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 of Bari

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.

Top image: On the right there is Bari Cathedral (Saint Sabino), on the left there is "San Nicola Basilica" © Fabio Dell/Shutterstock

Planning your own trip? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides' trusted partners for great rates

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 26.04.2021

Ready to travel and discover

Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels

Plan my trip ⤍