Buzzing in Barletta

I really enjoyed my six nights in Barletta. Everyone I met was really nice and the old town centre was buzzing in the evenings. I also ate very well here.

I stayed at the Hotel Itaca, a fading but comfortable enough old hotel by the beach, with a small pool and a fairly good breakfast. The receptionists were friendly and helpful and the Wi-Fi in the rooms worked well most of the time. www.itacahotel.it

You can find all the places mentioned on this Google map.

In terms of things to see and do, other than going to the beach, there’s not all that much happening. You can go inside Castello Svevo, the symbol of Barletta, for free but you have to pay to climb the walls to get a view. It’s not really worth it I’m told.

Please click on the images to expand them.

The small cathedral nearby is also the entrance to the old town via the archway at the base of its camponile. It’s very plain on the outside except for two stone lions and a stone carving featuring some bizarre characters above one of the small doors at the back. I didn’t get time to go inside sadly.

Another thing you could see is the Cantina della Sfida, ‘the cellar of the challenge’, which was a tavern called the House of Poison in Medieval times. Legend has it that thirteen Italian knights challenged and defeated an equal number of French knights in a joust on the plain between Barletta and Andria. The response to the victory is seen as one of the first stirrings of Italian nationalism.

20140611_201115You can go into the cantina for free. There’s not much to see, just an empty dank stone cellar and some armour and costumes in glass cases, but it does provide a little bit of context. The entrance is opposite Piazza Sfida, off Via Duomo. There’s a statue commemorating the event in the piazza.

Palazzo della Marra at 74 Via Cialdini (the continuation of Via Duomo) is a beautiful old building housing the art of Impressionist painter Giuseppe de Nittis, Barletta’s most famous son.

My busy schedule (work and food) didn’t give me enough time to visit the Pinacoteca Giuseppe De Nittis so I just Googled his pictures instead.

I did walk past a few times though and got some photos of the fantastic carving on the balcony above the front door. There seems to be more of the same in the gallery at the back of the museum and I’d pay just to see that next time I’m here.

Al Vecchio Forno (Intermediate B+), 61 Via Enrico Cialdini, www.vecchiofornobarletta.it

For value, this was my favourite restaurant in Barletta, and the most reviewed one on Trip Advisor by quite a way. I tend to trust the number of reviews a place gets rather than it’s TA ranking (sixth in this case).

The selling point here seems to be the seemingly never-ending array of antipasti that pour down on you should you go for that option. The quality is good but it’s the sheer quantity that makes an impression.

I ate here three times because I liked it so much and so I got to know the brothers who run the place. They were a little concerned by me taking photos at first (‘Who sent you?’) but this just resulted in better service, a little showing off and some great displays of food on the plate. These photos are just a fraction of what I received.

I went through most of their menu and would definitely recommend the ‘sea’ dishes rather than the ‘earth’ (meat), which is okay but much more expensive. The homemade limoncello is excellent and they leave the bottle on the table. Definitely my kind of place!

Antica Cucina (Advanced B+), 4/5 Piazza Marina, Tel. 0883 521718, www.anticacucina1983.it

Perhaps thought of as ‘the best place in town’ this place is certainly upmarket and formal but the waiter and the owner were both very nice and gave me considerate service. Although ‘old’ is in the name, the décor is bright, white and modern.

You can eat three courses for €27 but I found the choices a little limited.  The bread (B+) and amuse bouche (A) were very good as was the bottle of cheap local Malvasia recommended by the waiter (B).

I finished the evening with a couple of interesting distillates, including one made from apricots (B).

I would go again because the food is good and the people are nice but it gets a bit pricey if you want more choices.

Antica Mura (Intermediate B), 4/5 Piazza Marina, Tel. 0883 521718

This place off the beaten track was suggested by a teacher whose students recommended it. It’s fine but nothing special in my opinion although I did have one thing I’ve never eaten before. There were two large groups of locals celebrating an anniversary and a birthday while I was there so I think it’s considered ‘good’ as a family party space.

Located within the old city wall, the restaurant is basically one huge stone walled room with high arched ceilings. I disturbed the staff meal at 8.15pm which was being accompanied by a grime soundtrack although they changed it to Frank Sinatra fairly soon after my arrival.

The standard antipasti consisted of a mozzarella salad, mussels, octopus (all B) some prawns and smoked fish (both C+). I was also given a bowl of what the waiter called ‘mussoli’ (also ‘musci’ in the menu), a bizarre bivalve that I had never come across before but once a common street food in Puglia.

To open the shell you have to pull out a little stopper which exposes a gap you can put your fingertips in to prise the shells apart. Inside is something resembling a peeled lychee and tasting like a mussel but more intensely so (B). Interesting but not mindblowing.

Next Trofie pasta with clams and prawns (B).

After this I was pretty full and tried to make good my escape but the friendly owner wouldn’t let me and brought a free dessert and a shot, as is the Puglian way.

The slice of Nutella tart was pretty basic and the limoncello warm (both C) but the thought was appreciated. Won’t be going back though as there are better places.

Lupo di Mare (Elementary B), open Monday

A basic place with plastic furniture, recommended by the receptionist for cheap seafood. You can sit outside by the Porta Marina, the last of the old city gates still standing.

It’s quite popular, certainly on the Monday I went, so it might be an idea to reserve.

Feeling greedy I had the Frutti di Mare Crudi for two, to myself. The oysters were ok (B) but my favourites were the smaller of the two kinds of mussels (B+). Can’t help wishing for some soya sauce and wasabi when I eat things like this though.

The local Chardonnay was fine if nothing special (C+).

Next Linguine ai Frutti di Mare was competent if a bit salty and only had two fruits to speak of.

I also had an amaro and a limoncello (both C).

The gormless male waiter tried to charge me €25 instead of €2.50 for the dessert but I think this was just him being inept rather than an actual attempt to cheat me.

A good spot for diners on a budget.

For some nice chocolate you can go to Confetti Mucca, the sweet makers from Andria, who have a branch at 82 Corso Vittorio Emanuele.

I really liked Barletta and look forward to going again as there are still a few things left to see and do. I’m sure you’ll love it!🙂

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