The capital of Puglia, Bari, stands on the Adriatic coast, on the edge of the hollow of the same name. The city has maintained its ancient seafaring tradition over the centuries, becoming the leading trade centre in the southern Adriatic and Ionian areas, thanks partly to its busy port; this makes it an ideal bridge for traffic between Europe, the Middle and the Far East and favours the development of major economic events.
The Basilica of San Nicola was built between 1087 and 1197. Its imposing façade is made up of spotless, white limestone blocks. The castle is a Swabian construction, and includes previous artefacts, erected by Frederick II between 1233 and 1240. It became the headquarters of the Sforza family in the 16th century.
The new part of the city is the commercial and economic centre: its layout is typically XIX century, with long, straight roads intersecting like a chess-board. It lies to the south of the old city, from which it is separated by the wide thoroughfare of Vittorio Emanuele II where some of the city’s most interesting XIX century monuments are located: the Palazzo del Governo and, across the road, the Niccolo Piccinni Municipal Theatre. On another street, at right angles to Corso Vittorio Emanuele, you can see: the Margherita Theatre, in the Art Nouveau style; the exquisite Chamber of Commerce, an outstanding example of neoclassic architecture; and the great Petruzzelli Theatre, one of the most famous in Italy.
Sparano Street, parallel to Corso Cavour, is the city’s most prestigious shopping street and runs from Corso Vittorio Emanuele to Aldo Moro square, where the central station is situated. Before reaching the station, Sparano Street opens into the beautiful Umberto I square, which contains an equestrian statue of Umberto I and the great fountain built to mark the opening of the Apulian Aqueduct.
The impressive structure of the Palazzo Ateneo is the centre of the university: it houses the archaeology Museum with its outstanding collection of classical vases, representative of the most important archaeological finds of the province.
The railway separates the Murattiano quarter from the other quarters, which have devoured the surrounding countryside and are beginning to encroach on outlying towns. The greatest rock-basilica in the region, the church of S. Candida, can be found in the area surrounding Bari, on the banks of the river Picone. The old town has narrow streets containing some wonderful surprises, such as graceful churches and splendid squares of medieval and baroque origin.