As a seasoned traveler, some of the best places I’ve ever been are the places that my friends and family have never even heard of. In fact, when I went to Bari, the reaction was: "Bari? I thought you were in Italy?”
But the city stole my heart. I met wonderful, kind and welcoming people who made me want to stay forever. There are so many things to do in Bari: among all of it, I got some beautiful pictures of the sun setting over this historic, under-discovered town and, maybe most importantly, I gained around 50 pounds from all the wonderful pasta I ate.
What more could you ask for from a taste of Italia? It's a bold claim but one I'll happily back up: if you're heading to Italy, Bari is the place to be in 2018.
Let me tell you about Bari
This glorious city brings together all the things I wanted most out of a relaxing, live-like-a-local, budget travel hot spot in Europe. It has it all: palm trees; a beautiful, quaint port; eateries looking out onto the Adriatic Sea.
What more could a person ask for? On my most recent visit, I stayed within the northern coastal areas but venturing slightly south and a little more inland will take you to Bari’s university town, home to some fantastic nightlife, right alongside the locals and students.
Unlike most destinations that don’t have a large tourist following, Bari is lucky enough to have its own airport (Bari International Airport-Karol Wojtyla) located just North-West of the city center.
You can get a bus from the airport into the center for around €1 (that's not a typo), or a private hire taxi for around €30. If you take a taxi, ask the driver for a quote before getting in: during my time in the city, I noticed it’s pretty easy to spot a tourist.
...and staying there
In Bari, you can splurge a little on accommodation: hotels in Bari can start from as little as €270 for a six-night stay in mid-April.
While there's only one hostel in Bari that I’m aware of, I can't recommend it enough! The Olive Tree has free wifi throughout as well as free BBQ facilities in the back garden; its clean, fresh and spacious rooms are a short walk from the beach.
It’s also the perfect place to meet other travelers. And as any savvy traveler will tell you, the knowledge and insight you gain from talking to other travelers or locals is something that no amount of money can buy.
Bari's not-to-miss hotspots
There's plenty to see and do but picking out the best things to do in Bari isn't easy. For a touch of authentic Bari...
Visit the Mercato Coperto Santa Scolastica
A large outdoor-ish market in southern Bari, frequented by locals. Here, you'll get the freshest fish and vegetables you’ll be able to find anywhere in the city. Perfect if you want to get your cook on on your trip and live a little of the domestic Italian life.
Look up in the Basilica San Nicola
I had no idea about the history of Bari before arriving, and the Bascilia San Nicola is a great introduction. Visiting the Basilica was probably the most ‘touristy’ thing I did whilst in the city but learning something and seeing its stunning architecture and interiors was certainly worth it.
Remember to look up: the ceilings are incredible! Oh, and it’s free entry. Always a bonus.
Eat at El Pedro
I’m skeptical of using the word 'restaurant' to describe this amazing and peculiar joint; even though you eat here, it’s more of a self-service diner.
But the food - it's dreamy. Absolutely dreamy. I found myself going back to El Pedro a lot. They serve good, cheap local food with plenty of beer; get a plate of pasta, or some salsiccia alla griglia con patate fritte (that's Italian sausage with French fries to you and me) for €3.50 each.
Party at Riva Beach Club
Party time? Riva is the place to be if you don't want to head south and party with the university students. As the name suggests, it’s right on the Torre Quetta beachfront and a little classier than some of the other bars around town. It's a great place to watch the sun go down, drink in hand, and salute this beautiful city.
Lissy Wild has traveled here, there and everywhere. Check out her website, Two Brits and a Bucket List.