We arrived in Bari with a long list of sights to check out, beginning with Basilica of San Nicola. Bari has a reputation for high crime, and the unsavory scene around the train station certainly put us on edge. Since were travelling without a cell phone, I had arranged by email to arrive at a b&b during a certain time window. Although we arrived at the time arranged, no one was at the b&b to meet us. To give the owner a chance to show up, we stopped at a bakery and ordered some local specialties. The old lady at the cash register intentionally short-changed us, and when we called her on it, grumbled and gave us the stink-eye until finally producing the proper change. After waiting for an hour we were able to locate a public phone and call the owner (let’s call him Flaky Son) who met us by car 15 minutes later. Flaky Son explained that the plumbing in our room was broken and that they were taking us to a different room instead. Flaky Son left and his father, I’ll call him Handsome Dad, drove us around in his car for a small tour of Bari, which was interesting but cleary so that Flaky Son could get a new room set up for us. Then Handsome Dad insisted we pay in cash, which we didn’t have, so he drove me to an ATM machine. If this were thriller novel, the part where my husband is locked inside a car with a stranger while he demands I take money from an ATM machine, well, that would probably not end well. Fortunately, this was not a thriller plot and we were soon set up with a new room, albeit with diminished sight-seeing time.
We dashed to San Nicola in the late afternoon in the old city of Bari. While the old city may very well be enchanting, with twisty medieval streets and old women making pasta in windows, it clearly is a dangerous place after dark. Sure, there were a few fancy restaurants, but we noticed they all had these glass-enclosed outdoor smoking rooms, so the customers can have a smoke without getting their purses snatched. When we reached San Nicola the sun was already starting to set.
San Nicola, which was begun in 1089, is a stunning example of Southern Italian Romanesque architecture. It’s an active pilgrimage church that houses the relics of Saint Nicholas, aka Santa Claus. The church art inside, including an exquisite ciborium and throne, must be seen by all Romanesque art enthusiasts. Unfortunately our visit was rushed, due to the b&b snafu and our desire to flee the old town before darkness and thieves surrounded us. We’ll have to return to San Nicola again to give this church the time and attention it deserves. Too bad Bari can’t live up to it’s splendid cathedral….
Is it a castle or a church?
The nave has a screen with triple arches separating it from the choir.
The ceiling is 17th century.
The church has external open galleries above the aisles. The tranverse arches were added it 1451 to support the structure after an earthquake.
Marble throne of Archbishop Elia c. 1098. The man in the center is a pilgim (you can tell by his walking stick). Judging my the way those throne lifters are struggling, Archbishop Elia must have been one fat dude!
Ciborium c. 1130. The capitals are carved with angels, leaves and snakes.
How we got to Bari: train from Trani
Where we slept: B&B Melo. Price: €75 for a double. Recommended: not unless you want a car ride with Flaky Son and Handsome Dad.