“Am I still a tourist or am I already a local?”
by Ivet Tagareva

In my last blog post I’ve described how to find accommodation in Bari and today I will talk about something even more interesting: how to live and travel like a local in Bari!

After you have found a place to stay and probably have already moved some of your personal belongings along with your life, you look around the room with a bit unbelieving eyes and say to yourself: “Now what?” Well, now it is time for you to start exploring!

A good place to start from is La Citta Vecchia (The Old City) where most of the important medieval monuments are found. I will skip everything that you can find in an ordinary travel guide and will focus on what impressed me most as a newcomer, and that was not the imposing castles and churches or the cafeterias and bars seething with merry crowds, but the narrow winding streets that would take you straight into the heart of Old Bari. This is something completely different from the modern, fashionable look of the other areas of the city, including the one near the Policlinico.

There literally everything has a hidden meaning that waits to be discovered. One example are the cobbled, mazelike streets themselves. Smarty constructed, they literally, as if by magic, prompt you to find new places. If the stones are black and white, that means they will lead you out of the old town and if they are white only, then you are going either to a small closed square or to a street leading directly to someone’s front door or a Christmas tree alternatively!

Namely La Citta Vecchia is the place where the oldest families in Bari live, somehow preserving the original spirit of the place! One example is the local dialect they speak- barese – a cultural heritage we should all admire and respect! There you can see their homes on the ground floor of every building steeped in history and with wide open doors- another sign of hospitality, with tables, benches, vases with flowers (and of course their laundry) right on the street where kids play football and tourists take pictures of every detail of that fascinating place — and, yes…you can always ask and take a look in their homes! The relaxed and friendly atmosphere invariably makes me feel safe and comfortable, and of course even more eager to know as much as possible about as many things as possible.

That, however, is something only a local can reveal to you and your touristy disposition. In our case that is our landlord, one of the friendliest and nicest people of my acquaintance! He was the person to relate one of the most unexpected stories about the fully-fledged symbol of Bari, the orecchiette, to us!

The orecchiette is a type of home-made pasta typical of the region and a particularly important part of the local tradition of hospitality and superstition, an indispensable detail that only adds up to the charm of Bari. Skillfully made by elderly ladies in the old city, preserving a centuries-old tradition, the orecchiette can be of 3 types: very small, medium (which are most common and easiest to prepare) and very large that are thought to bring luck to everyone that buys pasta from La Citta Vecchia!

So the story is neither long, nor incredibly gripping, but it is a true tale of how luck, superstition and tradition blend to yield a nice result. So it happened, many years ago when he went to the old town to buy traditional pasta for his family and for a friend that lived abroad. The lady sold him the orecchiette, but in one of the packets she put a big one and explained that it brings luck to everyone who has it! Then he decided to send it to his friend who was far away and missing home already and after one month a call followed. In times of hardness an unexpected lucky coincidence turned things into harmony and peace (it is too personal to be related fully)  and soon the friend flew back to Bari to thank the women that brought happiness!

So the story is not something you will read about in The Times or People. It, however, is an example of how the positive atmosphere of THE FRIENDLIEST PLACE ON EARTH may as well influence people in a constructive way. Why not? Let’s be optimists!

Bari- a fascinating place to study and live! Being March already, the sunny and warm days are wonderful for walks, a picnic or just a coffee with friends adds up to the charm of the place!

Palm trees, golden-hued sandy beaches and azure sea… the place reminds me of the beauty of the beaches in California which invariably tempt you to stop and admire the beauty of nature!

In the next post I will introduce you to genuine Italian cuisine with the help of one of the best chefs in Puglia… my landlord!