Bari (Photo:Emi Cristea/Shutterstock)
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Maria Harding
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Bari

Bari, which lies in the Puglia, or Apulia, region of southern Italy (around the heel of the country's "boot" shape) is the kind of port cruise passengers dream about. It boasts a delightfully sunny, palm-lined promenade and broad boulevards with designer shops and top-quality restaurants. And, its lovely medieval Old Town is so atmospheric it could be the set for a particularly romantic version of "Romeo and Juliet" with its balconied houses, pretty courtyards, Baroque and Romanesque churches, chapels, shops and courtyards.

About Bari


Pro

Bari is, simply put, drop-dead gorgeous, and outstanding traditional Italian fare abounds

Con

This is a big city with sometimes stress-inducing, frenetic traffic

Bottom Line

Stroll both the Old Town and New Town sections seeking remarkable architecture and Italian cafes


Find a Cruise to the Eastern Mediterranean



Beyond the city itself lies beautiful Puglia, which is endowed with a sandy coastline, 60 million olive trees, Roman ruins, vast golden wheat fields and the distinctive whitewashed, grey, conical-roofed houses known as the Trulli.

Bari is growing in popularity as a cruise port. Big-ship lines -- including P&O, Costa, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises -- are now visiting there, in addition to the small, upmarket ships of Seabourn, Silversea, Azamara and Oceania Cruises.

This is one port guaranteed to deliver a memorable day ashore -- and even have you planning to come back for a longer visit.

Where You're Docked

Bari has three separate docks for ferries, container / freight vessels and cruise ships. We were greeted on arrival at the cruise dock by a small blue terminal with a big, friendly "Welcome" sign on the outside and passport control desks inside.

Good to Know

Italian traffic can be very daunting, particularly in the narrow streets of the Old Town, where you'll need to keep your wits about you if you don't want to collide with a speeding Vespa (or, as in my case, have a near miss with a cyclist).

You'll also need to be brave in barging across zebra crossings. Italian drivers are a law unto themselves and won't stop unless you make them. (Don't walk right out in front of them, though -- do give a bit of warning for your own safety!)

As with most big cities, Bari can be a hunting ground for pickpockets, so keep bags and pockets well-buttoned, and don't carry too much cash or expensive jewelry.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Currency is the euro; see www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for the latest conversion rates. You'll find an ATM machine right in the port where you dock. Look for the Banco Populaire di Bari, a squat cream building that lies about a two-minute walk to the left of the port entrance, within the perimeter fence.

Language

Italian is the official language. Don't assume you'll find English-speakers, so take a phrasebook along, or at least memorize a few basic phrases like hello (buon giorno), thank you (per favore), how much (quante'e) and I don't understand (non capisco).

Shopping

Puglia is famous for its handmade pasta, which you'll find in many unusual shapes, like tiny leaves, Mexican sombreros or minuscule, hand-rolled cigarillos.

Indeed, these pastas -- in shades of palest ochre, pistachio, cafe creme and sun-washed terracotta -- are so pretty that I'd rather decorate my kitchen with jars of them than cook them. That said, the local pasta dishes taste as good as they look (see Lunching section).