Golden Oldie and tribe do Bari

We arrived in Ancona early in the morning (after a reasonably decent nights sleep in a small cabin for 4 on the ferry) and straight onto the train to Bari.

Tip:

Trains in Italy are reasonably easy to figure out, you just need to stop, take your time  and read the information on the ticket machine. Alternatively if you have no Italian at all arm yourself with some useful phrases like ‘Good Morning do you speak English?’ so you can buy tickets at the window or get one of those voice translators, they can be very helpful. Luckily I had enough Italian to understand, and the boys also managed to work a lot of information out.

This meant that we arrived in Bari 2 days early. Having no idea where our hotel was we parked ourselves on the University steps, Nick strummed his newly acquired guitar (from Gatwick) while Ginski went off searching. Hotel found we decided to check whether they could accommodate us, they did.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlthough initially we were happy it did cause a heck of a lot of hassle at the end and cost me money so I would recommend being aware that changing your itinerary at the last minute could have challenges, not the least of which is added expense. Actually, now that I’m travelling on my own I prefer not to book too far ahead, as a solo traveller you can take that risk but as a group you run the risk of not finding rooms, especially in high season

The rooms weren’t tremendous anyway and mine had a problem in that t

he bathroom floor was flat all the way through, so the shower recess (or what in a normal bathroom would have been a recess) had no lip to keep the water in the shower area. As a result the water  bypassed the drain and ran into the bedroom (luckily a tiled floor in the bedroom) , seriously! No matter what I did the water kept flowing straight past, I got into trouble because the woman decided that I’d put the mat over the drain and caused the water to by – pass, there was no explaining it to her, obviously they had never showered in their own rooms, and just as obviously this problem had been happening for a a while as there was a note on the wall saying not to put the mat over the drain! Perhaps checking why it kept happening may have been useful on their part.

The whole 2 days early thing caused a problem because although we stayed 2 nights they complained that we had to pay for the original booking of 2 nights as well’ oh dear, a lesson learned.

Bari is quite a pretty town really with a port (lots of the ferries to Greece and Croatia leave from there) and it was all dressed up for the festival so at night it was very pretty indeed.

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The whole 2 days early thing caused a problem because although we stayed 2 nights they complained that we had to pay for the original booking of 2 nights as well’ oh dear, a lesson learned.

However the good part was, that being 2 days early we actually made it to the St Nicholas parade and official part of the festival (what we saw of it, the crowds lining the street made seeing anything much quite difficult). Had we arrived on the due date we would have missed the parading of the St Nicholas icon through the streets on a boat starting at 9pm, after a mass at 6pm, and then being delivered to the church of St Nicholas at midnight. I don’t think the kids were very impressed but at least they saw something different and got to walk the festival and see more of the old town. The parade was all in period costume and the whole process was acted out, it was quite interesting really.

Parading the boat with the icon                                                                                                                                              The crypt with the relics

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Crowds and stalls on the wall road                                                                                                                                         Delivering the icon to the church at midnight

The festival of St Nicholas is held to commemorate the following;

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. When Myra passed into the hands of the Saracens, some saw it as an opportunity to move the saint’s relics to a more hospitable location. According to the justifying legend, the saint, passing by the city on his way to Rome, had chosen Bari as his burial place. There was great competition for the relics between Venice and Bari. The latter won, the relics were carried off under the noses of the lawful Greek custodians and their Muslim masters, and on May 9, 1087, were safely landed at Bari. A new church was built to shelter Nicholas’ remains and Pope Urban II was present at the consecration of the crypt in 1089.  (information taken from Wikipedia)

I don’t think that the kids were crazy about Bari but they did go for runs and we did lots of walking in the old town, and Nick did get to see the church that houses his patron saint’s relics and we took silly photos of him trying to copy the Saints pose, mission accomplished.

I noticed something weird in the feel of the place. Back in 2006 when I was there for just one night and one day, the town felt vibrant, as we wandered the streets of the old town we came across ladies, young and old, sitting outside their doors making pasta, it felt and was very charming. This time there were no ladies making pasta and the mood of the town seemed a little stagnant, even though it was festival time. A real shame because we all had expectations (based on my stories) and they didn’t really come to fruition. Sometimes, perhaps it’s best not to revisit places, or maybe it’s just the whole economic climate of Italy because I noticed a similar feeling everywhere I went in that country in the early part of my trip.

We found the best icecream ever in Bari old town. The shop was packed! Just shows how good it is, the brand is Martinucci, yum yum yum! It is so popular that, to deal with the crowd you have to pay first and get a ticket, then stand in line to be served!

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The dressed up alleys

 

 

 

 

We walked a lot, ate a lot and wandered the old town till midnight of the festival night, as always there were stalls selling all sorts of things, from food to clothes and everything in between. Once the main part of the festival was over andI had done what I’d come to do (show Nick the church and burial site of his patron saint) there was really no reason to stay on.

 

 

Wednesday 7 May

After 2 nights we were off to Naples, 2 days early which actually was good because we had a day to spare in case of bad weather.  If the seas are high or the weather rough you can’t get to the Blue grotto on Capri (I found that out in 2006 when I spent 2 nights on the island but couldn’t get to the grotto). An extra day in Naples was going to give us the opportunity to all be together to visit Pompeii an
d Herculaneum as well as Capri. So off we went. Of course this is where the hotel hassles kicked in and eventually it was easier to forego the money than argue – you’ll never win an argument with an Italian, unless you are prepared to spend a lot of time and energy on it – I wasn’t prepared to stress over this, I wanted a nice family holiday not arguments.

The trip to Naples was reasonably uneventful, the boys played cards most of the way, we read, listened to our ipods, on occasion talked and generally just killed time.  The only (almost) hitch was that we left the container of Mum’s ashes on the train when we got off, luckily the boys remembered and Nick had to make a mad dash back on the train, grab Mum and get off again before it moved – that added a touch of excitement!  I think she would have had a good laugh herself over that one. In fact Mum’s ashes have had an interesting journey, more on that later.

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