Columnist Carol Forster: Bari had plenty to offer

Bari on the Adriatic coast in Puglia
Bari on the Adriatic coast in Puglia

Bari is as feisty as a Suarez bite, and twice as bouncy!

There on the Adriatic coast in Puglia, it’s famous for its historical buildings and great shopping centre but historically infamous for Bari vecchia (old town Bari), with its labyrinth of alleyways, notoriously chockful of petty crime.

However, it actually has a fascinating history and the old town has livened up and become more tourist friendly.

In Roman times, the city was a very important trading port with The East, and then, on a more sinister note, during the Byzantine era became an important staging post for the slave trade.

These poor souls were despatched to all corners of the Byzantine empire.

Later on, in 1071, the 
Normans dominated and Peter the Hermit preached about the first crusade in 1096.

Under the rule of quick-witted Emperor Frederick 11, King of Sicily, Bari formed part of the Kingdom of Sicily (1220-1250).

Nothing is certain but death and taxes! So, under a succession of rulers from the 14th century, it went from the powerful Sforza family to the Kingdom of Naples , before finally joining the Italian unification process in 1860.

Important sights include The Basilica of San Nicola; Bari cathedral; The Petruzzelli Theatre, an opera house, reopened in 2009 after an earlier arson attack; Castello Svevo , a Norman-Hohenstaufen castle (first built by Roger 11 of Sicily 
in 1131, then re-built by 
Frederick 11 of Hohenstaufen) and, last but not least, the Pinacoteca Provinciale , which houses many works of art.

Modern day Bari is an economic hub of activity, second only in importance, down south, to Naples.

It’s also a university 
town. In the city’s south, 
you ll find the modern quarter, known as Borgo Murattiano.

Life’s not all beer and skittles, so dashing Joachim Murat, King of Naples (1808-1815) ordered the construction of this new industrious area in 1808.

Its swanky shops are retail enchantment for anyone who enjoys buying quality goods, such as clothes and bags, and, of course, Bari is also home to some fantastic restaurants.