The breakfast room at our hotel is up on the sixth floor with a panoramic view of the Adriatic Sea. What a view to start our day with!
Since this is a real working harbor we decide to visit the fish market where the fishermen have just brought in the early morning catch. As we walk along the seafront we are impressed by how clean the water is.
At the market the fishermen are selling their wares. You can get something called a Bari breakfast which is octopus liver and some other delight. John and Sarah are all gung-ho for trying this but luckily we get there too late for the local delicacy. There are all sorts of sealife for sale – fishes, octopi, shrimps, and sea urchins.
It is interesting to see how the octopi are tenderized and cleaned. First they are beaten on the cement to tenderize them and then they are washed in big buckets of what looks like soapy water.
From here we venture into the old city in search of interesting old churches. As usual we come across features from the Roman past.
We are looking for the Basilica of St. Nicholas. The streets are a winding maze of houses, churches, stores, and cafes. Thankfully it is all a pedestrian zone. We come across the side of a large white building and know we are in the right place. On the side is a bas-relief of a Saint with his miracles – dowry to three women, boys in a pickle barrel, three golden balls, it has to be St. Nicholas.
The basilica was constructed between 1087 and 1197. It was is built to house the recovered relics of Saint Nicholas from the saint’s original shrine in Myra, Turkey. When Myra was conquered by the Saracens, it was seen as an opportunity to move the saint’s relics to a safer location. The relics were carried off under the noses of the lawful Greek custodians and their Muslim masters, and on May 9, 1087, were safely landed at Bari. (Paraphrased from Wikipedia)
Like so many of these old, old churches, the interior was redecorated several times to the modern standard of the era. St. Nicholas has been brought back to its original Romanesque look recently but all the frescoes that would have decorated these walls have been lost.
A few early Renaissance pieces exist but like this beautiful Vivarini are kept at a distance from the tourists.
We want to explore the crypt where some of St. Nicholas is entombed but there is a service going on and we need to keep a respectful distance. I am not sure what sect of Catholicism this is. The priests are in peacock blue vestments and wear beards so I imagine it is Eastern Orthodox. Perhaps these are from Myra, Turkey where the relics were taken from. I have read that they are still disgruntled about the “safe-keeping”.
The other famous church here in Bari is the Cathedral of St. Sabinus. It is dedicated to Saint Sabinus, a bishop of Canosa, whose relics were brought here in the 9th century. The present building was constructed between the late 12th and late 13th centuries and was built on the site of the ruins of the Imperial Byzantine cathedral destroyed in 1156. This is another lasagna church and we can explore the centuries underneath for 3 Euros each.
Inside is the same whitewashed look of Basilica of St. Nicholas. Here is a piece of fresco. Maybe St. Sabinus?
We go down below the cathedral where there are catwalks and explanation about what is what but it is hard to visualize.
Rounding a corner there is a fragment of fresco. Stylistically it looks 11th or 12th century.
The most interesting piece is a 6th century mosaic floor by Timoteo with an inscription.
The border contains flowers, fishes, and squid!
We have been tromping around for quite a while and now it is time for lunch. We find our favorite restaurant in Bari, Giampaolo, and settle into a our leisurely main meal of the day. Our waiter is the same one from when we ate here three years ago.
John and Sarah are way more adventurous than I am and end up with the better lunches. I am just afraid of eating things I haven’t tried before.
Thus sated we returned to the hotel for siesta.
Later in the afternoon we went to the local art museum not far from our hotel. John and I had no admission charge because we are so-o-o old. There was a special exhibition by Sandro Chia of the terracotta warriors of Xi-am all painted up in gaudy colors. It was mostly in the midieval and early Renaissance room so we dodged around the 20th century stuff to see the “good” stuff, G. Bellini, Veronese, Tintoretto, etc. Unfortunately no photos allowed and they followed us around so I could not even sneak one!
No dinner tonight we just met for a planning session and retired early.