Bari is the capital city of the province of Bari and of the Puglia region, on the Adriatic Sea, in Italy. It is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples, and is well known as a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas.
Until the arrival of the Normans, Bari continued to be governed by the Byzantines, with only occasional interruption. Throughout this period, and indeed throughout the Middle Ages, Bari served as one of the major slave depots of the Mediterranean, providing a central location for the trade in Slavic slaves. The slaves were mostly captured by Venice from Dalmatia, the Holy Roman Empire from what is now Prussia and Poland, and the Byzantines from elsewhere in the Balkans, and were generally destined for other parts of the Byzantine Empire and (most frequently) the Muslim states surrounding the Mediterranean: the Abbasid Caliphate, the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba, the Emirate of Sicily, and the Fatimid Caliphate (which relied on Slavs purchased at the Bari market for its legions of Sakalaba Mamluks).
For 20 years, Bari was the center of the Emirate of Bari; the city was captured by its first emirs Kalfun in 847, who had been part of the mercenary garrison installed there by Radelchis I of Benevento. The city was conquered and the Emirate extinguished in 871, due to the efforts of Emperor Louis II and a Byzantine fleet. Chris Wickham states Louis spent five years campaigning to reduce then occupy Bari, "and then only to a Byzantine/Slav naval blockade"; "Louis took the credit" for the success, adding "at least in Frankish eyes", then concludes by noting that by remaining in southern Italy long after this success, he "achieved the near-impossible: an alliance against him of the Beneventans, Salernitans, Neapolitans and Spoletans; later sources include Sawadān as well."
In 1071, Bari was captured by Robert Guiscard, following a three-year siege. Maio of Bari (died 1160), a Lombard merchant's son, was the third of the great admirals of Norman Sicily. The Basilica di San Nicola was founded in 1087 to receive the relics of this saint, which were surreptitiously brought from Myra in Lycia, in Byzantine territory. The saint began his development from Saint Nicholas of Myra into Saint Nicholas of Bari and began to attract pilgrims, whose encouragement and care became central to the economy of Bari. In 1095 Peter the Hermit preached the first crusade there. In October 1098, Urban II, who had consecrated the Basilica in 1089, convened the Council of Bari, one of a series of synods convoked with the intention of reconciling the Greeks and Latins on the question of the filioque clause in the Creed, which Anselm ably defended, seated at the pope's side. The Greeks were not brought over to the Latin way of thinking, and the Great Schism was inevitable.
Bari was occupied by Manuel I Komnenos between 1155–1158. In 1246, Bari was sacked and razed to the ground; Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, repaired the fortress of Baris but it was subsequently destroyed several times. Bari recovered each time.
On the night of December 2, 1943, German Junkers Ju 88 bombers attacked the port of Bari, which was a key supply centre for Allied forces fighting their way up the Italian Peninsula. Several Allied ships were sunk in the overcrowded harbour, including the U.S. Liberty ship John Harvey, which was carrying mustard gas; mustard gas was also reported to have been stacked on the quayside awaiting transport. The chemical agent was intended for use if German forces initiated chemical warfare. The presence of the gas was highly classified, and authorities ashore had no knowledge of it. This increased the number of fatalities, since physicians—who had no idea that they were dealing with the effects of mustard gas—prescribed treatment proper for those suffering from exposure and immersion, which proved fatal in many cases. Because rescuers were unaware they were dealing with gas casualties, many additional casualties were caused among the rescuers through contact with the contaminated skin and clothing of those more directly exposed to the gas.
The affair is the subject of two books: Disaster at Bari, by Glenn B. Infield, and Nightmare in Bari: The World War II Liberty Ship Poison Gas Disaster and Coverup, by Gerald Reminick.
Homemade dough is also used for baked calzoni stuffed with onions, anchovies, capers and olives; fried panzerotti with mozzarella, simple focaccia alla barese with tomatoes, little savoury taralli, friselle and sgagliozze, fried slices of polenta all make up the Bari culinary reportoire.
Olive oil and garlic are widely in use. Vegetable minestrone, chick peas, broad beans, chickory, celery and fennel are also often served as first courses or side dishes.
Meat dishes and the local Barese ragù often include lamb, pork and often horse meat, considered something of a local delicacy.
Pasta al forno, a baked pasta dish, is very popular in Bari and was historically a Sunday dish, or a dish used at the start of Lent when all the rich ingredients such as eggs and pork had to be used for religious reasons. The recipe commonly consists of penne or similar tubular pasta shapes, a tomato sauce, small beef and pork meatballs and halved hard boiled eggs; but different families have variations. The pasta is then topped with mozzarella or similar cheese and then baked in the oven to make the dish have its trademark crispy texture.
Bari and its province, not to mention the Puglia region, have a range of notable wines including Primitivo, Castel del Monte and Moscato di Trani.
- Bari Cathedral is the cathedral of Bari, senior to, though less famous than, the Basilica of St. Nicholas. The cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Bari-Bitonto, as it was previously of the archbishops, earlier bishops, of Bari. 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, mostly in the last thirty years of the 12th century, and was built on the site of the ruins of the Imperial Byzantine cathedral destroyed in 1156 by William I of Sicily known as the Wicked (il Malo); to the right of the transept it is still possible to observe traces of the original pavement which extends under the nave.
- The Castello Svevo (Swabian Castle) Probably built in 1132 by Norman King Roger II, it was destroyed in 1156 by king William I of Sicily and rebuilt and reinforced in 1233 by the Holy Roman emperor Fredrick II. During the Angevin domination, it went through several transformation, and after being acquired by Duke Ferdinand of Aragon, was donated to the Sforza family and passed to Bona Sforza, Queen of Poland. After Bona's death, it was returned under the King of Naples and transformed into a prison and barracks. The castle is surrounded by a moat on all sides, except the northern section, which was bordering the sea and can be accessed from the bridge and the gate on the southern side. It is mainly composed of the Aragon walls and the main Swabian tower, and is currently used for exhibitions.
- The Teatro Petruzzelli is the largest theatre of the city of Bari and the fourth Italian theatre by size. The history of the Teatro Petruzzelli of Bari begins when Onofrio and Antonio Petruzzelli, traders and ship builders of Trieste presented the design of the theatre of their brother-in-law, the engineer Angelo Bari Cicciomessere (then Messeni) at the city of Bari. The proposal of the Petruzzellis was accepted and in 1896 they signed the contract between the family and the city administration. The contract is dated 29 January 1896. Two years later, in October 1898, work began and ended in 1903. Inside the theatre was painted by Raffaele Armenise. Petruzzelli took from the Corato the primacy of the largest theatre of Puglia. The theatre was inaugurated on Saturday 14 February 1903 with the masterpiece of Meyerbeer, Les Huguenots.
- The Pinacoteca Provinciale di Bari or The Provincial Pinacotheca in Bari is an important Italian Artistic Paintings Museum. It was instituted on July 12, 1928 and initially accommodated at the Palace of Government. In 1936 it moved to the Palace of Province, along the sea boulevard in Bari, where nowadays is still kept its huge artistic inheritance. The Pinacoteca was named in honour of the famous Italian painter Corrado Giaquinto.
- The Basilica di San Nicola is a church in Bari, that holds wide religious significance throughout Europe and the Christian world. The basilica is an important pilgrimage destination both for Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians from Eastern Europe.
The basilica was built between 1087 and 1197, during the Italo-Norman domination of Apulia, the area previously occupied by the Byzantine Catapan of which Bari was the seat. Its foundation is related to the stealing of some of the relics of St. Nicholas from the saint’s original shrine in Myra, in what is now Turkey. The new church was built to shelter Nicholas' remains and Pope Urban II was present at the consecration of the crypt in 1089.