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Upbeat Bari might be Italy’s second-most important southern city, but –despite a warren of alleys ideal for escaping the midday sun, all night summer nightlife, superb alfresco dining and laidback beaches– this lively resort is also one of the country’s least-appreciated conurbations. So why not leave Rome and Rimini to the tourists, and follow our guide to the top spots to sip, sup, see or soak up the sun far from the madding crowds in this charming, but little-known, capital of Italy’s food-loving Apulia region?
Main City Rome
Surface 116 km²
A hub for ferry traffic, Bari’s port is great for sightseeing, but not ideal for sunbathing, so if you want to find stunning beaches take a ten minute ride out of the town centre to Torre a Mar. Well off the usual tourist trail, this pretty resort, clustered around its fishing harbour in Bari’s northern suburbs, has several excellent seafood restaurants and some of the best beaches along the Adriatic coast. Pick of the bunch, Grotta Regina Beach is a smooth arc of powdery sand fringed with clear shallow waters ideal for swimming and snorkelling.
On one of the city’s most striking squares of Bari, Barcollo Café has bright red sofa-style seating that invites lounging. Inside you’ll find walls lined with books and cosy corner seats. The favourite haunt of the city’s student crowd, at night the bar is packed with a trendy mob that come here on weekends to enjoy this hip café’s homemade ice-cream as they listen to the live music of local jazz and rock bands. Sip exotic cocktails, or order tomato-stuffed focaccia, pasta i cecci (chickpea pasta) and other local delicacies, then just sit back and watch Bari’s beautiful people strut by.
If you’re a fan of good hearty food at down-to-earth prices, you can’t do better than osteria Vini e Cucina in Bari, a real locals’ address where service comes with a smile. Owned by the same family for over a century, this animated osteria (wine bar), in an atmospheric corner of Bari’s old town overlooking the city’s liveliest square, serves Apulian specialties that are chalked up on a board each day. Try Barese lamb and pork Ragu (stew), Riso, Patate e Cozze (mussel and potato rice), calamari in wine sauce and –if you’re feeling brave– raw sea urchins.