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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
In 1996, the village of Alberobello in Bari was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its beauty and unique architecture – specifically the 1500 trulli, which are rural structures that were hand built with dry stone walls and topped with conical roofs. Many of these emblematic buildings have been converted and are now shops or restaurants, or used as warehouses. Trullo Sovrano, the biggest in the country, was built by a family of priests in the 18th century and is now a museum. its interior has been renovated according to the memories of the oldest village inhabitants.
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.
If you want to shop till you drop without the crowds, forget Italy’s bigger towns for top designer shopping and head for Bari’s Via Sparano. Amongst the big name stores look out for Italian brands like Coccinelle selling exclusive bags, jewellery and scarves; Furla, whose collections are signed by some of the country’s top designers; and Rossetti’s unique shoe store that has been selling chic footwear since the 1960s. Don’t miss Paciotti, Italy’s emblematic boutique where you can marvel at the latest offering of some of the country’s most avant-garde fashion designers.