Not really, but somehow the only pictures I have from our short stay in Bari are of these two things (and that’s the first title that came to mind, so I decided to just go with it).
In all truth I chose Bari for one simple reason : I wanted to go to Croatia. And in Croatia I had settled on three main locations : Dubrovnik, Split, and the capital Zagreb. I take this opportunity to remind you that my end destination of this trip is the Netherlands (Rotterdam to be exact) thus, after knowing the main places we wanted to visit (Italy coastal regions, Croatia, Budapest. Netherlands) a northern trend became apparent.
This is how I’ve planned most of our trips so far (and it has not yet steered me wrong). I would look at the cities/countries/regions we most want to go to, find a pattern among a few of them and choose them. From there you just connect the dots. All those childhood game-books were good for something more than just getting me to leave my parents alone. It takes some research and planning, but when you have a known start and end point, it works out well.
Obviously there were many other places in Croatia that I wanted – and still do want – to go to. These were the ones that I settled on, however. Dubrovnik was the furthest south, and to get there from Italy there exists a direct (overnight) ferry. My mom and I had done and overnight ferry on a previous trip from Athens to Chania (on the Greek island Crete) and it had worked out very well as we booked a cabin for ourselves
Interruption number two. This is one of the very many times and reasons that I love traveling with my mother. Even if it means I have to work as travel agent to pay my way (inside joke). Her first trip to Europe was 40 years ago and she still tells me of how she took an overnight ferry from Nice to Corsica and all she had was wooden slats as benches to sit upon. As an adult, and with no desire to repeat this experience (I can somewhat empathize having taken a night bus from Paris to London wherein we had to get off the bus, go through customs and board a 90 minute ferry at 3am. Not Fun.) and thus insisted I book us a cabin with beds. Conclusion : bed on overnight ferry : 150% worth it (I’ve also taken a night train without a couchette (cabin with bed) and it was also miserable).
Back to the main point. I wanted to go to Croatia. I wanted to go to the Italian coast. There was a ferry from Bari (Italian coast) to Dubrovnik (Croatia). Do I need to explain any further? I’d received mixed reviews about Bari and so I only booked a couple days there for us (also because the ferry, at this time of year at least, is only running on certain days).
To get to Bari from Sorrento we had to board the Circumvesuviana one last time, luggage in hand, and return to Naples. And boy, let me tell you that train can get very crowded. A lot of the tourists get off/on at Pompeii, but there’s also many other people going to many other stops along the way. Even boarding at the first stop on the line, it was packed. It’s a little over an hour to Naples, at the other end of the line. From there we went into the main part of the train station and went in search of lunch and a snack for the train. If we’d looked a little harder we may have found some half decent sandwiches, unfortunately we didn’t and got a less than half-decent ones at the first place we stopped (we were hungry, had a lot of luggage and impatient…). I then went off in search of a snack for our trip to Bari. Two Relay stores and a train station cafe later I had finally managed to find all three items I was looking for (water, cashews, and a couple small bottles of wine, one at each location).
Phew, finally we were ready to go to Bari. Unfortunately we could not get a direct train even from Naples to Bari (whether because we booked the ticket so late or because there simply is not one I don’t know). We did manage to get one with only one connection, luckily. It was about a 3-hour all told ride from Naples to Bari. Not bad in truth. And the wonderful thing about the trains in comparison to most other forms of transportation is 1) you can get up and wander around, even if you can only go in one direction 2) more space for you and your stuff and it’s rarely full which means yet more space and 3) you usually get some pretty nice scenery to keep you company (oh, and you don’t have to listen to that safety overview like at the beginning of a flight. I’ve trained myself to fall asleep pretty much as soon as they start it because I’m so tired of listening. Although now you can sill have your devices on to ignore them more easily I suppose. Sorry flight attendants, nothing against you, I know you’re just doing your job.)
Journey and arrival in Bari went down without a hitch. (YAY! Finally!) No problems with the trains, no lost items, no lost people in getting around, and an apartment that was exactly what we had hoped for. After getting settled we went for a stroll to explore our neighborhood. It was a perfect location : close to the train station we had come into, close to a very interesting shopping area filled with cafes and restaurants also, and still an easy walk from the port and the old town.
I am happy to report that the only obstacle we had in Bari was trying to find the port from which we would get the ferry to Dubrovnik. We decided, the next morning, to go stroll towards the port and along the promenade there. This way we could also do some reconnoitering, find out where and how check-in and boarding was going to work two days later. Before we did this we went to go find my mom her morning coffee and a bit for breakfast. I decided to get hot chocolate.
But beware, the one time I had ordered hot chocolate in Sorrento it had been delicious. This time, though, I got a true Italian hot chocolate. It was more like pure melted chocolate than anything else. Delicious, but not quite what I had been expecting or wanting at 9am. Certainly not the breakfast of champions for me, I could barely handle more than a couple sips. Maybe another time… for dessert.
From there we headed off to the Jadrolinija (the name of the ferry line running Bari-Dubrovnik) offices at the port, they told us we actually had to go somewhere else to get our tickets and check-in. “About… 2km (just under 2 miles) in that direction,” he told us. Okay, we set off. A few minutes later we asked another gentleman to confirm that we were going in the right direction. “Just 1 km down that way,” he said pointing in the same direction. We continued. A little while later, feeling we must have gone almost a km, we asked another to see how much longer. “It’s maybe 3km down there,” he informed us. Wait – what?!? Clearly people need to work on their direction estimation. Because 2km = 1km = 3km? Umm… no.
We kept walking. Hit a dead end. Had to walk back to the beginning, continued on the main street. Finally, tired of not knowing where we were going we walked into some government official building to ask them. They, although very friendly and helpful, had very little idea. They tried looking it up online and eventually came to the conclusion that we had just passed it, and we needed to turn around. My mom and I debated the validity of this a little bit, looked at our map again, walked a couple streets back, and finally gave up. We’d been walking for quite a while, were getting nowhere, and needed to take a break and have a cold drink (and I was getting seriously sunburned at this point).
A stroll through the Old Town of Bari after lunch showed it to be very different from the Old Town’s of most other cities that I have visited. Usually, it is a main tourist area, very busy with interesting little shops, and restaurants, and such. In Bari, however, I found the Old Town to be a very calm area, mostly residential, with very few shops to draw tourists to it and only a couple restaurants in the occasional larger square. It was still interesting to stroll through, but not somewhere I can imagine spending an entire day exploring as in previous experiences. As stores started to close for the afternoon meal and rest time we headed back to our own apartment to rest as well. It was perfect as it had a very large private courtyard which allowed us to sit outside and not feel as if we were locked up in the apartment for long periods of time (and a washing machine so we could finally do some laundry!)
Heading back out as it cooled down we went in search of some food. Just down he street we found a fishmonger/restaurant. You could either go in to buy something to take home and cook, or you could sit down and have a proper meal. We had a delicious tasting platter and a bottle of local wine to share. Again, I only knew for certain what some of the samples were and could guess about others. Whatever the name of each item, however, it was all delicious. For a proper dinner later that night we went to a pizza restaurant just a little further down the street. It was worth waiting for him to make our pizza to go as the restaurant was empty enough that we could stand off to the side and watch him making our (delicious buffalo cheese and tomato) pizza.
We have not visited any museums since leaving Aix, and the only real historical sight that we’ve made it a point to visit was Pompeii in Sorrento. In Bari, however, we stumbled across a castle of sorts and decided to go in. Parts were still being restored, so unfortunately the entirety of the upper floors was closed off. We were able to wander the courtyards and ground floor rooms, though, and even down into the basement were we saw even clearer evidence of the excavation. Very interesting, I just wish I could see it with all the work done.
That night we were packed and headed to the ferry. I had looked it up online and found the proper port and our hosts had also been nice enough to look into it and found a bus that went directly there. We got there extremely early, but got quite an interesting air show of military jets doing maneuvers to entertain us while we waited for check-in to open. (Once again) not sure the reason, but very fun to watch as it’s not something you see every day.
Finally (after much lining up, waiting, next location and repeat) we got onto the ferry and into our room. Because it is not yet high season all of the stores were closed on the boat and only the formal restaurant and bar were open for dinner. The meal was… okay. Not ideal. In the same situation again I think I would buy a sandwich beforehand and take it on the ship. High season the self-serve restaurant is open though which I assume has sandwiches and such. The wine was interesting, from Iceland if I heard him correctly. Like a plane or a train, sleeping on a ferry is not ideal, but it was much better with a bed than it would have been in general seating at least.
And thus ended a very short but very enjoyable stay in Bari. We were there two nights, and about one full day and a half. It was perfect for us. We got to relax, stroll, shop, and wander the town. I don’t know if I would recommend any more time there. I’m sure, if you wanted to go, there would be more things to occupy you for more time (beaches, historical buildings, etc.) but it was perfect for us. We did truly enjoy our time in Bari, but left excited to explore a country completely new for the both of us : Croatia. So Croatia, here we come!
Do you have a favorite form of travel (plane, train, car, ferry?) Or any interesting experiences on one or the other. (I have so many messed up train and plane experiences I could share! Yay, another thing to add to my to-do list) Go ahead and share them if you want by clicking the comment button to the right of the title!