The city of Bari has two souls, a more commercial and touristic and the other that respect the traditions of this city.
Walking through the historical centre to discover the less well-known alleys and to get in touch with the true essence of Bari, a world of colors and warm-heartedness of its inhabitants will welcome the visitors.
Of course, there's a grave danger of getting lost in the maze of narrow alleyways, but all you have to do is ask a locals to get back to areas most frequented and famous to level tourist.
I strongly suggest you to plunge into a real tour around the historical centre to better understand what I'm talking about.. I will try my best to explain it to you and I will do so through my pictures!
My starting point could not but be the peripheral zone of the historical centre, what I would also call that of Bari Movida and most known touristic area.
Beautiful squares, historical fountains, famous streets close to the "Muraglia" which offers wonderful views of the seafront; I admit I’ve enjoyed this beautiful area stopping off in one of the area's many coffee shop for a cup of coffee... and a piece of cake offered to me by coffee manager whom I stopped to talk to about the city.
The cake was delicious and he called it "sporcamuss" (translation, "dirty your mouth"), a delicious flakey pastry filled with a hot cream. The name is due to the fact that it should be served warm and you can’t eat a sporcamuss without dirty your mouth and face!
I came across a most unusual monument in Mercantile Square: the "Colonna Infame" (the Pillar of Shame). Situated in a quiet corner of the square, in ancient times (16th century) was the place where the swindlers or insolvent debtors were tied up to be pilloried.
The monument is composed of a circular pedestal , with a marble pillar placed at the centre, surmounted by a cannon ball and a lion statue that supports the column.
From here I started a deeper walk into the heart of the historic centre with the goal to get in touch with the true essence of Bari.. and if I'm honest the "world" opened to me. And it was totally different from what I saw till then!
The surrounding area has become a much more popular environment without any frills and unnecessary glitz... only everyday life!
I sensed it in a variety of forms: the smells of good food or the scent of fresh laundry but but above all, the gestures and expressions typical of who speaks the dialect of Bari.
As I stared out into a stone arch, an old lady who was watching me on her own doorstep (a "settano" the typical house of Bari's old town) told me that it was "l'Arco delle Meraviglie" (the Wonder Arch) perhaps the most beautiful arch among the many in Bari historic centre.
Its history is very romatic and recalls that of Romeo and Juliet: It is said that it was built to bring two young lovers together; they belonged to two rival families who lived one in front of each other and that hindered their love.
Taking a walk through the side streets, it opens a succession of narrow streets and small alleys decorated with writings, engravings and apothropaic masks of each historical period.
Looking about me, there was something else that just jumped out at me.. the large number of votive aedicules! Colorful, simple, sculptures, bas-reliefs, paintings, teche or gravestones on the walls of the alleys or in the many arches of the historic centre.
I looked into it.. finding that there are even 240 votive aedicules all over the historic center, evidence of deep religious devotion of the locals. It can be observed almost across the whole historic centre and that gives color and folklore to its narrow streets and stone arches.
And in a historic center where there are so many churches, it could not be otherwise.
After viewing many other votive aedicules and after walking for several kilometres, I started to feel a bit hungry..
So, before returning home I went to the famous Panificio "Fiore" (bakery located behind the Pontifical Basilica di San Nicola near the Court of the Catapan) to taste the delicious "focaccia barese" (flatbread with cherry tomatoes and olives).
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