Stalking Santa’s bones and pasta-making nonne in Bari Vecchia

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  • June 15, 2016
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It’s funny the things that inspire you to visit a town. I’m often drawn by the strange and the strangely religious. I’d been reading about Bari, a port town in Puglia and was struck by two things: a church where Santa’s bones are apparently buried, and the chance to see elderly ladies making pasta on the town streets.

Mr Travelling Pantaloni and I have this driving in Italy thing down pat. He drives, I navigate. I use a car GPS and a paper map for the long distances, then switch to one of my iphone map apps (I like citymaps2go) for the detail once we get into town. We’ve learnt by experience not to take the lucky park thing too far, and typically stop on the outskirts of the old town, before things get too hairy and you find yourself reversing back up a tiny alleyway or about to drive down a set of stairs… These days we’re quite happy to walk those last 200 metres for the sake of our sanity.

So in Bari we found an excellent parking spot right near the castle and although it wasn’t high on my list of things to see, we popped our heads in anyway.

Castello Svevo BariThere are a lot of castles in this part of Italy, and they all look much the same to my castle-uneducated eye. The outside’s the best bit of this one in my opinion, especially the moat. Although it’s now grassy, you can easily imagine interlopers being thrown in here back in the day.

Castello Svevo BariWe found the cathedral (closed for the afternoon siesta) and wandered through the streets of Bari Vecchia (old Bari). This is my kind of place – slightly run-down, plenty of street shrines to admire and life lived on the streets.

Bari Vecchia

street shrine Bari Vecchia

Bari VecchiaIt was by accident that we stumbled upon the Basilica di Santa Nicola, the church where the remains of Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus) are apparently buried after being stolen from another church.

wedding fiat 500, Basilica di Santa Nicola, Bari VecchiaThe painted wooden ceiling is beautiful

painted wooden ceiling, Basilica di Santa Nicola, Bari VecchiaAs is the one thousand year old tabernacle

Basilica di Santa Nicola, Bari VecchiaBut the best part is the crypt where St Nick’s bones are. It’s beautiful, but the day we visited it was filled with singing lady pilgrims wearing scarves, accompanied by a priest swinging incense around. I mean really, could it get any better?!

pilgrims worshipping, Basilica di Santa Nicola, Bari Vecchia

Basilica di Santa Nicola, Bari Vecchia

pilgrim worshipping, Basilica di Santa Nicola, Bari Vecchia

I probably shouldn’t have taken this, but I couldn’t resist …

Basilica di Santa Nicola, Bari Vecchia

Saint Nick

We wandered back to the cathedral which despite being the best example of a Romanesque church in this area, didn’t excite me nearly as much as the one we’d just been to.

Bari duomoThere are a few other things to see in Bari – the Margherita theatre (pretty but firmly closed), Teatro Petruzzelli (also closed)

Teatro Petruzzelli, Bariand Palazzo Fizzarotti with its beautiful mosaic exterior

Palazzo Fizzarotti, Baribut the one thing I really wanted to see eluded me – the pasta making ladies. They’re supposed to hang out in ‘pasta alley’ but where is it? We walked back through Bari Vecchia again poking our noses into anything that looked like a hang out for ladies who like to make pasta, while simultaneously searching for good gelato. We never found good gelato, but just as we were walking back to the car and I was moaning to Mr Travelling Pantaloni about not finding pasta alley I saw one! Hot-footing it in her direction we came to a laneway where a handful of ladies were sitting outside their houses making orecchiette.

Nonna making orecchiette, Bari Vecchia

Nonna #1

Nonne making orecchiette, Bari Vecchia

Making orecchiette in front of the telly and while on the phone

We chatted and took photos and I went away a very happy lady having seen both Santa and the nonne.

We visited Bari from Trani which you can read about here.

What inspires you to visit a particular place?

Until next time, happy travels,

The Travelling Pantaloni

Passport stamp for Travelling Pantaloni

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