The commercial and administrative capital of Puglia, a university town and southern Italy’s second city, BARI is an economically vibrant place, with few pretensions to being a major tourist attraction. People come here primarily for work or to leave for Greece, Croatia and Albania on its many ferries, though the regenerated old city is well worth exploring – in recent years it’s made considerable strides to shake off its image as a den of thieves rife with bag-snatchers (though it’s best to keep your wits about you in the narrow old alleyways).

Brief history

Bari was already a thriving centre when the Romans arrived. Later, the city was the seat of the Byzantine governor of southern Italy, while, under the Normans, it rivalled Venice both as a maritime centre and, following the seizure of the remains of St Nicholas, as a place of pilgrimage. Since those heady days, Bari has declined considerably. Its fortunes revived briefly in 1813 when the king of Naples foisted a planned expansion on the city – giving the centre its contemporary gridded street pattern, wide avenues and piazzas. And Mussolini instituted a university and left a legacy of strident Fascist architecture. However, the city was heavily bombed during the last war, and today its compact and dynamic centre is a symbol of the south’s zeal for commercial growth. Fortunately, heavy investment in redeveloping the old centre has given Bari a new lease of life.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Italy features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

19 places to get utterly lost

19 places to get utterly lost

One of the great joys of travelling is stumbling across unexpected places, wandering without a single destination in mind and embracing the journey. These place…

12 Sep 2017 • Keith Drew camera_alt Gallery
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
Where to find the best beaches in Italy

Where to find the best beaches in Italy

From secluded coves to lively seafronts, there are plenty of places to sun worship in Italy. But with an increasing number of hotels charging for access to the …

20 Jul 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month