Finding the relics of St. Nick in Bari

Basilica of St. Nicholas
Pontifical Basilica of San Nicola 
While searching for the best base for travels in Puglia, I came across Bari, a major city bordering the Adriatic Sea with convenient train connections to Alberobello, Polignano a Mare, Ostuni and Matera in Basilicata. I was pleasantly surprised when I got there to learn that Bari is a destination on its own, with its fortified old town, a Norman castle, a promenade by the sea, a bustling shopping and business district and a variety of restaurants. Bari has also been a pilgrimage destination since the 11th century when the relics of St. Nicholas were brought to Bari from Myra, an ancient Greek town in Lycia (now Antalya Province of Turkey). St. Nick was known for his generosity and gift giving. Sinterklaas or St. Nicholas evolved into Santa Claus. His feast day is celebrated on December 6th. 

Bari historic center
Bari, Old Town
Cobble stone passages with religious shrines on every corner greet visitors to the old town.

The narrow alleys of the old historic center are for motorbikes and walking to better appreciate the wrought iron balconies with colorful laundry left to dry and the excitement of finding a way out of the maze.

drying orrechiette
Orrechiette is a variety of ear-shaped pasta that is typical in the Puglia region. You can find these fresh, handmade pasta along the alleys of the Old Town where residents leave them to dry. Dinner's gonna be good.

crypt Bari Cathedral
Bari Cathedral
The relics of St. Sabinus, bishop of Canosa and St. Columba are preserved in the Baroque style crypt of the Bari Cathedral.  

These fragments of beautiful frescoes at the Cathedral have withstood the ravages of time.  

Houhenstaufen Castle
Castello Svevo
The Castello Svevo (Houhenstaufen Castle) was constructed around 1132 by the Norman King, Roger II. It changed hands a few times over the centuries and was reconstructed under the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II. It became a prison and barracks after the death of its last owner, Bona Sforza, Queen of Poland when the castle reverted to the Kingdom of Naples. It is currently managed by the Puglia Directorate for Cultural and Landscape Heritage and used for exhibitions.

Port of Bari
Port of Bari
Boats bound for Greece leave from this port.

My trip to Puglia was one of the best trips I took in Italy in large part due to the people I met along the way who were friendly and helpful. 

From the airport:
There's a shuttle bus that goes from the airport to the center of Bari every half hour and the fare is 4 euros (in January 2018).
Where to stay:
Best Western Hotel Executive
Corso Vittorio Emmanuele 201 in the city center
This is a 3-star hotel. Rooms are modern and spacious. The Old Town, sea promenade, restaurants, shopping and train station are all within walking distance. If you prefer to take a taxi to the train station, it's approximately 10 euros.
Where to eat:
Ristorante Murat at The Palace Hotel
Via F. Lombardi 13
Regional Italian cuisine and seafood choices.
Has the best view of the bell tower of Bari Cathedral from its rooftop terrace.
Koi Japanese Restaurant
Via de Rossi, 31
Brings in the lunch crowd with their all you can eat menu.
Italian Restaurants
There are many pizza and pasta restaurants along Corso Vittorio Emmanuele.  A good pizza restaurant usually has a wood fired oven. 

*Note: Restaurants in Bari are not open all day long. It's best to keep snacks to eat to tide you over until the scheduled opening time of the restaurant (12 noon for lunch and 7:30 p.m. for dinner). This was the case in January when there were fewer visitors in the city.


Images by TravelswithCharie


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