One of the things I like most about traveling in winter, are the sunny days. Going somewhere after spending a week of torrential rain in your city and finding a wonderful sun waiting for you. In summer you might expect those, in winter, sunny days are like lottery winnings, and perhaps this is why they seem to have more value.
So I was also surprised that morning when, arrived in Bari, a beautiful clear sky illuminated by the sun greeted us.
What welcomed us a little ‘less cordially was parking: we spent over an hour trying to find a spot, with cops poking here and there, but it was a fruitless search. We didn’t go looking farther, because our goal was right near the station, and sometimes laziness rules upon you: so much that we opted for a quick “second line” parking. This time again I took my boyfriend somewhere without saying anything, but to prepare to leave. From a long time he said he wanted to try the famous Bari’s “Focaccia”, so I took him to the place that I knew best, and probably the most famous and good bakery across Bari: Magda.
It is in a side street, in front of a park, one of those that if you don’t know the city and you happen to pass by, it’s only by causality. For those who know it, Magda seems to me to be almost an institution, a meeting point. The smell of warm focaccia can be smelled already from a few meters away, similar to that good smell which feels like home, that you smell in the early morning when passing in front of a baker. To a smell like that you just can’t resist, and although I already knew the place, when we entered it seemed to me to see it for the first time. We stayed fifteen minutes in front of the abundant display-window, enchanted by Focaccias, buns of bread, the smell, and the people. Eventually we opted for two classic Focaccia, with tomato, just to savor the true tradition. Spent little as 7 euro with two cans of cola included. We ate in the park there in front, enjoying the warm freshly baked focaccia, and the peace of the park, where kids were studying lying on the grass, and old men were watching their world sitting on the benches. There was so much to do, however, that this moment of peace did not last long: as soon as we finished eating, we got in the car to go down to the waterfront. I do not love driving, I’d rather be on the passenger side and enjoy the world through the window… and since, instead, he do like driving, we have no problems at all deciding who does what. So I watched the Italian Paris scrolling at the window, watching the signs of city’s history, a city fought over for centuries because of its strategical position on the sea, so that even the Crusades, started from there, conquered by many different realms, which over the centuries painted Bari the way we see it today, the “gateway to the East” Bari.
The first positive thing of the waterfront, the one that we noticed right away, was that parking there was abundant: not free, but abundant. Of the barese waterfront I never get tired. I like its colors, its disposition, its lonely benches, its ladders that descend into the sea, the lighthouse that can be seen in the distance, which has the taste of adventure and of western wind. It becomes even more beautiful when the sun rises, always behind the boardwalk, which colors everything with the typical yellow-orange of when the sun is going to sleep, and adds an even more romantic, almost ancient touch to that place painted of immaculate colors. I watched the ships lined up at the small pier in front of us, and it made me think, along with many other things, of the images that seventy years before the people of Bari found before themselves, when the Luftwaffe sent eighty-eight bombers to attack the militar ships docked at the Military port, and sinking 17 of those and hitting, among those, the John Arvey, a British ship loaded with “mustard” gas bombs, a poison gas that dramatically increased the number of victims. I so intensely thought about it that I could almost hear the whistling of the bombs that rained down on the harbor, the people’s screams, imagine all the black and deadly smoke that wafted on the horizon and in the streets. Came back to myself, as we walked towards St. Nicholas Basilica, one thing we noticed something that we never saw before: a gas station in the middle of the sea, for boats. We busted out laughing, it almost seemed a caricature!
To get to the Basilica, we followed the old city walls, which silently drove us to the most famous landmark of the city.
Or, as I like to call it, the Basilica of the Legend, as it is said that it was built to conceal and preserve the Holy Grail. And going in knowing this, the feeling that the pace gives already by itself was doubled. A bright place, even in the crypt, where there is no darkness, nor black, unlike all medieval basilicas.
Having visited and observed every corner of the Basilica, we than moved to the place where we would have meet some friends, and along the way we stopped at the Matisse cafe, a gray place, empty and expensive, despite the wonderful location… maybe expensive for that very reason…