Italy and Puglia, Bari and the Mafia

Bari Puglia Italy

The Hotel Terranobile Metaresort was practically empty this morning and we shared the whispering breakfast room with just two German backpackers.  It was our final day and with a late evening flight home there was a full day to plan ahead for.  We thought we might spend the morning at the hotel and then the final afternoon in Bari with a last meal in Bari Vecchia.

Shortly after breakfast the Germans checked out and left on their way to Polignano and except for the two of us the garden and swimming pool was completely deserted.  I had arranged with the hotel that we could stay a couple of hours beyond check-out time but the place became so quiet and seemingly abandoned I became concerned that the staff had locked up and gone home and that we were stranded here.  So I went to check – every half an hour!

Finally it was time to go and after we had packed I went to reception to check out and was presented with a bill for a three night stay which I was prepared to pay but cheekily asked if there was a discount on account of the fact that all of the advertised facilities were closed. 

The desk clerk told me to wait while he disappeared into an adjacent office and came back with the good news that the hotel director had agreed that we should only pay for two nights and that was a lot more generous than I was expecting and I was especially pleased about that because the reduction in hotel cost was going to cover all of the taxi fares.  In two minutes the hotel just secured themselves a review score of 10!

While we took the taxi ride into the city the thought still nagged away in my brain that  €15 seemed rather expensive to go three kilometres compared to the €50 airline flight to go two thousand.  To put that into perspective I calculate that if we were going to the moon it would cost €3,000,000 by Bari Taxi but only €10,000 by Ryanair.


The taxi driver dropped us at the edge of the old town and looking at out bulging bags took our fare and told us to be careful.  It was that threat of crime thing again and I remembered this bit of scaremongering advice from one of the travel websites: “The city of Bari, is a great place to visit, however, it can be quite a disaster if you don’t plan ahead. Bari is a city with lots of pickpockets. If you find yourself in a bad area, with a purse or valuables, such as watches, prepare to lose them.” 

Now, I have been robbed in Barcelona and a pick-pocket helped himself to Kim’s camera on the Athens metro but I have to say that never at any time did I feel uncomfortable or threatened in Bari or anywhere else in Puglia for that matter and the only robbers that we came across were the taxi drivers.

I wondered where all of these crime stories came from and it seems that is linked to Mafia style crime syndicates that operate across all of southern Italy.  Sicily has the Cosa Nostra, Naples the Camorra, Calabria, the toe of Italy, has the ‘Ndrangheta and Puglia has the Sacre Corona which allegedly has control of the criminal underworld in Bari and elsewhere.


With only an afternoon to go and by now an empty wallet I was going to concern myself too much about that right now so we walked along the main street and sat in a leafy university park for a while and then made our way to our favourite trattoria in the old town, L’Osteria del Borgo Antico and took a table in the shade.

It is said that there are as many as two hundred different styles of pasta in Puglia but it is most famous for a regional variety called oriecchiette which translates as ‘small ear’ on account of the fact that the shape resembles that facial feature so as this was the last day I decided that it was time to try it.  I know that pasta is supposed to be different shapes for different sauces but to be honest it all tastes the same to me and oriecchiette was no exception to this but it did come with an exceptionally fine sauce and I was happy to declare it a very good choice.

The clock was ticking now and after stretching out lunch as long as we could and as the trattoria started to close down for the siesta we left Bari old town and wheeled our luggage back towards the central station where we caught the metro to the airport and checked in with plenty of time to spare and we used that time to review our time in Southern Italy and to make our final assessments. 

I will tell you about that in the final Puglia post next time.

Oriecchette pasta Bari Puglia Italy

19 responses to “Italy and Puglia, Bari and the Mafia

  1. I absolutely can’t believe the name of your hotel, Andrew! Poetic license? 🙂


  2. Don’t you think the taxi drivers started the rumour about the crime to make sure people used lots of taxis?


  3. The oriecchiette looks delicious. 🙂


  4. Yes but if you were going by Ryan Air to the moon you would have to pay a trillion dollars for luggage 🙂


  5. Pingback: A to Z of Postcards – P is for Puglia in Italy | Have Bag, Will Travel

  6. That picture of the gangsters would make a great question in Pointless!


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