“If Paris had the sea, it would be a little Bari”: this joking way of saying is enough to immediately understand the extraordinary sense of belonging that distinguishes the inhabitants of Bari.
A people linked to their city by an almost visceral relationship, an attachment to their roots that has no equal, and which in the kitchen translates into the excellent enhancement of local products and the preservation of traditions, as in all wine and good food of Puglia.
In fact, it is customary to meet on Bari's seafront at aperitif time to eat an octopus carpaccio just curled up on the rocks by one of the many fishermen who are on the shore at that time after gathering their nets: the octopus is seasoned only with squeezed lemon to best enhance the exquisite taste of the sea.
A simple aperitif made with just a few ingredients, the taste of which will accompany you through the streets of Bari Vecchia, just long enough to be inebriated by the aroma of typical cuisine that will enrapture you with the simplicity of its combinations. It is a humble cuisine but with fine ingredients, wisely chosen, and for this reason able to give the dishes a unique flavour.
The most famous culinary specialities: tricks and secrets
In Puglia, good food is at home, which is why every home is a small part of the world's heritage as it holds recipes and traditions handed down from generation to generation: a set of written and oral knowledge that is often enhanced when it meets innovation.
Bari has managed to treasure this rich baggage, a recipe book created over time that we have reported in this article that describes the most renowned culinary specialties of the Bari cuisine.
You cannot leave Bari without having tasted a dish of riso, patate e cozze (rice, potatoes and mussels)! It would be like saying you’ve never been there.
Symbol of the culinary specialties of Bari, it is the traditional dish par excellence.
It used to be cooked by mothers and grandmothers and is an example of how two simple ingredients such as potatoes and mussels, easily available in the area, can exalt each other in the mouth. Tradition teaches that the potatoes, once peeled, should be placed in an earthenware dish and seasoned with garlic, onion, cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper.
Only at the end are added the mussels, cleaned by hand, and the rice. The trick is to add previously filtered water from the mussels, a real touch of class.
Continuing our journey through the flavours of Bari and its culinary specialities, we cannot fail to notice the ladies of the Città Vecchia (Old Town) preparing pasta with the help of a simple knife and a great deal of skill. We are of course talking about orecchiette, made with durum wheat semolina, water and salt.
They are cooked in many ways, one of which is mixing them with turnips. The secret to flavor the dish is to cook the homemade pasta in the same water used to boil the turnips. After draining them, the orecchiette are stir-fried together with the olive oil, garlic and anchovies: the result is an explosion of flavor that will leave you speechless.
As is well known, Sunday in southern Italy is traditionally dedicated to family lunch, and Bari is no exception. Strolling through the streets of the old town centre, you can smell the ragù sauce used to season the brasciole, tasty rolls of strictly horse meat. Then stuffed with parsley, garlic and Parmesan cheese, the brasciole are left to brown gently for hours in a sauce that will literally make you lick your lips.
Street food has always had an intrinsic link with Bari, as many of the culinary specialities of the Apulian capital are now referred to as such. These include the calzone di cipolla, a closed pizza stuffed with onions, olives in water typical of Puglia, and sometimes capers, raisins and anchovies. In the streets of the city, it is traditional to eat it when it is lukewarm, a little trick to make it even tastier and more pleasing to the palate.
As we have said, Bari's culinary specialities are the result of the enhancement of simple ingredients, namely those products that the generous land of the South has always given to the expert hands of farmers.
Such as fave e cicorie (broad beans and chicory) for example, a dish that is nowadays referred to as poor but is actually rich in nutrients and beneficial properties.
The typical recipe does not allow variations: the chicories are boiled, while half a potato is added to the beans to give the right consistency to the puree. A small exception is the addition of a few slices of crusty Apulian bread to accompany your palate as you enjoy this wonderful traditional dish.
But Bari is not only famous for its first and second courses. As in the whole region, we find sweeter and tastier culinary specialities even in the capital. Here are some examples.
- Popular especially during the Christmas season, cartellate are very thin strips of dough wrapped around themselves to form a sort of rose, fried in plenty of olive oil and served with icing sugar or honey. After tasting the first one, the risk of not wanting to stop is very high. For those with a sweet tooth, try them covered in vincotto for an explosion of pleasure.
- The sporcamuss is a typical festive dessert. Whether it's Christmas or Easter, it can't be missed on the tables of the people of Bari. Its name is linked to the ease with which it is normal to get your face dirty - “u muss” in the local dialect - while you are biting this square-shaped cake finely decorated with a sprinkling of icing sugar. It is made up of several layers of puff pastry that wrap around a heart of custard. Enjoyed while still warm or left to cool slightly, it is ideal for a pleasant moment of relaxation.
- The intorchiate with almonds are the right choice for those who want to play it safe without running the risk of being disappointed. A simple dessert, not very elaborate but ideal for a moment of pause because the goodness of its flavor also accompanies particular benefits for the mood. Toasted almonds, covered with granular sugar, decorate this beloved biscuit which is very crumbly and with a characteristic braid shape that makes them irresistible at all ages.
Discover Bari with Slow Active Tours
The many culinary specialties of the city of Frederick II are an opportunity to recharge your batteries before continuing your journey. Here are our proposals that pass through Bari:
- The Cammino Materano connects the capital of Puglia with Matera, passing along ravines and rocky sites, ancient cart tracks and paths in the woods that will let you experience the thrill of the journeys of the past, those in which you did not know exactly when you would arrive at your destination.
- The Cammino Materano by gravel bike or MTB in a group will take you through Puglia and Basilicata, two regions very similar at first glance, but strong in their own characteristics and identity.
- For those who love to travel by bike, we also propose the Unesco tour, a cycle route designed to link the three Unesco sites of Castel del Monte, Matera and Alberobello. A week dedicated to the lands of the Murge in the Apulian National Park, to Matera's Rupestrian Churches, to the Murgia so-called of the Trulli, and finally to the sea of Polignano, conquered all downhill after leaving behind the Castellana Caves.
- From Bari, crossing small villages rich in art and history, you can reach the enchanting Matera and its Sassi with the tour Discover Matera and the north of Puglia. In the middle of the journey, Castel del Monte dominates, solitary and imposing, in the countryside of the Alta Murgia Park. The itinerary will be made even more interesting by traveling by public transport: to get in touch with the local people, to have time to observe, reflect, chat.
Slow-paced holidays represent the new way to travel to discover new places, always remaining in contact with nature. A safe and fun experience that will allow you to meet many new people, future travel companions to whom you will be bound by the wonder of the surrounding landscapes.
So what are you waiting for? Get your backpack ready!