Barivecchia, also know as Quartiere San Nicola, was once quite dodgy, virtually a no-go area for tourists at night. Nowadays, thanks to redevelopment, it’s much safer, though still a thoroughly working class area.
There’s little point using a map in this warren of alleys and narrow streets. It’s best just to wander around and try to keep a sense of direction.
Here’s my Google map anyway.
Good luck asking for directions. The Barese are nationally famous for having a strong dialect, but within Bari itself, the inhabitants of Barivecchia are renowned for having a lexis that even the rest of the city finds hard to understand. Personally I find both the people and the place fascinating.
The logical place to start a walk is in the Piazzas Ferrarese and Mercantile, the two main squares in the heart of the old town. They blend into each other imperceptibly and are effectively two sides of the same square. This is where many Barese, especially the youth, come to socialise on a warm evening.
In Piazza Mercantile you can see the Palazzo della Provincia and its clock tower, once the home of the provincial administration, built in 1936.
In Piazza Mercantile you can see La Colonna della Giustizia, ‘the column of justice’.
It was a stone punishment pole to which fraudulent debtors were tied and lashed.
Around the square you’ll see women selling the traditional local street food, sgagliozze, aka fried polenta cubes. Polenta is slowly growing on me (love it with kale and blue cheese) but I don’t see what the fuss is about here. I think you probably have to be brought up on the stuff to fully appreciate it.
Both piazzas are lined with restaurants, a couple of which are recommended by various guides. While I might come here for a drink I personally would avoid most of the eateries around here. They’re not bad, just very average in my opinion (see my Barivecchia – eating cheaply in the old town post for some alternatives).
The next main sight is the Duomo di Bari, or Cattedrale di San Sabino, built in the late 12th century.
The streets around here are very atmospheric, especially at night.
Just a short distance away is the Castello Svevo di Bari www.beniculturali.it.
It was built in 1132 by the Normans.
With your back to the bridge going over the moat to the entrance of the castle you will notice two archways leading into the old town. The first one on the left is called Arco Basso which is the street of the pasta makers.
You’ll see their wares drying in mesh bottomed boxes on the street.
I bought 500g each of Cavatelli and ‘Maccatoni’ (spelling?) for €2 and €2.50 respectively which for an artisan product is, as we say in Yorkshire, as cheap as chips. Keep them out of the plastic bag for a while though so the pasta can dry completely, unless you’re cooking it straight away.
Another nice church is the Basilica San di Nicola www.basilicasannicola.it (admission free).
This is where the relics of Father Christmas are kept.
So lots to see and do. You might want to merge the walk with grazing on some food, for which see my post Barivecchio-Eating Cheaply in the Old Town.