Italy is the place where many people go to for three reasons – food, wine, and architecture. Puglia is not an exception. The heel of Italy’s “boot” is not yet crowded and it still has an authentic Italian atmosphere. Bari is the biggest city in the region but one must explore little Italian town to feel the real Puglia. That’s why best things to do in Bari includes also many other towns as they are quite close to each other.
10 Best Things to Do in Bari
Bari, as the capital of the region, is busy and much more crowded than smaller towns. Still, it has an amazing old town. Narrow streets, Italian street vendors, many beautiful churches and much more. It’s a must to spend a day wandering around this beauty. One can feel like walking through someone’s home as locals spend so much time on the streets in front of their doorsteps. Make sure not to miss the Orecchiette Ladies as it is definitely one of the best things to do in Bari. These ladies are sitting on the street and making the orecchiette which is typical pasta of the region. Although it’s a bit pricey in here, you know you are buying home-made pasta as they are making it in front of you.
Polignano a Mare
Polignano a Mare is a little town on Adriatic coast situated just 35 km from Bari. It’s most iconical view is the beach from the Polignano Bridge (Ponte di Polignano). It’s crystal clear water just invites you to dive in! Have a morning swim and later explore the town’s historical center. The Arco Della Vecchia Porta is the entrance to the historical center which is full of white-washed streets (which look cleaner than the ones at my house, haha), little piazzas, arches, and mysterious pathways. While wandering around the little streets stop at La Casa del Mojito and sip one of the best mojitos you’ve ever had. Polignano a Mare should be seen both during the daylight and also in the evening when the city lights add the romantic atmosphere.
Unlike other cities in the region, Alberobello differs with its unique architecture and it is UNESCO World Heritage site for a reason. The historic center consists of dozens of Trulli – small white dwellings built from the local limestone with drystone walls and conical roofs. A day-trip to Alberobello is another of the best things to do in Bari. When walking around the narrow streets packed with Trulli one can feel like in a dwarf fairytale. All cafes and souvenir shops are located in Trulli and that sets an amazing atmosphere. It is better to go to Alberobello in the early morning as it could be not so packed with other tourists yet. A great place to stop by and have a glass of wine is Veni Vidi Mangi, which is a small terrace and offers you a beautiful panoramic view of Alberobello.
Ostuni is also called the White Town. When the sky is clear blue it makes an amazing contrast with the white buildings. It is located on the top of the hill and that’s why the historical center is at several levels, so be prepared to climb many stairs when visiting Ostuni. Some people compare this little white wonderland to some of the Greek towns, like Mykonos for example. The historical center is full of narrow and steep streets, arches and stairways to the unknown. While exploring the town make sure you don’t miss Piazza Della Liberta, the main square of the center. It is packed with restaurants, bars, and gelaterias – a perfect place for a lunch or a quick stop for coffee or gelato.
Another stop as part of the best things to do in Bari is Lecce – the Golden Town. It is known for its magnificent Baroque architecture. When entering the historical center through Porta Rudiae it is clear that the visit will be like a journey into the Baroque era. Although Lecce is one of the biggest cities in Puglia, it is still walkable. It is not necessary to stay in the historical center as still, it is easy to access it from the nearby areas. At the weekends there are many parties as Lecce is full of students. So, the perfect day in Lecce could include a tour around the historical center while admiring its gorgeous architecture and later in the evening relax with some drinks enjoying Lecce’s golden atmosphere.
Brindisi is a port city and has been known as a “Getaway to the East” as it was an important port in ancient times. Today the port is still a departing point for ferries loaded with tourists going to Greece and the Balkans. Brindisi is easy to navigate as the main street Corso Umberto I goes from train station to the port side. There are many shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars on both sides, and that makes the street very lively. Some must-see places in Brindisi are Porto di Brindisi, Lungomare Regina Margherita, Castello Alfonsino di Brindisi, Monumento al Marinaio d’Italia, and Colonne Romane.
Santa Maria di Leuca
If you are a nature lover, Santa Maria di Leuca (or simply Leuca) will be your highlight of the trip! Trust us, your camera will love this part of Italy. Although Leuca is 235 km from Bari, it is worth to mention as one of the best things to do in Bari. It is the Southernmost point of the heel of Italy, and it is the place when one can see meeting point of Adriatic and Ionian seas. It is the place packed with breathtaking views and the most beautiful town in the region. Actually, not only the Leuca itself but also some nearby towns.
First things first, explore the caves or grottas by boat tour, there are many providers which offer many excursions, you just need to choose one. If you don’t want to spend extra time on the Internet, don’t worry the town is packed with tour operators. Prices are usually the same everywhere and set. Also, make sure you visit Punta Ristola, Scalinata Monumentale, Basilica of Santa Maria de Finibus Terrae, Ponte Ciolo, and of course as many caves and beaches you can.
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Gallipoli is another coastal town of Southern Italy, located on the coast of Ionian Sea. Its highlight is the old town which is situated on an island. It is small but very beautiful, the streets are narrow, Italian style and again full of cafes and you can buy gelato everywhere. Entrance to the old town is via Ponte Papa Giovani Paolo II and the first thing you can see on the left side is majestic Castello di Gallipoli. There are many churches to visit but the queen of them all definitely is Basilica Cattedrale di Sant’Agata with its beautiful facade. The old town is surrounded by crystal clear water and it gives you an amazing feeling, as you really are on some small island. It’s just gorgeous!
Anyone who is thinking about the best things to do in Bari should consider Matera. It is a town carved into a rock and full of history and walking through the historical center will take any visitor back in the past. Since it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993 visitor numbers are growing and many caves have been converted into hotels, cafes, and restaurants. Still, you can feel that ancient atmosphere while wandering around the labyrinths in the streets of Matera. It is even hard to highlight the most beautiful things to see in Matera, every visitor just needs to get lost in the streets and feel the history.
It’s all about the food in Bari!
La Piazzetta, Via Dante Alighieri 47, Bari – Very good place that serves Italian food, it is usually crowded at lunchtime, but still, the quality is at its finest. It looks like everyone goes there – businessmen and women, tourists, families, etc. The prices are very reasonable and the location is great, also, the staff is very friendly and polite, most of them speak English.
Bari Napoli, Via Nicolò Piccinni, 187/189 – Another great place that serves amazingly delicious Italian food at the speed of light! The hostess of the place is so nice that it feels like you are visiting your grandma. Price meets performance, location is very good and the staff is nice, also English speakers.
La Pesciera, Via de Rossi, 159, Bari – Here – it is all about the sea. If you are a seafood lover, this is a must! It is not a fancy restaurant but the food is very tasty. Take some arancini with salmon, a beer and you are good to go! The location is also central and the staff is nice and friendly.
Our favourite accommodation in Bari:
Oriente Hotel – Luxurious stay in the heart of Bari! The location is great, it takes only 5 minutes to walk to the old town. The staff is very nice, friendly and supportive, speaks good English. Rooms are big, bright and clean, have everything that is necessary. Breakfast is delicious, fresh and fits all tastes.
Family Apartments Celentano – Very good apartment in a great location. It takes only 5 minutes to reach the main shopping street and 10 minutes to the old town. The apartment is huge, bright and very clean. The office is located just a few blocks away and the staff is very friendly, helpful and speaks good English. They gave us a map and marked all the necessary places – shops, cafes, and sights.
Kalefati Palace Bed and Breakfast – Location is great, walkable distance from the main train station, port, and the old town. Staff is friendly and helpful, they would answer all our silly questions. Reasonable price, good and clean rooms, also breakfast is included. It is the perfect choice for 1 – 2 nights stay.
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Puglia is a very delicious and colorful region of Italy. It has it all – great food and wine, beautiful towns with gorgeous historical centers, crystal clear beaches and mysterious caves. There are so many things to do and places to see in Italy, but these are definitely the best things to do in Bari. So, you better hurry up to visit this amazing part of Italy before it becomes packed with tourists!