The old part of Bari was known as “mugging town” a few decades ago. The tradition of theft started way back in 1087, as Barese sailors managed to steal the bones of St Nicholas (the model for Santa Claus) from Turkey and brought his remains to their city. The relics are still being kept in the crypt of Basilica di San Nicola, almost a millennia later.

Alley in Bari, Italy The alleys of old Bari.

The narrow alleys of Bari Vecchia (Old Bari) turns out to be one of very few places in entire Puglia where I get hassled by local salesmen. I channel my inner Aldo Raine to croak out broken Italian phrases to everyone who have the misfortune of crossing my path.

Pasta ladies, Bari, Italy Pasta ladies.

But there are some occasional lights in the darkness. One such thing are the infamous pasta ladies at the eponymous Strada delle Orecchiette near Arco Basso. They are the true titans of the region, sitting outside their doorways, rolling out endless amounts of fresh pasta.

Handmade pasta, Bari, Italy A slice of heaven – handmade Orecchiette.

The most popular variant is called Orecchiette, named and shaped as little ears. It’s the quintessential pasta shape of Puglia and can be found everywhere. I’ve already had several large and delicious plates of it during the past week, but who can resist the venerable pasta ladies?


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