Tag Archives: Hotel Oriente Bari

Thursday Doors – Bari in Southern Italy

Bari Doors

Despite almost being put off by the guide books we liked the city of Bari with its mazy old town and eclectic night life and one thing I would say to anyone thinking of going to Puglia then do not miss out the capital city of the region and don’t be scared off by the reviews.

We especially liked the old town in the evenings where the pavements were flowing with people like lava spilling from a volcano, the piazzas were packed, the pizzerias overflowing and the gelaterias noisy with babbling chatter.  With some difficulty we found a traditional trattoria with a vacant table and enjoyed a first simple but excellent meal and then walked it off with a stroll around the moody streets of the old town lined with bars and restaurants and late night diners lingering over a final espresso.

Those unfavourable guide book descriptions need to be reviewed.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

 

Read The Full Story…

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh Fish

Octopus preparation Bari Puglia Italy

At the harbour someone had done a lot of clearing up and all of the debris from the previous night had been removed and now in place of the beer vendors there were marble slabs alive with fresh fish pulled only recently out of the sea and on the quayside a man pulverising an octopus to break down the skeleton and to tenderise it.

Read the full story…

Weekly photo Challenge: Street Life

Bari Italy Puglia Street Sweeping

Early Morning Walk in Bari, Puglia…

… Elsewhere there were steps and pavements to be swept, food to be prepared and shopkeepers were arranging their pavement displays, women were shopping to be sure of the freshest produce and old men were selecting shady corners in which to pitch a chair for the remainder of the day and everywhere motor scooters zipped past, engines cracking like machine gun fire, making deliveries regardless of any pedestrian right of way.

Octopus preparation Bari Puglia Italy

Eventually, with probably more luck than we were entitled to, we found our way out of the labyrinth of narrow streets and on to a main street that we thought we recognised and shortly we were back at the hotel for late breakfast and then for checkout.

Hardware Shopping Polignano a Mare Puglia Italy

Read the full story…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning

Bari Airport Railway Metro

Beginning of a Train Journey…

It turned out that this railway line was only opened six weeks earlier on 1stAugust and was so new that there were still staff on hand to help people with the ticket purchase procedure at the automatic machines.  The journey took no longer than fifteen minutes and outside the station we emerged into the balmy night air of Bari and being fairly confident of the location of the hotel we strode past the taxi rank, ignoring the various offers of a lift and walked in the direction of the old town.

Read the full story…

Italy and Puglia, Bari to Polignano a Mare

Bari Fisherman and Net Puglia Italy

The sun was shining when we woke early on our first full day in Italy so we dressed quickly and made our way onto the streets of Bari where the city was beginning to stir into life especially along the Corso Cavour where the roads on either side were like deep shaded ravines and uniformly straight as though cut with the precision of a cheese wire.

We swiftly bypassed the modern streets of the new town and made our way back to the old town, Bari Vecchia,  home to many of the city’s churches and historic buildings but an area which until recently had a somewhat dubious reputation among the locals and was even considered a no-go area due to high levels of street robberies and petty crime.  However, a concerted effort by the city to attract tourism has led to a clean up and improvement and we didn’t feel threatened at all.

Early morning was a good time to be visiting Bari Vecchia where the residents of the crooked streets were preparing for the day ahead.  Washing lines were being loaded and cranked into position high up across the alleys and lanes and strung outside windows like bunting as though in anticipation of a parade or a carnival, stretching across the streets, smelling sweetly of soap powder, dripping indiscriminately and swaying gently backwards and forwards above the secret doorways and back alleys.

If there was a crime problem here then it didn’t seem to concern the locals who clearly live by an open door code of neighbourliness. Elsewhere there were steps and pavements to be swept, food to be prepared and shopkeepers were arranging their pavement displays, women were shopping to be sure of the freshest produce and old men were selecting shady corners in which to pitch a chair for the remainder of the day and everywhere motor scooters zipped past, engines cracking like machine gun fire, making deliveries regardless of any pedestrian right of way.

Bari Italy Puglia Street Sweeping

At the harbour someone had done a lot of clearing up and all of the debris from the previous night had been removed and now in place of the beer vendors there were marble slabs alive with fresh fish pulled only recently out of the sea and on the quayside a man pulverising an octopus to break down the skeleton and to tenderise it.

Unfortunately we didn’t have a map and Bari old town has a reputation of being a place where it is easy to get disorientated and very soon we lost our bearings and we groping our way around the back streets, which was a bit of a concern because I didn’t really wasn’t to miss breakfast.  We stumbled along and peered down untidy narrow streets searching for an exit, all of them care worn but with brightly colour-washed buildings with ancient coats of paint which have blotched and been blurred by successive harsh summers resulting in a glorious wash resembling water colours in the rain, everything running, leaking and fusing together. 

Puglia only manages 2% of total annual tourism in Italy and Bari was clearly not a tourist city but instead a traditional Italian living and working city with shabby narrow streets, brightly colour washed buildings with little shops and small bars. 

Octopus preparation Bari Puglia Italy

Eventually, with probably more luck than we were entitled to, we found our way out of the labyrinth of narrow streets and on to a main street that we thought we recognised and shortly we were back at the hotel for late breakfast and then for checkout.

Leaving the hotel we walked to the central station which seemed much closer now that we were absolutely certain where we were but when we got there was a ninety minute wait and Kim reminded me that I should have checked the timetable in advance and there was no arguing with that so we walked back into the parks and fountains of the university district, found a bar and just waited.

After a couple of beers it was time to go back to the station and after the inevitable uncertainty of platform location and  eventual reassurance that we were catching the right train we boarded the green and cream Trenitalia carriage with worn out and tired blue plastic seats and began our journey south and east.

Puglia one of the most fertile regions of Italy produces more olive oil than the rest of the country combined, most of its fish, 80% of Europe’s pasta and more wine than the whole of Germany.  It is an agricultural region and once out of the sprawling environs of Bari we were soon passing through fields of grape vines all sweating away under swathes of plastic sheeting that was rippling gently with the slight breeze and the thermals.  But more than grapes there were olive trees, hectares and hectares of olive trees, which shouldn’t have been surprising because after Spain, Italy is the World’s largest producer of the olive and accounts for 16%  of global production (just for the record – Spain provides 40% and Greece is third with 10%).

Because of this fertility and associated wealth the region has historically attracted attention from a host of envious invaders throughout history, all of them leaving indelible footprints in the soil and it is this which shapes modern Puglia and makes it delightfully different from the rest of Italy. Colonised by the ancient Greeks in the eighth century BC, then came the Romans and then the Byzantines swiftly followed by the Saracens, the Normans, the Spanish and the Bourbons until it finally became part of modern Italy as recently as 1861.

After twenty-five minutes or so we arrived in Polignano a Mare just after midday and we took the short walk from the station to our booked accommodation only to find the door locked, reception closed and a sign saying that it would open again at four o’clock.  That was three hours away and we really didn’t want to be wandering about with our bags all of that time so ignoring the code of the siesta I phoned the hotel number and made contact with the owner who was slightly (well, very actually) grumpy about being disturbed from their afternoon rest but eventually reluctantly agreed to come back, open up and book us in and we were grateful for that.

After we had approved of and settled into our top floor room with a large balcony in the blistering afternoon sun we left the hotel and walked in the direction of the sea.  This turned out to be a mistake because we had gone in completely the wrong direction and fairly soon we were in the middle of the residential area where everything was eerily quiet as the people of Polignano had locked themselves away behind closed doors for the afternoon.

I had read about this but wasn’t sure that I believed it until now; everywhere was closed and bolted down.  From behind the doors and shutters we could hear the clatter of cutlery and the popping of corks as families sat down together for their midday meals but on the streets there was not a soul to be seen. 

Eventually we found a pavilion bar in a park where the owners were enjoying a family meal but broke off to serve us a beer and give us directions and eventually by an energy sapping circuitous route we found our way back to the hotel and to the old town only a short distance from our accommodation but in exactly the opposite direction to that which we had taken an hour or so earlier.

Hardware Shopping Polignano a Mare Puglia Italy

Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…

Italy and Puglia, Arrival in Bari

Puglia Map

“A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority.” – Samuel Johnson

Every September since 2004 our late Summer travelling has been to the Greek Islands and it hadn’t really occurred to me that that we would break that habit and that 2013 would be the tenth year in a row, after all there are roughly one thousand four hundred of them and I have only been to about twenty-five so there are still a lot left to visit.

We were persuaded to make a change to our normal September routine when the Ryanair website offered return flights to Bari in Southern Italy for the bargain price of only £70 each (no hold luggage, no priority boarding, no pre-booked seats obviously) so we snapped them up and started to plot our way around the Italian Region of Puglia one of the least visited by tourists and most traditional areas of the country.  We have travelled to Italy several times but mostly to the north and certainly never to this part of the boot.

It was an early evening flight to Palese Airport in Bari so as we weren’t arriving until quite late there was no real option but to stay close by in the city.  Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been an issue but some of the guidebooks are rather quite unkind about Bari with some less than flattering reviews. 

I was also put off by fellow Blogger Richard Field who had this to say:  

“But first things first, Bari. Guidebooks describe it as the kind of place you might not want to hang around in – and they’re probably right. To be fair, we only had four hours there, it was raining and we were tired, but it looked the kind of place even the staunchest Italophile would struggle to say anything positive about.

So taking all of this into consideration at the planning stage we didn’t consider staying for more than one night and planned an early departure the next day.

After passing through immigration control the first issue was how to get into the city because being a natural travel skinflint I really didn’t want a taxi which I had read can cost up to €50 for the fifteen kilometre ride!  My alternative idea was to try and find a bus but was then delighted to find directions to a railway station and I was surprised by this because my research had suggested that there was no rail link to the city centre.

Bari Airport Railway Metro

It turned out that this railway line was only opened six weeks earlier on 1st August and was so new that there were still staff on hand to help people with the ticket purchase procedure at the automatic machines.  The journey took no longer than fifteen minutes and outside the station we emerged into the balmy night air of Bari and being fairly confident of the location of the hotel we strode past the taxi rank, ignoring the various offers of a lift and walked in the direction of the old town.

It was busy at the railway station but the hustle and bustle soon evaporated as we walked towards Corso Cavour into a common feature of railway stations – grime and general untidiness and the unfavourable city reviews started to come back to mind and the fact that not so long ago Bari was identified as the second most dangerous city in Italy, after Naples, for petty crime.  There were dark shadows in every doorway and down the narrow alleys that leaked away from the road and I imagined a cut throat or a brigand with a deadly stiletto lurking in each one.

Gradually the pavements became incrementally busier and it began to feel safer but after a while I became concerned that we had walked too far and missed the hotel and yes, as it turned out we had.  Directions from the locals and the shopkeepers were generally unhelpful and soon we arrived in the old town where at least there was a tourist information booth where staff knew exactly where the hotel was and sent us back down the road that we had just walked along and then with the mistake rectified we thankfully booked into the four star Hotel Oriente.

After settling down and making ourselves comfortable we walked back to the old town which we found to be unusually busy for a Tuesday night where the pavements were flowing with people like lava spilling from a volcano, the piazzas were packed, the pizzerias overflowing and the gelaterias noisy with babbling chatter.  Eventually we found a trattoria with a vacant table and enjoyed a first simple but excellent meal and then walked it off with a stroll around the moody streets of the old town lined with bars and restaurants and late night diners lingering over a final espresso.

In the main square there was a gelateria with an eye popping, mouth watering range of ice creams that we were unable to resist and with a cone stacked high with hazelnut, chocolate and pistachio we walked around the harbour area with moonbeams dancing on the water  and into what was obviously a fish market by day but late at night was a massive alfresco youth club with hundreds of noisy young people all of them at least forty years younger than the two of us. 

There was no one else of our generation here and I wondered if we would be there at all but no one seemed to mind the intrusion but, out of our comfort zone, with no one else remotely in our age group anywhere in sight and with the last of the ice cream leaking from the bottoms of the biscuit cones we left the busy harbour and returned to the hotel.

Actually, I was beginning to like Bari, I was challenging the guide book descriptions and Richard’s assessment and was already beginning to think about changing our plans and staying there a little longer than originally planned the next morning and then coming back this way later in the fortnight and I was certain that those unfavourable guide book descriptions need to be reviewed.