The purpose of Assonautica is to offer to its members a guide to discover the Land of Bari on the coastline, which stretches from Margherita di Savoia to Monopoli. This is a coast rich in history and culture, which releases the scents and colors of earth and sea. The olive trees, vines and the never ending richness of fruit and vegetables that are the basis of the food culture of Puglia. The ancient history of rupestrian churches, cathedrals and Romanesque castles that witness everywhere the presence of Frederick II. No longer just a coast of passage, no longer a forced stop from where to leave, this coast has become a travel destination thanks to the presence of many ports. Assonautica offers in this section a route that connects the various stages of competence of the section of Bari. This section of the Assonautica’s website connects us to the section “PORTS AND DOCKS” where the description of each port is enriched by a series of technical information, useful to the boat owner who chooses to dwell in a certain place. All of this is enhanced by hints of cultural attractions not to be missed for those who decide to visit the city.
The Bari area stretches along the entire coastline from the new province of BAT: Margherita di Savoia up to Trani. Since this very first itinerary we offer to our members a number of suggestions about cultural attractions not to be missed if you are going to land in one of the ports in this area. We start from the salt marshes of Margherita di Savoia, the largest in Europe and second in the world, recognized as a State Natural Reserve.
Strong point of the town tourists offer are also the modern health farms that uses mud and water contained in the basins of the saline, the long and wide ferrous sandy coastline which hosts about 90 bathing establishments and, last but not least, the historical Saline Museum, located in an old salt warehouse adjacent to the sixteenth century “Torre delle Saline”.
Beside the reserve there is also the Observatory naturalistic “Salpi” managed by Lipu, an association that offers the best spots for bird watching in Apulia.
Barletta, the birthplace of Giuseppe De Nittis, an historical painter of the mid-nineteenth century, is known all over the world for the exposition of his private collection at the famous “Pinacoteca de Nittis”.
The monument “alla Disfida” of Barletta recalls that at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the city was the scene of some historical events, such as the famous Challenge (indeed, Disfida) of Barletta. The clash between Italian and French knights took place on February 13th, 1503 in the countryside between Andria and Corato, in the territory of the city of Trani and ended with the victory of the Italian troops, led by Captain Ettore Fieramosca. The city became a stronghold of the Spaniards, who expanded the walls and the castle. The castle, as we see it today, has been realized in 1532, at the behest of the Spanish king Charles V. In 1867 it was purchased by the City of Barletta, later becoming an armory and a prison. It currently hosts the town library, the museum and art gallery and the lapidarium. Among the most important pieces preserved here, there is the Sarcophagus of the Apostles, the first Christian attestation in Barletta, and a bust of Frederick II from the thirteenth century. If you are in Barletta don’t forget to visit: The cellar of the Challenge, The Colossus of Barletta, Palazzo Della Marra, one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Puglia.
But this is also the land of cathedrals, rich in history and beauty.
In Barletta we find the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore with its Gothic apses, placed at the end of the original director track of the first part of the town. It is composed by an underground part and one at the street level, since it is the outcome of millennial layers. The bell tower dates back to the twelfth century. The church has reached its peak during the Crusades, acting as a transit point for pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. Characterized by a basilica, it is divided into three naves with side chapels in the south wing; it presents in the priestly area a ciborium, behind which is supposed to be the choir. The building has been restored to its original splendor after a restoring work lasted from 1955 to 1981at first and later from 1981 to 1996.
This is also the land of castles built in the Middle Ages in the era of the Swabians and Normans. In almost all the facilities it can be traced the influence of Frederick II and his dynasty. In Trani we find one castle on the outskirts of town, stretching to the sea; it was the favorite residence of Manfredi, son of Frederick II. When you visit Andria don’t forget to visit Castel del Monte, the most important castle built by Frederick II of Swabia. Its special octagonal structure, based on obsessive repetition of this geometric figure, has turned this castle into a structure almost mythological.
The Cathedral of Trani, dedicated to St. Nicholas the Pilgrim, literally arise from the sea, giving to the city a truly unique conception. It is an example of Romanesque art, which until a few years ago was adorned by a bronze double doors portal dating back to 1175.
Even in Andria we can find the Cathedral dedicated to the “Assunta”, rebuilt over a Romanesque building.
Travelling far to the south we arrive in Bisceglie, whose territory was inhabited since ancient times. In the Bronze Age impressive tombs were built in the countryside of Bisceglie – altars called dolmens. Bisceglie was born barricaded on the sea, surrounding an ancient harbor, which is still operative. The city is made up of narrow and high streets, and vaults that override it. It is defended by the Frederick II Castle and the Main Tower, and the sky is dominated by the Cathedral. Ancient churches and monasteries, palaces and an aged theater rise from the old town. The central part is less rich in churches and convents, palaces, villas and farmhouses.
By walking through the streets of Bisceglie, you can cross the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, which was built between 1073 and 1295, in Romanesque style. On its facade, remodeled with three windows in Baroque style, a fine prothyrum is placed above the main entrance.
In the center of the city there is Palazzo Tupputi, one of the most interesting works of Renaissance on site. As leaving the city, there is a rural area called Chianca where it is possible to see one of the most famous dolmens in the area. The whole area is rich in dolmens and ancient caves inhabited. All this testifies to a history that is lost in the mists of time.
By getting closer to Bari, we reach the second zone, the most central of our section. Here the history is ancient and full of many historical evidences left to us, too.
In Molfetta places of attraction for religious festivals occasion are the old Duomo, the Old Town, the Cathedral, the Basilica of Our Lady of Martyrs, the churches of St. Peter, of the Purgatory and St. Stephen. Destinations of relax and invigorating walks are the historic port and finally the Pulo di Molfetta sinkhole where, since the first excavations from 1900 onwards, archeologists have found evidences of human presence, dating back to Neolithic times.
These discoveries are in the Archaeological Museum of Pulo, waiting for some time to be shown to the public in the new headquarters of the former Lazaretto.
The so-called Pulo in Molfetta is particularly interesting, due to a large sinking karst located no more than two kilometers far from the city center.
Giovinazzo is a medieval village perched on a hill; usually frequented in the summer season, it is known by locals for its beautiful landscapes.
The municipality has an important fishing port and on this territory important commercial and industrial enterprises have their seats. The terrain is mostly flat on the coast, but with continuous slope rising from the sea to inland areas, and with lower slopes of the Murgias hinterland.
The main places of interest are: The ‘Trajan’s Arch, “the emperor that would have strengthen the defensive walls of the city”, which is one of the most ancient gates of the village: it has two pointed arches on capitals, kept by four milestones columns of the Via Traiana ; Aragon Walls and the Fort; The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, built in 1113 in Romanesque style, with Normans and oriental elements; consecrated in 1283.
And here we are in Bari, one of the favorite city by the Orthodox Church in the West, because that’s where the relics of St. Nicholas lies, in his Basilica.
The port of Bari is the largest passenger port in the Adriatic Sea. In fact, the city has a solid mercantile tradition and has always been a reference point of trade and political and cultural contacts with Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
It is a city whose political and architectural tradition has a long history; it consists of an older part (called Bari Vecchia) and an opposite part dating back to the nineteenth century, characterized by a grid pattern. If you decide to visit the city, you must certainly not forget the Basilica of St. Nicholas, and some of the oldest buildings and the most interesting story related to their construction:
the Basilica of St. Nicholas is in the heart of the old town. The building was erected between 1087 and 1197 in order to house the relics of St. Nicholas, which were stolen in 1087from Myra, Turkey, by some Italian sailors. The structure is one of the best examples of Apulian Romanesque architecture. Not far from it, as well as in the heart of the old town, it is possible to visit the Cathedral, dedicated to S.Sabino, another pillar of the religious history of the city.
One of the most striking and beautiful building open to visitors is the headquarter of the Apulian Aqueduct, built in 1924 not far from the sea. The imposing white façade, embossed around the four sides of the building, gives it the appearance of an impregnable fortress. However, once crossed the entrance, you can admire the beautiful interior where the dominant theme is that of water.
Mincuzzi Palace: the facade is a bundle of columns, rusticated pilasters, Ionic capitals and gargoyles among which are developed many windows. The interior is richly decorated according to the Art Nouveau style; the second floor is characterized by a great staircase and illuminated by glass dome which dominates the entire building.
Fizzarotti Palace: built on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, it looks like an impressive building in eclectic style. The facade consists of three floors in Venetian style on which it stretches a small gallery colonnade. It is a tribute to the liberation of the city enacted by the Serenissima in 1022, previously occupied by the Saracens. The interior is accessed via an impressive marble entrance hall, home for several decorations that recall the age of Frederick II, allegories of the economy of Apulia and esoteric symbols.
The Norman-Swabian Castle is a fortress built in 1131 by Roger II of Sicily. The complex is characterized by squared towers above it and a wide and deep moat.
The Teatro Petruzzelli, whose original structure dates back to the nineteenth Century, whose interior has been almost completely destroyed by a fire in 1991, that the interior, now has been rebuilt.
The “Fiera del Levante” is one of the most important fairs of the Mediterranean, founded in 1929 by the Town Council, the Provincial Administration and the Chamber of Commerce of Bari and operating continuously since 1930, with the exception of the years of World War II, 1940-1946.
Wandering through the narrow streets of the old town you will meet several churches, that the strong religious sense of Bari’s population has kept in optimal conditions. This same feeling celebrates the feast of St. Nicholas, on May 7 – 8 – 9, which commemorates the arrival in town of the sacred relics of the saint, stolen from Myra in 1087. On this occasion, the street are crowded with a charming historic costume parade, winding through the streets of the town before loading the simulating corpse on a boat off the coast of Bari, with rowing boats of pilgrims who come to pay homage to the saint.
Before you push yourself further to the south, we suggest you to spend some time to the caves of Castellana, spectacular cave-system discovered in the middle of the twentieth Century; Gravina is an interesting testimony of the Middle Ages, built on the edge of a deep ravine, which gives it its name.
Let’s finish our visit in Apulia with the pearls of the southern side of Bari. Here we find Polignano a Mare, a medieval city bounded by an inlet of the old natural harbor. Access to the ancient village is possible through the Arco della Porta, also called Arco Marchesale, that until the eighteenth century was the only road access to the inhabited town, with a drawbridge. Walking through a dense network of narrow streets, we are led to the famous white terraces from which you can admire the impressive cliffs eroded by the sea.
Famous is the overhanging Piazzetta di Santo Stefano (25 meters high), where every year in July takes place an international cliff competition, inserted in the circuit of the world championship, which combines sport and entertainment. In order to enjoy the sights and smells of the sea of Polignano, you can visit the coast and its hidden caves by boat. The most beautiful and the most characteristic cave is Grotta Palazzese, now adapted as a restaurant. The two major caves have a diameter of thirty meters each in height and are really attractive for tourists by the play of green emerald lights that the sun reflects on the rock walls.
Noteworthy are also some buildings, such as the Governor’s Palace which housed the Governor appointed by the Lord (or by the Doge / during the Venetian domination), the Palace of the feudal lord, the Clock Palace, where once, instead of the clock, there was a sundial.
Three kilometers away from Polignano, along the road to Mola di Bari, there is the famous Pier San Vito. It is a port of natural origins, which has been historically the destination for foreign populations and an attack channel for invaders. Furthermore, heading one more km to the north, it is possible to visit one of the most famous beaches of the Apulian coast, called Lido San Giovanni.
The old town of Monopoli is dotted with numerous churches, built especially during the Baroque age, when the city received a major urban boost. Famous is the church of Santa Maria Amalfitana, built in the twelfth century on a previous rupestrian settlement; the original frescoes are only fragments of the icon of St. Nicholas, representing stories of his life, while other frescoes in the Church date back to the eighteenth century. The crypt is preceded by a burial, whose dating is not defined.
Certainly it deserves attention the Castle of Charles V. It is a fort built during the Spanish domination (XVI-XVII century), placed in front of the sea, in order to protect the entrance of the old harbor, on the north-east of the city walls of Monopoli. It is the key element of the system of fortifications. The Castello di Santo Stefano, located on the sea, outside the city walls, throughout the Middle Ages formed an essential part of the complex town’s defenses.
The old Civic Tower with the clock is an example of urban fabric of the past and of Baroque assemblage, which uses the infamous ancient pillory column, along with other revitalizing materials in overlap: an agile statue of San Gennaro, the emblem of the city and the clock.
Do not miss the baroque Cathedral of Santa Maria, built in Romanesque style in 1107 by Bishop Romualdo, with the contribution of Duke Roberto d’Altavilla and rebuilt in Baroque style in the seventeenth century. The basilica is characterized by a monumental baroque facade, divided horizontally into two levels by a projecting string course. The elegant bell tower completes the facade with five-storey tapering upwards. The whole church is richly decorated with multicolored marbles and 17th Century plasters. In the sacristy of the cathedral has been staged a small museum, where a few fragments of the sculptural decoration of the previous Romanesque church, paintings and icons, are collected, including a fine archway crowned by twelve angel heads, a precious Byzantine reliquary in silver gilt and enamel, an ancient nautical chart, miniatures, manuscripts, vestments, liturgical objects in silver.
The cuisine of Puglia is generally based on the three main agricultural products of the region, such as wheat, oil and wine. Bari’s cuisine is also enriched by vegetables and fruit, abundant local agriculture, and the production of Pugliese bread and pasta, homemade orecchiette, or “recchietèdde strascenate”, cavatelli, lagane, troccoli (or fettuccine), fusilli (ie macaroni rolled ), and Tripoline megnuìcchie (ie semolina dumplings).
With homemade pasta they also prepare the “calzone”, baked in the owen and stuffed with onion, salted anchovies, capers and olives; fried “panzerotti” stuffed with bacon and ricotta or mozzarella; pettole from Bari; rustic pizzas, focaccia typical from Bari, taralli, friselle and sgagliozze, or slices of fried polenta, prepared and sold on the streets of the old town.
Absolute condiments are olive oil and garlic. Excellent are vegetable soups and plates based on bread (bread and caponata), chickpeas, fava beans whole or crushed (with chicory), cabbage, celery, fennel and thistles eaten alone or with oil, or salted, with pork broth.
The meat dishes are mostly based on lamb (notches baked, cottarello, rolls – in Bari called “ghiemmerìidde”), pork (capocolli and various sausages, especially seasoned with chili peppers), rabbit and wild game. A refinement is that of thrushes preserved in white wine sauce.
Among the typical sweets, many of them related to holiday season, are reminiscent the “carteddate” – cartellate and bocconotti (typical Christmas recipes), pastries, the castagnedde, the sassanìidde, the zeppole (typical of the day of Saint Joseph), the “scarcelle “(Easter cake) and “u sanguinàcce”, that is a sweet pudding.
We must also mentions some of the finest Bari and province wines: the Castel del Monte, Primitivo di Manduria, well known in the rest of Italy, Primitivo di Gioia, White of Alberobello and Locorotondo, Aleatico and variety of Cerasuolo and Sangiovese. It is abundant the production of wines for coupage, including the Barletta. If you are in Trani you shall taste the Moscato di Trani, also called Moscato Reale, with a bright golden color, from amber hues and an intense aroma of apricot; is an excellent dessert wine, but it also goes well with cheeses and cured.
In Bisceglie was born the “Sospiro” (namely the Sigh), the most famous example of the local bakery. Since its designation, it has perfectly captured the essence of the “sweet sigh,” a pastry made with few banal ingredients, all belonging to the local tradition. It seems that the recipe has passed on by far from the fifteenth century, when the Clares produced and churn out the so-called “sospiretti delle monache”, made with a spongy cake filled with cream and topped with a pink glaze. Legends tell that these cakes were prepared by the Poor Clares at the wedding of Lucrezia Borgia, but the bride never showed up; while wedding-guests sighed for the long waiting, these cakes, shaped provocatively because reproducing the female breast, were eaten.