AskDefine | Define Bari

Dictionary Definition

Bari n : capital city of the Apulia region on the Adriatic coast

User Contributed Dictionary

see bari



Proper noun

  1. Province of Apulia, Italy.
  2. Town, port and capital of Bari and also the capital of Apulia.
  3. A Nilotic language of Sudan.


  • Bulgarian: Бари
  • French: Bari (1, 2)
  • Italian: Bari (1) , Bari (2)
  • Maltese: Bari

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Proper noun

  1. Bari (province)
  2. Bari (town)

Extensive Definition

For other uses, see Bari.
Bari (Barium in Latin, Bàrion or Vàrion in Greek, Bare in Barese Dialect) is the capital city of the province of Bari and of the Apulia (or, in Italian, Puglia) region, on the Adriatic sea, in Italy. It is the second economic centre of southern Italy and is well known as a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas of Bari. The city itself has a decreasing population of 328,458 over 116 km², while the fast-growing urban area counts 653,028 inhabitants over 203 km². Another 500,000 people live in the metropolitan area.
Bari is made up of four different urban sections. To the north, the closely built old town on the peninsula between two modern harbours, with the splendid Basilica of San Nicola (Saint Nicholas), the Cathedral of San Sabino (1035 - 1171) and the Castello Svevo of Frederick II, is now also one of the major nightlife districts. The Murattiano section to the south, the modern heart of the city, is laid out on a rectangular gird-plan with a promenade on the sea, and the major shopping district (the via Sparano and via Argiro). The more modern city surrounding this center was the result of chaotic development during the 1960s and 1970s over the old suburbs that had developed along roads splaying outwards from gates in the city walls. Finally, the outer suburbs have been in rapid development during the 1990s. The city has a redeveloped airport named after Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla Airport, with connections to many European destinations, including London Stansted.



Barion (Latin Barium), does not seem to have been a place of great importance in Greater Greece; only bronze coins struck by it have been found. Once it passed under Roman rule in the third century BC, it developed strategic significance as the point of junction between the coast road and the Via Traiana; a branch road to Tarentum led from Barium. Its harbour, mentioned as early as 181 BC, was probably the principal one of the district in ancient times, as it is at present, and was the centre of a fishery. The first historical Bishop of Bari was Gervasius who was noted at the Council of Sardica in 347. The bishops were dependent on the Patriarch of Constantinople until the 10th century.

Middle Ages

After the devastations of the Gothic Wars, under Lombard rule a set of written regulations was established, the Consuetudines Barenses, which influenced similar written constitutions in other southern cities.
For a brief period of 20 years, Bari was captured by Islamic invaders and became the Emirate of Bari under the emir Kahfun in 847. The city was soon reconquered by the Byzantines in 870. In 885, it became the residence of the local Byzantine catapan, or governor. The failed revolt (1009-1011) of the Lombard nobles Melus of Bari and his brother-in-law Dattus, against the Byzantine governorate, though it was firmly repressed at the Battle of Cannae (1018), offered their Norman adventurer allies a first foothold in the region. In 1025, under the Archbishop Byzantius, Bari became attached to the see of Rome and was granted "provincial" status.
In 1071, Bari was captured by Robert Guiscard, following a three-year siege. Maio of Bari (d. 1160), a Lombard merchant's son, was the third of the great admirals of Norman Sicily. The Basilica di San Nicola was founded in 1087 to receive the relics of this saint, which were surreptitiously brought from Myra in Lycia, in Byzantine territory. The saint began his development from Saint Nicolas of Myra into Saint Nicolas of Bari and began to attract pilgrims, whose encouragement and care became central to the economy of Bari. In 1095 Peter the Hermit preached the first crusade there. In October 1098, Urban II, who had consecrated the Basilica in 1089, convened the Council of Bari, one of a series of synods convoked with the intention of reconciling the Greeks and Latins on the question of the filioque clause in the Creed, which Anselm ably defended, seated at the pope's side. The Greeks were not brought over to the Latin way of thinking, and the Great Schism was inevitable. A civil war broke out in Bari in 1117 with the murder of the archbishop, Riso. Control of Bari was seized by Grimoald Alferanites, a native Lombard, and he was elected lord in opposition to the Normans. By 1123, he had increased ties with Byzantium and Venice and taken the title gratia Dei et beati Nikolai barensis princeps. Grimoald increased the cult of St Nicholas in his city. He later did homage to Roger II of Sicily, but rebelled and was defeated in 1132.
Bari was occupied by Manuel I Komnenos between 1155-1158. In 1246, Bari was sacked and razed to the ground; Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, repaired the fortress of Baris but it was subsequently destroyed several times. Bari recovered each time.

Early modern Bari

Isabella di Aragona, princess of Naples and widow of the Duke of Milan Gian Galeazzo Sforza, enlarged the castle, which she made her residence, 1499-1524. After the death of Bona Sforza, Queen of Poland, Bari came to be included in the Kingdom of Naples and its history contracted to a local one, as malaria became endemic in the region. Bari was wakened from its provincial somnolence by Napoleon's brother-in-law Joachim Murat. As Napoleonic King of Naples Murat ordered the building in 1808 of a new section of the city, laid out on a rational grid plan, which bears his name today as the Murattiano. Under this stimulus, Bari developed into the most important port city of the region. The legacy of Mussolini can be seen in the imposing architecture along the seafront.

The 1943 chemical warfare disaster

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 ship 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. Because rescuers were unaware they were dealing with gas casualties many additional casulalties were caused among the rescuers by contact with the contaminated skin and clothing of those more directly exposed to the gas.
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. Indeed, even today, many "Baresi" are still unaware of what happened and why. Up to the present, there is a considerable dispute as to the number of fatalities. In one account: "[s]ixty-nine deaths were attributed in whole or in part to the mustard gas, most of them American merchant seamen"; others put it as high as "more than one thousand Allied servicemen and more than one thousand Italian civilians" Part of the confusion and controversy derives from the fact that the German attack, which became nicknamed "The Little Pearl Harbor", was highly destructive and lethal in itself, apart from the effects of the gas. Attribution of the causes of death to the gas, as distinct from the direct effects of the German attack, have proved far from easy.
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.

Bari today

Bari is now mostly a modern industrial city. Nevertheless, some of Italy's most interesting and undiscovered areas lie within the province of Bari, and the region of Puglia. Bari itself is a proud and hard-working port city with strong traditions based on its Saint Nicholas. Bari is known throughout Italy for its strong, often crude, spoken dialect, particularly in the Old Town, parts of which originated from a pidgin between Italian and Greek fishermen in the past, and which fishermen in Greece can still understand today. Bari is also known for its culinary traditions, in particular Orecchiette with Cime di rape, little ear-shaped pasta with turnip tops, and its common Sunday dish "pasta al forno", which varies from family to family including anything from eggs to Octopus.

Main sights

Basilica di San Nicola

The Basilica di San Nicola (Saint Nicholas) was founded in 1087 to receive the relics of this saint, which were brought from Myra in Lycia, and now lie beneath the altar in the crypt, where are buried the Topins, which are a legacy of old thieves converted to good faith. The church is one of the four Palatine churches of Apulia (the others being the cathedrals of Acquaviva delle Fonti and Altamura, and the church of Monte Sant'Angelo sul Gargano.

Cathedral of St. Sabinus

The church of St. Sabinus (the current Duomo of the city) was begun in Byzantine style in 1034, but was destroyed in the sack of the city of 1156. A new building was thus built between 1170-1178, partially inspired by that of San Nicola. Of the original edifice, only traces of the pavement are today visible in the transept.
An important example of Apulian Romanesque architecture, the church has a simple Romanesque façade with three portals; in the upper part is a rose window decorated with monstruous and fantasy figures. The interior has a nave and two aisles, divided by sixteen columns with arcades. The crypt houses the relics of St. Sabinus and the icon of the Madonna Odigitria.
The interior and the façade were redecorated in Baroque style during the 18th century, but these additions were deleted in the 1950s restoration.

Petruzzelli Theatre

Fire-bombed in the early 1990s, the Petruzzelli theatre had been one of the grandest opera houses in Italy after La Scala in Milan and the San Carlo Theatre in Naples. Host to many famous opera and ballet greats throughout the last century, the shell of the Petruzzelli in Corso Cavour is subject to an ongoing restructuing project. Although seemingly slow, the theatre should re-open its doors before 2010

Castello Normanno Svevo

The Norman-Hohenstaufen Castle, widely known as the Castello Svevo, was built by Roger II of Sicily around 1131. Destroyed in 1156, it was rebuilt by Frederick II of Hohenstaufen. The castle now serves as a gallery for a variety of temporary exhibitions in the city.

The Russian Church

The Russian Church, in the Carrassi district of Bari was built in the early 20th century to welcome Russian pilgrims who came to the city to visit the church of Saint Nichlas in the old city where the relics of the saint remain.
Built on a large area of council-owned land, the city council and Italian national government were recently involved in a trade-off with the Putin government in Moscow, exchanging the piece of land on which the church stands, for, albeit indirectly, a military barracks near Bari's central station. The hand over was seen as building bridges between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches.


Barivecchia, or Old Bari, is a sprawl of streets and passageways making up the section of the city to the North of the modern Murat area. Barivecchia was until fairly recently considered a no-go area by many of Bari's residents due to the high levels of petty crime. A large-scale redevelopment plan beginning with a new sewerage system and followed by the development of the two main squares, Piazza Mercantile and Piazza Ferrarese has seen the opening of many pubs and other venues. This has been welcomed by many who claim that the social life of the city, and in particular the experience for tourists in Bari, has been improved and that jobs and revenue have been created. Others point out the effects of late-night noise in the enclosed squares and criticise development based mainly on pubs and other such premises.


  • Teatro Margherita.
  • Teatro Piccinni.
  • Orto Botanico dell'Università di Bari, a botanical garden.
  • Santa Chiara, once church of the Teutonic Knights (as Santa maria degli Alemanni) and now closed. It was restored in 1539.
  • The medieval church of San Marco dei Veneziani, with a notable rose window in the façade.
  • San Giorgio degli Armeni.
  • Santa Teresa dei Maschi, the main Baroque church in the city (1690-1696).
  • Pane e Pomodoro Beach is the main beach within reach of the city. Its reputation has for several years suffered from the apparent presence of asbestos from nearby industrial plants.
  • The eastern seafront skyline of Bari had, until spring 2006, been dominated by the monsterous apartment complex known as Punta Perotti - a creation of the Matarrese construction empire. Clearly in violation of several fundamental Italian building regulations, Punta Perotti became the focus of a political and environmental movement calling for its demolition. After years of legal wrangling between the Matarrese firm, Bari Council and environmental groups such as Save the Earth, the court ruled in favour of its demolition and thousands gathered on the Bari seafront in April 2006 to see the event.
  • The grid-shaped Murat city Centre of Bari is said to be the largest shopping centre in all of Italy and contains a large number of high-street stores and smaller shops with particular attention to high fashion and tailoring. Bari has recently seen a proliferation of out of town hypermarkets with all manner of shops and superstores attached to them.

Fiera del Levante

The Fiera del Levante is said to be the largest trade fair in the Adriatic and involves exhibitions from many sectors and industries. Held in September in the Fiera site on the west side of Bari city centre, the Fiera attracts many exhibitors from Italy, around the Mediterranean, its trade corridors to the east and beyond. Mainly focused on agriculture and industry, there are also stalls, exhibitions and presentations by a wide variety of compaines and organisations in many fields. There is also a "Fair of Nations" which displays handcrafted and locally produced goods from all over the world.
This year's Fiera also saw an "Expo Fishing" which brought together fishing methods, tackle and know-how from across the Mediterranean.


Local football team A.S. Bari play in the impressive Stadio San Nicola, an architecturally innovative 58,000-seater stadium purpose-built for the 1990 world cup.


Bari is a very homogenous city. However, due to legal and illegal migrations, there has been an increasing presence of immigrants chiefly from Albania, who also constitute the nation's largest immigrant minority.
  • Italian: 98.1 %
  • Albanian: 0.4 %
  • Mauritian: 0.3 %
  • Greek: 0.2 %
  • Chinese: 0.1 %
  • Others: 0.9 %
The presence of foreigners owes itself to the University of Bari and its exchange programmes and also to the number of language schools which are to be found throughout the city. Such a range of language schools bring a small but significant and steady number of English speaking teachers to the area, mostly from the United States, Britain and Ireland but also Canada and other Commonwealth nations- many of these teachers remain resident in the city for at least a couple of years and some stay, thus contributing to an ever present "Anglo-Saxon" and "Celtic" element in the city.


Further reading

  • Vito Antonio Melchiorre, Note storiche su Bari 2001.
Bari in Arabic: باري
Bari in Bengali: বারি
Bari in Bosnian: Bari
Bari in Breton: Bari
Bari in Bulgarian: Бари
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Bari in Modern Greek (1453-): Μπάρι
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Bari in Irish: Bari
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Bari in Hindi: बारी
Bari in Croatian: Bari
Bari in Bishnupriya: বারি
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Bari in Icelandic: Bari
Bari in Italian: Bari
Bari in Hebrew: בארי (עיר)
Bari in Javanese: Bari
Bari in Latin: Barium (urbs)
Bari in Latvian: Bari
Bari in Lithuanian: Baris (Italija)
Bari in Ligurian: Bari
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Bari in Dutch: Bari (stad)
Bari in Newari: बरि
Bari in Japanese: バーリ
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Bari in Occitan (post 1500): Bari (vila)
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Bari in Simple English: Bari
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