Monday, 29 September 2014


Castelo Normano-Svevo

We have just arrived in Puglia for a week's holiday and we start with a walk around the old part of Bari, the capital of the region. Following our Thomas Cook guidebook, the only one I could find which deals only with Puglia, we started our walk at the Castello Normano-Svevo.

It was built by Frederic II in the 13th century and embellished in the 16th by Isabella of Aragon. It is a large, angular building, surrounded by a dry moat and rather difficult to photograph. I especially liked the Romanesque arcading midway up the walls.

After a light lunch, successfully negotiated in our best Italian, we advanced towards the Cathedral of St Sabino. We admired the beautiful white stone facade with its mixture of romanesque and baroque elements, especially the gargoyles under the blind arcading.

The cathedral dates from the 12th century and the inside was more severe than the facade, with classic romanesque round arches. 

Going round the side produced a fantastic view of the great tower.

A few narrow streets, with people sitting out having coffee or doing their ironing, brought us to the Basilica of San Nicola, apparently regarded as more important that the Cathedra. It was one of the first Norman churches in Italy, dating from 1087.

The exterior is severe, with two blocky towers either side of the nave. The effect is lightened by the sculptures of animals either side of the main portal.

Inside it is less attractive. The gilded baroque ceiling seemed merely gaudy and the three doubled columns with arches across looked like rather desperate remedial measures in the face of unsound construction.

I just loved the series of shallow blind arches on the side of the Basilica. They seemed almost art deco in feeling.

A splendid archway through old city walls, one of the old gates, showed how near the sea was.

And we quickly found a way to climb up to the broad path atop the walls to walk along towards the old harbour. This is the view back.

We headed down past the old harbour, glimpsed through a lovely line of palm trees.

Before long we reached the Piazza Mercantile which houses the town hall of 1862.

This flows into an adjacent square, at the end of which there is a great view of the rather handsome 19th century fish market on the left and the impressive Teatro Margherita on the right.It dates from 1910-12 and is apparently in the process of being restored and converted to a new life as an arts centre.

It remained only to walk along Corso Victorio Emanuele back to our hotel

Conditions: hot, sunny, blue sky.

Distance: 2 miles.

Rating: Four stars. There may not be much to see in Bari, but what there is makes an excellent afternoon stroll.

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