I very randomly booked flights to Bari after having months of Italy cravings and coming to the realization that 2 years was far too long since my last trip (tip: it’s always too long since your last trip to Italy).
I looked on trusty SkyScanner and found the cheapest flight to anywhere in Italy was to Bari. Having never heard of it before I did a quick Google search and had a look at the images.
Once I saw it was by the sea I was instantly sold. Nothing else need temp me.
Unfortunately, the cheapest flights are normally on Ryan Air which means flying out of Paris’s infamously annoying airport, Beauvais which is practically a shed in the middle of nowhere about an hour and a half drive outside north-west of Paris. Thankfully the flight was in the afternoon so I was able to make the long journey in plenty of time without having to wake up at some horrid hour.
After 2-hour flight filled with boisterous Italians, I was touching down in Bari at around 8 pm. I got off the plane and walked practically straight out through the gates (I still can’t get used to that whole no border check thing), followed the signs to the train station, grabbed a ticket to central Bari for 5 Euro and jumped straight on the train. A cruisy 20-minute ride on a very new and fancy train later I was getting off in central Bari.
After assessing my finances the week before I decided this would be a budget trip so booked a hostel called “Olive tree” in Bari centre for about 20 Euro a night. I navigated myself on Google maps and walked for about 5 minutes until I arrived at the (not very well signed) doorway on a residential street.
When I did find it I was welcomed at reception by a friendly American girl who proceeded to show me through a map of the city. I told her I was basically just here to eat and take photos so she showed me the best spot for the local pasta dish, gelato store and a secret local gem where you can get a huge meal for €6.
I dumped my bags and headed off for the 15-minute walk into Bari’s old town. It wasn’t long until I had myself brilliantly lost among all the old town’s alleyways, ducking in and out of mysterious streets, discovering church facades and following the smell of fresh pasta wafting through people’s kitchens. There seemed to be no other tourists around and occasionally I would turn the corner and find a bunch of locals having a dinner party on the street. All drinking and yelling at each other in Italian. It felt a little like stepping back in time.
After about 45 minutes of wandering, I managed to find the restaurant that the hostel worker had recommend. I got myself a table for one and ordered the famous orichiette- a handmade ear-shaped pasta made by old women in the streets of Bari, cooked with olive oil spinach and garlic. I ordered this with a glass or vino rosso and indulged in my deliciously flavourful and perfectly cooked meal.
The next day I was woken up early by other people in my room, so decided I might as well get a head start on the day. I grabbed a coffee and bun from the hostel’s kitchen and headed off into the old town again.
My first stop was to check out the fish market. It seemed to be just starting when I arrived and saw a few men selling fresh seafood and some others tenderizing octopus by bashing them against the concrete.
I continued to wander, got myself a gelato and explored the large castle of the old town.
For lunch, I had decided to check out a smaller nearby town called Polignano which was home to what is undoubtedly one of the world’s most photogenic restaurants.
I took the 30-minute train ride and began walking towards the sea-side of the beautiful bright town. All the buildings were a light colour giving me flashbacks of exploring the Greek islands and the air smelled salty and fresh. It was so good to be by the sea again.
I found the famous Ristorante Grotta Palazzese and had a peek in the door. Apparently, they wouldn’t let me in without a reservation and I probably wasn’t dressed nice enough. Also, I have not heard amazing things about the food and was not really willing to pay 40 euro for an appetizer. So I continued walking along the coast after snapping a few photos from the exterior.
Just around the corner I found a charming little restaurant called La Balconata and got myself the best seat in the house with a direct view of the sea and people walking by. I ordered myself a pizza prosciutto and a small carafe of red wine and happily sat and enjoyed my 8 euro meal.
After I was sufficiently filled with fresh pizza (and feeling a little tipsy from the wine) I walked it off by heading further along the coast until I came to the main town square. Here there were a few more tourists, but it still seemed to be mainly Italians, and I made friends with a lovely family from Senegal who were hawking jewelry in the square.
Then I continued to explore and found a stunning little beach nestled in a cove surrounded by staggering cliffs. I made myself comfortable on the rocks and listened to the waves crash at my feet as a soaked up as much sunshine as possible.
Eventually, it was time to head back to the hostel. There I met an Aussie guy and talked about going to 6€ place for dinner and he decided to join. We found the small astoria which was packed with locals and were lucky to grab one of the two last remaining tables. We decided to go all out and get the 10 euro meal which included appetizers, a whole pizza each, a beer, limoncello, and sorbet. What we didn’t realise was that the appetizers were actually 13 appetizers! We had so many plates of food the waited was piling them on top of each other as there wasn’t enough room on the table, and each one was delicious. Then we watched as they made our custom pizzas right in front of us. By this stage neither of us had room to finish so we got the rest of our pizza take away, sipped our limoncello, and by the time we left there was a huge line of people waiting to get in and score a table.
We finished off the night by taking one last walk around the old town and grabbing a couple of beers in the main square.
The next morning I had to wake up early for my flight back, I was tired but the quick trip had been totally worth it. There was a huge sense of satisfaction when I was able to order a coffee & croissant and pay all in Italian before heading to the airport. I loooovve the Italian language!
So if you are based in Europe and feeling the need for a little bit of Italy I can highly recommend a quick escape to Bari. It’s reasonably cheap, authentic, and incredibly beautiful.
Eat well, travel well, live well. xx
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