We had been recommended to visit Puglia while in Italy, which is the region that is the “heel of the boot”. We had two nights after leaving Sicily before we needed to be in Ancona for our ferry to Croatia, so we decided we’d visit Bari. Bari is on the coast and houses the bones of Saint Nicholas. We made the long drive from Sicily (it took us about 8 hours with stops) and settled into our apartment in the old city.
We only really had one full day in Bari, so we made sure to visit the Basilica St Nicola, which is where the bones of Saint Nicholas are housed. Most of the town is dedicated to this saint and we found it kind of hilarious that we were two Jews visiting St. Nick.
While in Bari, we also went to the Castello Normanno Svevo – a castle that has been rebuilt many times over the years and is still in pretty good condition. It has been used as a fortress and a prison, and is now still in use for events. It was cool to see some of the excavations going on there and learn a little bit about the history of Bari.
We also enjoyed some Puglian food, which meant oricchette pasta, fish, and more beans, legumes, and vegetables. We also had the traditional Puglian item called taralli, which is like a pretzel in shape, looks like a bread stick, but is more soft and crumbly. One other thing we ate while in Bari was sgagliozze, which is a fried polenta cake, made fresh by this lady named Maria. We were a little underwhelmed by these – they tasted kind of like popcorn and were way too salty. She sells them in a pack of 6 pieces for 1 Euro, so we got that, but only ate two of them.
Overall, Bari was really cool. We were sad we didn’t have more time there, but really glad we visited. We highly recommend it to people traveling to Italy – it is a hidden gem that is usually overlooked!
After two nights in Bari, we packed up and headed out early to drive to Ancona to meet our overnight ferry to Croatia. This was an experience itself – there weren’t many people traveling, the boat was from the late 60s or early 70s, so the decor was totally vintage and amazing, and we had a nice private room with bed and bath. It was a really cool experience.