Monday, June 04, 2007

Week three, in which I gush

Bari has a bad name among travellers, and, I found, among the Italians. When I was studying in Padova, I told a friend's homestay mom that I wanted to visit and she told me no, that it was full of thieves.

When I was in a city which shall go nameless for reasons of etiquette, the very nice boy at the tourist agency asked me why I wanted to stay in Bari.

"I don't know," I said. "Because it was an easy starting point for other adventures in the south. Why do you ask?"

"Perché," he said, "it sucks!"

I believed both of them because they were Italian and I was\am not (yet), but recently, I wanted to see if there was truth to the rumors. Now, I can emphatically tell you that I am shocked that Bari has this reputation. Let me explain:

I got off of the bus expecting Naples. Instead, there was a nice little courtyard with a fizzy little fountain and large Sago palms. As I walked further, down Corso Umberto, I emerged into a beautiful piazza, shaded with trees. Farther down was a lovely luxury shopping district, an old city that I would describe as a mix of Jerusalem's old city and Venice without the tourists, and high white walls perfect for gazing into a port full of deep, saphhire water.

The air was clean and cool beacause of the proximity of the centro to the sea. The Baresi were unfailingly nice and easy to talk to, as well as stylish, and I would describe the feel of the city as a mix of Saò Paulo, Rio and Palm Beach, with maybe a twinge of L.A. thrown in. Super-cosmopolitan, well-educated, and beautiful.

Apparently, it's also a great place to get hitched. I saw FIVE weddings in one day. FIVE. Bari is for lovers, people!

Then I got to experience the food and the nightlife. I went to the little Osteria Da Enzo, in the old city, which served a rice, potatoes and mussels dish that was so good that it made me feel like I had never truly eaten before. I got the recipe.

Then there were the outdoor parties, the art shows, and that one bar with the beanbag chairs, the name of which I can't remember, and for good reason :).

And no one stole anything from me. By my second day there, I felt ridiculous even having thought they would. Granted, I still listened to people when they said not to go into the old city at night, but why would I want to go there anyway? The party was in the streets of the new city!

We are talking about a place when you can go to sleep at night and wake up in Corfu; where there are Roman roads running under the glass floors of the restaurants; where there are castles, romatic vistas and the immaculate corpse of Santa Claus (St. Nicholas--I am not kidding). Why don't more people go here? Why don't more people stay here? Why don't more people want to live here? I know I do.

Okay, so most Americans probably go to Italy looking for the quaint little towns. But when you want a lively break from the bucolic countryside, trust me, Bari is the place to take one. A+++

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