Bari, Italy, the second largest city of Southern Italy, is capital of the Apulia (or Puglia) region, located on the Adriatic Sea. Named the fifth largest province in Italy, Bari carries a population of about one and half million. The area is composed of limestone hills, near the edge of the Bari basin, a depression formed when the underlying limestone is eroded by underground water and collapses.

As a very prominent seaport, Bari’s port faces the Adriatic Sea and connects to other Adriatic ports via railways, boats and roadways. Bari has become one of the top commercial and industrial leading areas in Italy.

Believed to be originally Illyrian, Bari was controlled by Greeks, and then later, Romans. During the Roman era, Bari was a connection between the coast roadway and the Via Traiana, and was thought to be valuable as a seafood asset. As early as 181 BC, Bari’s harbor is noted in recorded history.

Bari was conquered and ruled, at various times in history  by the Goths, Lombards, Byzantines and the Normans.  Crusaders often sailed from Bari and during the Middle Ages, Bari was ruled by lords such as Hohenstaufens and the Sforzas of Milan. All these influences created the culture of Bari.

The city suffered damage in World War II. Through a tragic coincidence intended by neither of the opposing sides in World War II, Bari gained the unwelcome distinction of being the only European city to experience chemical warfare in the course of that war.

On the night of December 2, 1943, German Junkers Ju 88 bombers attacked the port of Bari, which was a key supply center for Allied forces fighting their way up the Italian Peninsula. Several Allied ships were sunk in the overcrowded harbor, including the U.S. Liberty John Harvey, which was carrying mustard gas; mustard gas was also reported to have been stacked on the quayside awaiting transport. The chemical agent was intended for use, if German forces initiated chemical warfare. The presence of the gas was highly classified, and authorities ashore had no knowledge of it. This increased the number of fatalities, since physicians—who had no idea that they were dealing with the effects of mustard gas—prescribed treatment proper for those suffering from exposure and immersion, which proved fatal in many cases.

On the orders of allied leaders Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower, records were destroyed and the whole affair was kept secret for many years after the war. The U.S. records of the attack were declassified in 1959, but the episode remained obscure until 1967. The affair is the subject of two books: Disaster at Bari, by Glenn B. Infield, and Nightmare in Bari: The World War II Liberty Ship Poison Gas Disaster and Coverup, by Gerald Reminick.

The Basilica of St. Nicola 

Bari is divided into parts which include a modern area called “quarters”, which was developed in 1820, and an ancient district, located on a peninsula to the north, which contains many beautiful Romanesque-Pugliese structures and churches where tourists can relive history, such as the Cathedral of San Sabino (dating back to 1035). There is also a major shopping district: the famous Via Sparano and Via Argiro are located there.

Via Sparano

Via Argiro

Besides being a major seaport in Italy, Bari also has much to offer from an industrial point of view. Chemicals, machinery, printed materials, petroleum and textiles are among the city’s economic contributions. Agriculture is notable in Bari, which includes cherries, tomatoes, artichokes, grapes, table wine, olives and almond production. Bari also takes great pride in its seafood industry, which provides delicious local cuisine.

The ancient district is the place to visit for a historical perspective. Chiesa di San Giacomo is a church which is worth seeing. Other great sites in this district are the Lungomare (promenade), a railway station which was constructed in 1875, the Fiera del Levante, which is one of the largest fairs in Italy. The fair takes place in September and is located close to the shore. The ancient seafaring center is located here as well. On the more modern side of Bari, there are villas and supermarkets. Buses are available for travel in the city. There’s plenty to do during every season: from spending a day at the beach to going horseback riding through the countryside. Cinemas, theaters, museums and churches are abundant in Bari, combining modern entertainment with a taste of history. Winter days are filled with festivals and nativity scenes.

Beach in Bari Italy

The Cuisine of Bari

Potato, Rice and Onion Casserole

Bari offers many creative dishes with colorful vegetables such as turnip tops with orecchiette pasta or cavatelli. Red-yellow peppers stuffed with meat or rice and baked in the oven are another specialty. The cuisine also includes seafood, such as, bass, clams, cuttlefish, mussels, oysters, cod, prawns, sea bream, lobster, anchovies and sole, which are cooked in a variety of methods. There are pizzerias for every type of pizza.

Pizza with Prosciutto and Sage

Pasta is made with simple ingredients such as water, flour and salt and is the star of most  main courses. Handformed orecchiette, cavatelli and fricelli have the right shape and consistency to absorb the traditional sauces of the area based on vegetables, fish or meat.

Tiella of Gaeta

The artisanship of bakers here is evident in the preparation of pizza, focaccia, spicy taralli and the famous Altamura bread (see recipe below), protected by its DOP label and delicious when seasoned with the area’s extra virgin olive oil, Terra di Bari DOP, and garnished with the famous Apulian vegetables and greens.

Among some of the other treats are barattiere, small vegetables, to eat raw in salads, table grapes and sweet Termite olives, seasoned with salt, vinegar, olive oil, spices and natural herbs.

Make Some Bari Inspired Recipes At Home 

Pane di Altamura

Yields 2 Loaves

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1¾ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2–3 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal

Directions:

To create the sponge:

Combine in large bowl of electric mixer: 1 cup water and yeast, stir to dissolve, and let stand 5 minutes. Add all-purpose flour and beat for 1 minute. Cover and let stand at room temperature 8–12 hours.

To make the bread:

Add to the sponge 1 cup water, olive oil, semolina, salt, and enough bread flour to make a soft dough. Mix with the paddle attachment until the ingredients come together in a ball. Switch to the dough hook and knead 8–10 minutes. Add more flour to reduce stickiness. Dust with flour, cover the dough in the bowl with plastic, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Punch dough down, fold it in half, and let it rise again, until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment, and sprinkle with cornmeal. Turn risen dough onto a floured surface, and divide into 2 equal portions. Shape into round loaves, place on prepared pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and set aside to proof for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Dust the top of the risen loaves generously with flour. Using a serrated knife, cut decorative slash marks into the surface of the dough, about ½″ deep. Place a pan of cold water at the bottom of the oven to create steam. Bake until golden brown and hollow sounding, about 30–40 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before serving.

First Course

Pasta With Sardines, Bread Crumbs and Capers

Ingredients:

  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs, ideally made from stale bread
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound long pasta, like perciatelli
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 cans sardines packed in extra virgin olive oil (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish.

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.

Put half the oil (2 tablespoons) in a medium skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, less than 5 minutes, and then remove. Add the remaining oil and the onion to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just tender; drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Turn the heat under the onions to medium-high and add the lemon zest, capers and sardines; cook, stirring occasionally, until just heated through, about 2 minutes.

Add the pasta to the sardine mixture and toss well to combine. Add the parsley, most of the bread crumbs and some reserved water, if necessary, to moisten. Taste and adjust seasoning, garnishing with more parsley and bread crumbs.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Second Course

Pork Chops Pizzaiola

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 center-cut loin pork chops, cut 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • ½ bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup drained canned tomatoes pureed through a sieve or food mill
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ pound green peppers, seeded and cut in 2-by-1/4-inch strips (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • ½ pound fresh mushrooms, whole if small, quartered or sliced if large

Directions:

In a heavy 10-to 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil until a light haze forms over it. Brown the chops in this oil for 2 or 3 minutes on each side and transfer them to a plate. Add the garlic, oregano, thyme, bay leaf and salt to the pan and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the wine and boil briskly to reduce it to about ¼ cup, scrapping in any bits of meat or herbs in the pan. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste and return the chops to the skillet. Baste with the sauce, cover, and simmer over low heat, basting once or twice, for 40 minutes.

Heat the remaining oil in another large skillet. Cook the green peppers in the oil for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms and toss them with the peppers for a minute or two, then transfer them to the pan with the pork chops. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes longer, until the pork and vegetables are tender and the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon heavily. (If the sauce is too thin, remove the chops and vegetables and boil the sauce down over high heat, stirring constantly). To serve, arrange the chops on a heated platter and spoon the vegetables and sauce over them.

Braised Peas with Prosciutto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 cups fresh green peas (about 2 pounds unshelled)
  • ¼ cup chicken stock, fresh or canned
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, cut in 1 by ¼ inch julienne strips (about ¼ cup)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a heavy 1 to 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat and cook the onions for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring frequently until they are soft but not brown. Stir in the green peas and chicken stock, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. When the peas are tender, add the strips of prosciutto and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes more, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Taste for seasoning, Serve the peas in a heated bowl.

NOTE: One 10 ounce package of frozen peas may be substituted for the fresh peas. Defrost the peas thoroughly before using them, and add them to the onions without any stock. Cook the peas uncovered, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, then add the prosciutto, heat through and serve.

 

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