filled with expensive glamorous shops, pristine pavements, and neatly organised parks that are reminiscent of modern Italy and could be a small extension of Milan.Walking further to the coast you sink into the depths of the historical old town which buzzes with culture. Meander around the maze of tiny side streets that lead you through families that eye you up suspiciously and courtyards of people’s houses, you will find welcoming churches and crumbling fort walls. Walk early in the morning and you can catch a glimpse of bakers pounding their bread and plaiting their flour into warm loaves to cook for their hungry customers. Barri Vechia, the old town, is gritty in parts, but authentic in nature. Head to the popular Piazza del Ferrarese, where restaurants and bars are filled with loud locals watching football matches and sharing plates of pasta late into the evening.
The city beach of Bari, although in a town, is nice compared to the preconceptions you might have with a town beach (well it shits over Brighton Beach anyway). Of course it is not the postcard perfect beaches you would see outside of Bari, however; white sands, blue waves and the hilarious locals creating entertainment and humour as if EastEnders on the beach made our time enjoyable. It acts as a perfectly easy place to soak up some rays without any effort.
A popular day trip from Bari is a visit to Pugliano de Mare, a sea side town that is famed around the dramatic weathered rock that is enclosed in the cove of the beach. We mistakenly got on the wrong train on our first attempt to get here, meaning a impromptu picnic in a town in the middle of nowhere, so do be wary which train you get on. Making it to Pugliano De Mare, you can spot tourist shops designed for the glamorous Italians who pop down to the coast at summer. The beach is a pebble beach, although that still does not detract from its picturesque beauty. We had lunch in a hotel just by the beach where I made the mistake of ordering fish salt style. Now I was expecting, a little encrusted salt on my fish, not it bathed in what looked like snow. I advise all travellers NOT to EVER have fish like this; it was too salty and ruined the taste for me!
Dining in Barri Vechia is a must as it has an incredible atmosphere to the place. Have dinner at Osteria della travi, which is where our hostel gave us a discount for. We had four courses each with free wine and water for 15 euros (you really can’t argue with that). There also are many bars in the popular Piazza as well as trendy hip bars along the sea front, however if you are on a tight budget head to El Chiringuito, where one euro beers are a plenty whilst you rub shoulders with local students, artists and other backpackers.
Our hostel was called “Olive Tree” and if you are planning to stay in any hostel in Bari, let it be this one. When we stayed there it had only been opened for 6 weeks but its management has created this hostel to be a haven away from the piercing rays of the sun and a place to cook your own meals with fresh ingredients and to socialise with other travellers. The rooms were spacious and donned with balconies perfect for smokers and people watching. Not to mention all members of staff were friendly and happy to help.