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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
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.
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.
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.