Bari, the second-largest city in Southern Italy after Naples, is the capital of the Apulia region (“Puglia” to Italians), better known as the “heel” of Italy’s boot. For many years Bari, and the Apulia region more generally, suffered unfairly from a reputation as a mafia-infested Italian backwater better left undiscovered by most tourists. But as those willing to get just a little bit off Italy’s beaten path can attest, Bari’s bad rap is totally undeserved! With its beautifully preserved medieval city center and coastal setting along the rich waters of the Adriatic Sea, Bari is an ideal stop on any cooking vacation in Italy.
Puglia is one of the oldest inhabited regions of Italy. Consequently, Bari has been an important port city and fishery since at least the 3rd century BC when it first came under Roman control. Today, the fish market of Bari can be found exactly where it was so many centuries ago — just outside the walls of the city’s old medieval quarter, known as Bari Vecchia.
The seafood market runs along Bari’s elegant seafront promenade known as the lungomare, just opposite the expansive Piazza Ferrarese. Here local fisherman dock their little wooden boats every morning to unload the day’s catch. Mussels, squid, octopus, sea urchin, anchovies, and many other Adriatic fish, mollusks, and shellfish typical of the Baresi diet abound.
Much of this fresh seafood heads directly to Bari Vecchia’s many traditional osterias, where chefs combine it with Puglia’s olive oils, vegetables, and wine to produce specialties like Bari’s famous oven-baked dish ‘Riso, patate e cozze’ (Rice with potatoes and mussels). As you wind your way towards lunch through Bari Vecchia, keep an eye out for fresh orecchiette! This ear-shaped pasta local to Puglia is home-made daily, and can often be spotted drying outdoors on little tables throughout Bari Vecchia’s cobblestone alleyways.
Discover a recipe for tiella barese, or Bari-style rice, potatoes, and mussels.
Try the best of what Bari has to offer on one of our cooking vacations in Puglia!
Read about another favorite market, the Mercat del Ninot in Barcelona, Spain!
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By Adrian Hall
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