Experiencing the Apulia Region

I agreed to meet up with my friend in Corfu, a popular island in Greece. He chose this spot because apparently there are lots of cheap flights to Corfu from many countries in Europe. When I checked out flights though, it seemed that Malta isn’t one of those countries lol. It didn’t matter, I had lots of time to spare. I figured I could fly to certain Italian cities where there are direct flights to Corfu (like Milan), but those cheap flights arrive late at night. That means I’d have to take a cab from the airport and I’d probably end up spending more. Then I found out that there are ferries coming from Bari and these arrive in Corfu early in the morning. I managed to find a cheap flight from Malta to Bari (with a short layover in Rome). Exploring Bari and its surrounding areas should keep me busy for a couple of days.

From the airport, it’s easy to head to the city center (Bari Centrale). You can either take a bus or a train. A single journey bus ticket only costs 1 euro but it can take about an hour before you reach the center of the city. A single journey train ticket costs 5 euros and it would take 30-40 minutes to reach Bari Centrale. I was kinda hungover tired so I just took the train.

Call me ignorant but I’ve never heard of Bari so I didn’t know what to expect. Apparently, it’s the capital of the Apulia region and it’s the second largest economic region in Southern Italy next to Naples. Although it’s quite a huge city, it’s not really part of the backpacking trail in Italy so there’s a dearth of hostels. Only two hostels popped up when I did a search so I just picked the cheaper one. At 28 euros a night for a dorm bed it wasn’t exactly cheap, but it’s cheaper than any available hotel or Airbnb so I went ahead and booked it. I didn’t really like my stay that much so I’d rather not name the place here. lol.

On my first full day, I decided to walk to the port first— just so I would know where the ferry to Corfu is boarding. After that I spent the rest of the day walking around the city. I have to say I really liked it. It’s a huge city so there’s lots of people, but it doesn’t feel congested at all. In fact it’s kinda laid back. The local bus network is also reliable. There are lots of bus stops, and single journey within the city only costs 1 euro. There are many buses plying each route so you don’t have to wait long. It’s a nice city, so I just mostly walked around. The main attraction would be the old part of town which boasts of many quaint structures.

Bus schedules at the bus stop right outside the Bari Centrale train station

Since the city is right by the Adriatic Sea, there are several beaches by the city where you can swim at. The most popular one seems to be the Pane e Pomodoro beach. Local buses B, 12, and 19 have bus stops nearby. If you’re coming from the old town it’s just a 30 minute leisurely walk.

Pane e Pomodoro Beach

If you have time to spare though, I’d suggest heading out of the city, that’s where the really spectacular beaches are. Perhaps the most beautiful ones can be found in Polignano a Mare. It’s easy to get there by train from Bari Centrale. A one way journey ticket only costs 2.50 Euros and the trip only takes about 30 minutes. There are also buses heading to Polignano a Mare but since taking a bus is more expensive and takes longer, you’re better off taking the train.

The old part of town is beautiful. I’d advise taking a leisurely stroll before you head to one of the beaches. Cala Porto seems to be the most popular beach since it’s right by the center. Here there are also several spots for cliff jumping. The beach is really pebbly so wearing flip flops are a must. I wouldn’t recommend Polignano a Mare for budget travelers. Accommodations and meals at the restaurants are noticeably more expensive. A day trip from Bari is highly recommended though. A single day should be enough to see what the town has to offer. And if you’re on a very tight budget you could easily pack your own lunch.

What’s the point of going to Italy if you won’t be eating local pizza, right? One place that’s highly recommended in Bari is Il Grottini. Don’t expect a fancy place, it’s more like a hole in the wall pizza place, but man the pizza is so good. If you plan on having dinner here though, better head early. We arrived at around 7 PM and we had to wait for about an hour before we got seated.

On my first trip to Italy I’ve crossed off most of the popular places. Places like Rome and Venice were indeed very beautiful but the crowd can get overwhelming at times. I wouldn’t say that the Puglia Region isn’t touristy, but since it’s not as popular and congested as the other places in the country, it felt like a breath of fresh air. It’s great to experience the beauty of Italy away from most of the touristy crowd. It made me appreciate the country even more.


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