Bari is one of the largest cities on southern Italy’s Adriatic coast and a major cruise ship port and ferry hub for routes to Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Albania. Before exploring the surrounding region of Puglia or heading farther afield by ferry, tour Bari’s charming historical center and seafront promenade.
Highlights of Bari’s old town (Bari Vecchia or San Nicola) include the Romanesque Basilica di San Nicola, dedicated to the Saint Nicholas the rest of the world knows as Santa Claus; Via Sparano, the city’s elegant boulevard lined with designer shops; and Castello Svevo, a castle now used for art exhibitions. The city also has a lively market, busting restaurants and cafés, and vibrant nightlife.
Bari’s old town is surrounded by a vast urban sprawl of apartment blocks and office buildings, so the best way to visit is by joining a private or small-group tour that includes a transfer from the port to the center of the historical district.
Things to Know Before You Go
- It is at least a 20-minute walk through the busy port area to reach the historical center; booking a private transfer or taxi is the best way to reach Bari’s more picturesque quarter.
- Most churches, including the Basilica di San Nicola, require clothing that covers shoulders and knees to enter.
- Many of Bari’s highlights are outdoors. Bring a hat and sunscreen in summer.
- Tours of Bari require a fair amount of walking; comfortable footwear and weather-appropriate clothing are recommended.
How to Get There
Shore excursions and private tours generally include port pickup and drop-off, though there is a local bus that stops right outside the port terminal, taxis, and a shuttle bus. It’s possible to walk to Bari’s historical core from the port, but it’s not a particularly pleasant stroll.
The official language at the Bari cruise port is Italian, although the local dialect is a hybrid of Italian and Greek surviving from the town’s fishing-port days. Not a lot of English is spoken, and due to its busy ferry terminal, the port area can be a Tower of Babel of languages. The currency is the euro.