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Bari is the capital city of Puglia and one of the busiest ports in Southern Italy. This amazing city has plenty of culture, especially in the older part of town Bari Vecchia, or Old Bari, that attracts the highest number of tourists. Built on the narrow peninsula adjacent to the port, it is a labyrinth of narrow, winding alleyways with over 40 churches and more than 120 shrines. The lights, colours and flavours in this ancient, bustling city are unique: craft shops, old fisheries and historic buildings, old people talking in the street, passing on ancient knowledge.
Different populations have lived here over the course of centuries, and each has left a profound mark. From the Greeks to the Romans, the Saracens and the Byzantines, without forgetting the Normans, the Swabians and the Aragonese.
There are a host of things to see in Bari, starting with the historic center located on a small peninsula adjacent to the port. Within its suggestive labyrinth of alleyways and narrow streets, this area contains Bari's most impressive monuments: the Castle, the Basilica of St. Nicholas and the Cathedral.
The ideal starting point for visiting the city is the Basilica of St. Nicholas, dedicated to the city's patron saint. An impressive example of Apulian Romanesque architecture, it attracts Catholic and Orthodox pilgrims who come to see the saint's relics.
Another important religious site is the Cathedral of Bari dedicated to Saint Sabinus of Canosa. The seat of the Archbishop, for centuries it was the centre of clerical and political power. An impressive rose window adorns the façade topped by an arched lintel decorated with grotesques. Inside, the cathedral is divided into a central nave and two aisles of sixteen columns supporting arcades and the false matroneum. The relics of Saint Sabinus and the icon of the Madonna are preserved in the crypt.
Another thing to see in Bari is without question the Norman-Swabian Castle, built in 1131 by Roger II of Sicily for the defense of Puglia. Very close to the Cathedral, built to defend the main entrance to the city, it welcomes visitors entering the old city. The original structure was destroyed in 1156 and rebuilt in 1233 in its present form. The castle is one of the most interesting fortifications in the region, with its trapezoidal keep and four-sided escarpment towers.
New Bari is in the Murat quarter, in Italian also known as the Quartiere Murattiano, and contains several significant buildings. The main street is Corso Cavour, home to the historic Petruzzelli Theatre, while the commercial heart of the town is Piazza Mercantile. The latter is dominated by the Palazzo del Sedile and the Column of Justice, the former pillory for citizens who failed to pay their debts.
The traditional local cuisine is very rich, with ancient recipes handed down from generation to generation. Highlights of the cuisine are its vegetable dishes, local cheeses, and the full-bodied wines of the region.
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