It later was controlled by the Goths, the Lombards, and the Byzantines. The Normans conquered Bari in 1071. The city became the chief city of Apulia, and many Crusaders sailed from there. Enfeoffed to the kingdom of Naples, Bari, during the Middle Ages, was a duchy ruled by powerful lords, including the Hohenstaufens and the Sforzas of Milan.
It was badly damaged in World War II. Noteworthy buildings include the Romanesque basilica (1087-1197), a major place of pilgrimage, with relics of St. Nicholas of Bari the Romanesque cathedral (12th cent.) and the Hohenstaufen castle (1233). The city has a university founded in 1924.
It is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples, and is well known as a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas. The city itself has a decreasing population of about 320,000, as of 2009, over 116 km², while the fast-growing urban area counts 653,028 inhabitants over 203 km². The metropolitan area counts 1 million inhabitants.
Bari is made up of four different urban sections. To the north is the closely built old town on the peninsula between two modern harbours, with the splendid Basilica of Saint Nicholas, the Cathedral of San Sabino (1035–1171) and the Swabian Castle built for Frederick II, which is now also a major nightlife district. To the south is the Murat quarter (erected by Joachim Murat), the modern heart of the city, which is laid out on a rectangular grid-plan with a promenade on the sea and the major shopping district.
Modern residential zones surround the centre of Bari, the result of chaotic development during the 1960s and 1970s replacing the old suburbs that had developed along roads splaying outwards from gates in the city walls. In addition, the outer suburbs have developed rapidly during the 1990s. The city has a redeveloped airport named after Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyła Airport, with connections to several European cities.
Basilica of Saint Nicholas
The Basilica di San Nicola (Saint Nicholas) was founded in 1087 to receive the relics of this saint, which were brought from Myra in Lycia, and now lie beneath the altar in the crypt, where are buried the Topins, which are a legacy of old thieves converted to good faith. The church is one of the four Palatine churches of Apulia (the others being the cathedrals of Acquaviva delle Fonti and Altamura, and the church of Monte Sant'Angelo sul Gargano).
Bari Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Sabinus of Canosa (San Sabino), was begun in Byzantine style in 1034, but was destroyed in the sack of the city of 1156. A new building was thus built between 1170–1178, partially inspired by that of San Nicola. Of the original edifice, only traces of the pavement are today visible in the transept.
The Petruzzelli Theatre is one of the grandest opera houses in Italy after La Scala in Milan and the San Carlo Theatre in Naples. Host to many famous opera and ballet greats throughout the 20th century, before the big arson of 27 October 1991, which destroyed it nearly all. The last 4 October 2009, after 18 years, the theatre was reopened.
The Norman-Hohenstaufen Castle, widely known as the Castello Svevo (Swabian Castle), was built by Roger II of Sicily around 1131. Destroyed in 1156, it was rebuilt by Frederick II of Hohenstaufen. The castle now serves as a gallery for a variety of temporary exhibitions in the city.
Cuisine and gastronomy
Bari's cuisine, one of Italy's most traditional and noteworthy, is based on three typical agricultural products found within the surrounding Puglia region, namely wheat, olive oil and wine. Bari cuisine is also enriched by the wide variety of fruit and vegetables produced locally.
Local flour is used in homemade bread and pasta production including, most notably, the famous orecchiette hat-shaped pasta, recchietelle or strascinate, chiancarelle (orecchiette of different sizes) and cavatelli.
Homemade dough is also used for baked calzoni stuffed with onions, anchovies, capers and olives, fried panzerotti with mozzarella, simple focaccia alla barese with tomatoes, little savoury taralli, friselle and sgagliozze, fried slices of polenta all make up the Bari culinary reportoire.
Olive oil and garlic are widely in use. Vegetable minestrone, chick peas, broad beans, chickory, celery and fennel are also often served as first courses or side dishes.
Where to Stay in Bari
In the historic center are Hotel Boston and the Palace Hotel, Bari's biggest hotel. Grand Hotel Leon d'Oro is well located on Pizza Aldo Moro across from the train station. Hotel Rondo is a well-rated hotel in the Carrassi district outside the center.