A travel guide to Bari, the busy port city, town of St. Nicola (the original Santa Claus), and capital of Apulia (Puglia) Italy

Bari is the second largest city in, and the industrial powerhouse of, Southern Italy, a busy port and oil refining center that can thumb its economic nose at the disparaging remarks made by Italy's northerners regarding the south's lack of industrial initiative.

The true story of Santa Claus
San Nicola, Bari's patron, is the most famous saint in the world—after the Virgin Mary, of course.

The man now buried beneath a mighty Romanesque church in Bari was once the Bishop of Myra (then part of Greece; today in Turkey), and he famously righted some very grievous wrongs in his day—which was the fourth century.

On one occasion he reassembled and resurrected a trio of children who had been murdered, dismembered, and pickled in barrels.

On another he tossed bags of gold into the window of a desperately poor man who was about to sell his three daughters into prostitution for he couldn't afford the dowries to see them married.

This affection for children and penchant for anonymous gift-giving are the attributes that stuck to San Nicola down the ages, long after 1087 when sailors from Bari kidnapped his remains and brought them here to be celebrated, and long after northerly countries, who knew the saint as "Nicholas," turned him into legend by fattening him up, dressing him in red and white, and giving him nicknames like "St. Nick" or "Santa Claus."

Where the flying reindeer come in, I have no idea.
It's also the home of Santa Claus—or rather, the bones of St. Nicholas, sheltered in Apulia's first grand Romanesque church.

Bari has a great Old City to wander, a few more late medieval churches and a castle, and a mediocre painting gallery, along with ferries to Greece and some fine cuisine.

Bari was old when the Greeks got here, but it was the Romans who turned it into the Adriatic trading center that, under the Byzantines and later the Normans, rivaled Venice throughout the Middle Ages.

Contemporary Bari has paid a price for its modernity in urban sprawl and pollution, but it has one of Apulia's two universities to give it that spark of life often missing from southern towns, and it’s a decent base for exploring the region.

Tips & links

Useful links & resources

Bari tourism info:
32 Piazza Moro Aldo
tel. +39-080-524-2244

Bari tours & guides:

How to get to Bari
  • How to get to Bari by Car: Bari's on the SS116 from Trani and Barletta and the A14 highway from Foggia. From Manfredonia, just follow the coastal road until it merges with the SS116.
  • How to get to Bari by Train There are daily runs twice an hour from Foggia (67–100 min.) that pass through Trani (30–43 min.). There are also 6 daily trains from Rome (4.5 hr.).
  • The Bari Centrale station is on Piazza A. Moro at the south edge of town (tel. +39-080-524-0148). This station is serviced by national FS trains plus several private lines, including the Ferrovia Bari Nord (ticket office on the left of Piazza A. Moro as you exit the main rail station; tel. +39-080-521-3577), which runs trains to Bitonto and Ruvo (both "Side Trips" below); and the Ferrovia del Sud-Est (tel.. 080-546-2111), which services Alberobello and the Valle D'Itria (see section 3 of this chapter).
  • How to get to Bari by Bus There are at least hourly SITA buses from Barletta (65–95 min.) and Trani (60–90 min.) and 2 early-morning buses (none Sunday) from Manfredonia (2 hr. 15 min.). In Bari, buses stop at Piazza A. Moro (the train station). The SITA office is at the edge of town, Via B. Buozzi 35 (tel. +39-080-521-3714 or 080-574-1800), but you can get tickets and info at the Marozzi office, Corso Italia 3 (at the corner with Piazza A. Moro).
Visitor info

The tourist information office is at Piazza A. Moro 32 ( tel. +39-080-524-2244), the right side of the square as you exit the train station. There's also an office inside the station ( tel. +39-080-558-0817) open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 7pm, Saturday 8:30am to noon.

Youths should head directly to Stop Over in Bari, Via Nicolai 47 (tel. 080-521-4538, Besides city info and a room-finding service (available to visitors of any age), they offer (to those under 30) free: city bus pass, bikes, camping, and weekly excursions. They have coupons for shopping and restaurants and are open Monday to Saturday 8:30am to 1:30pm and 4:30 to 8:30pm.

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Bari tourism info:
32 Piazza Moro Aldo
tel. +39-080-524-2244

Bari tours & guides:

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