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  • 27.May.09

    An Englishman in Bari

    For a job application, I was asked to write about a city in Italy – in both Italian and English. I chose Bari, not so far from the place where I was born.


    Bari is among the most important cities in Southern Italy: its municipal territory has a smaller scale than Naples but, sure enough, its magnificent story is second to no other cities. Lapped by the sea, Bari could boast in fact a trade harbor at the crossroads of Mediterraneo Sea: during the centuries, different cultures had met in Bari, also coming from Eastern world. Even at the present day, Levante’s Fair is one the most prominent all around Europe; the main event takes place in September, attracting about two millions of visitors.
    Tourist can also trace past signs of those ancient meeting among civilizations, walking through the narrow streets of the millenary urban center or just visiting the Norman Castle, also known as the Svevo Castle: it’s Bari’s biggest fortification, built in 1131 by King Roger to defend the city during its tumultuous past. Indeed, the Norman rule marked a new beginning, with regard to the previous period under Byzantine domination. However, the Byzantines came back to seek revenge and destroyed the castle a few decades later: that’s way in 13th century Emperor Frederic II turned it into an enlarged building.
    Bari has also to pay honour to Normans because, under their kingdom, Nicholas the Wonderworker’s relics had been transferred to the city: since 1087, the crypt of the Romanesque basilica has been one of the most highly regarded sacred place of Christendom. Beside religious issues, citizens signify their fondness to the patron saint with a feast. Saint Nicholas’ Day is scheduled for the earlier day of May and it’s worth a visit: first, for the peculiar night gathering of fishermen’s boats at the jetty, with people saying goodbye to the saint’s relics; next, for the flourish ornaments all around the city. In spring, weather is warm enough to even take the chance and have a bath, that’s the good of living on Mediterraneo’s seashore!
    Talking about sea, tourists have to remember to taste some of the typical local fish dishes. Other savoury ingredients in Bari’s cookery are wheat and oil, or almonds and cinnamon for pastries, that bring with them a striking oriental memory.

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