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Day 6: Naples to Bari

Today it was time for us to leave Naples behind and travel from one coast of Italy to the other.  We had quite an early start by holiday standards, with our first train leaving Naples at 09.07.  As this was quite a long journey, I had booked the tickets online in advance to make sure that we got seats on the train. That also took some of the stress out of the morning and meant that we could concentrate on just getting to Napoli Centrale on time, without having to worry about finding the ticket office.

There don't seem to be any direct trains between Naples and Bari, so our first train was a regional train to a town called Caserta. We were due to arrive in Caserta at 09.55 with our connection to Bari departing at 10.11, so it theory there was more than enough time to change trains. I panicked slightly when the regional train was delayed by five minutes or so, but luckily Caserta station turned out to be pretty small and we were still able to get from one platform to the other with time to spare.

The train from Caserta to Bari was an Intercity train, which meant that it was a bit more comfortable than the regional trains :) It didn't seem like a very popular route, so the train was also quite quiet and peaceful. Both these things were good, because we had a journey of nearly four hours before we would arrive in Bari Centrale at 14.00.

It was an interesting journey, which took us first of all through some quite hilly landscapes, then became noticeably flatter as we got closer to Bari. For much of the journey the countryside looked incredibly dry and dusty, and towns of any significance seemed few and far between.

We arrived in Bari pretty much on time and set off to find our apartment. I'd recently had an email from booking.com asking what time we were arriving, and had selected "14.00 - 15.00" as the relevant option in the drop-down menu. The apartment was only 1.5km from the station on the map, so I thought we would be there by around 14.30.

Unfortunately, Bari station is quite confusing. We followed the only signs we could see towards an exit and came out of the station onto a main road. As so often in Italy, there were no street signs so it was difficult to verify whether this was the correct road, but we assumed it was the main road marked on our map as the one we needed to walk down. We followed it for a while, then turned right after approximately the amount of time the map suggested, but when we were able to find roads with street signs on, none of them tallied up to the road names which were on the map. It was complicated a bit by the fact that Google maps seem to be so difficult to print these days, and so not all the roads which were on the map had names. But in the end we had to admit that it seemed quite strange not to have found a single marked street. Perhaps we had come out the wrong side of the station.

We retraced our steps and it turned out that we had done just that! There was another exit from the station - which didn't appear to be signposted at all - and this took us out onto another main road. This time, some of the street signs did match up with the names on our map. Phew!

We finally arrived outside the apartment just before 3. Or, to be more precise, we arrived at the correct building number on the correct street, but there was no indication as to whether there was a holiday apartment inside. I hadn't been given any instructions about checking in when I had booked, so in the end Tim had to try calling the phone number on the reservation. He got through to a lady who seemed to be surprised that we had arrived, which I found surprising given that I'd been asked to submit our arrival time. We assumed that now she knew that we were standing outside the building, she was going to come and let us in, so we stood and waited.

We waited and waited and waited and waited but no one came. After half an hour had elapsed, Tim called the number again and got through to the same lady, who seemed surprised that we were still standing outside the apartment. A few minutes later, the door we were standing next to buzzed and clicked open; no one spoke over the intercom, but we assumed it had been opened for us and went inside. We found ourselves in a large hallway, but we still had no way of knowing which floor we needed to go to or which room number we were looking for. Tim therefore had to call the lady for a third time and this time she gave him directions. It turned out we needed to go to the third floor.

We started climbing the stairs and were met by a little old lady who motioned us into an apartment. She didn't speak English but it hardly seemed to matter, because she didn't have much to say at all. There was certainly no apology or explanation for the amount of time we'd had to wait. Instead she pushed a piece of paper at us for us to tick which items we wanted for breakfast (it was news to me that we were getting breakfast!) and carried on with whatever she'd been doing before we arrived as if we weren't there. Periodically she disappeared, returning with random items. At one point she went to get flannels. Another time she returned with a couple of pairs of slippers for us to wear in the house. Tim found that his were a little small!


Eventually she left, but not before impressing on us the importance of not moving our suitcases from the suitcase stands she'd told us to put them on. Under no circumstances were we to move them to the other side of the room. It seemed an odd rule!

The apartment itself is very nice though, with a spacious bedroom and living area...


...as well as a modern kitchen and a nice table to eat at. You can just about see in the picture below that the dining table is covered in some sort of plastic sheeting so that we don't get it dirty :D


We felt like we'd wasted quite a lot of time checking in by this point, so we were keen to get out and explore Bari. 


I was particularly keen to see what it was like because it has quite a negative reputation for being dangerous and crime-ridden. Our Italy guidebook, for example, describes the old town as being a den of thieves, populated by gangs of youngsters stealing handbags on mopeds. However, our Italy guidebook is over 10 years out of date, and we had just spent five nights in Naples, which the guidebook describes as being the most dangerous and crime-ridden city of all. The biggest hazards we personally experienced in Naples were crossing the road and attempting not to tread in dog mess.  Our first impressions of Bari were that it seemed like a very calm, quiet and clean town in comparison :D


We walked through some of the newer parts of town first of all until we got down to the sea.


It was nice to see the Adriatic again, although this part of it seems to smell a bit of seaweed!


Once we'd admired the sea for a while, we turned around and walked into the old town.


In the first square we entered there were ruins of something, but after Pompeii they didn't seem terribly impressive.


The old town looked pretty, though the buildings admittedly weren't quite as colourful as on Procida yesterday.


The old town was apparently built in such a way as to deliberately be like a confusing maze, to hinder any potential invaders.


As we walked deeper into it, it definitely did feel like it would be a place where it would be easy to get lost. And that some of these narrow streets might be quite threatening in the dark.


During the daylight it felt completely safe though, and there were certainly no gangs of thieves on mopeds.


Instead, there were lots of impressive churches...


...and some beautiful paintings on walls too.


After wandering around for a while, we found the cathedral.


There has been a bishop in Bari since the fourth century, though the current cathedral is more modern than that; first built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and significantly refurbished in the eighteenth century.


From the cathedral we walked slightly outside the old town and found the Castello Svevo.


This castle was first built by a Norman king in 1132 which is rather surprising.


From outside the castle we could see back towards the old town and the cathedral.


Rather than going back inside the old town, we decide to stroll around the edge of it on the city walls.


The city walls are a really pleasant walkway.


From here you can see out to sea...


...and down into the old town as well.


We came down from the walls by the Basilica di San Nicola.


This is the most famous church in Bari, being home to the relics of St Nicholas.


By this point it was around 5pm and, while we'd enjoyed exploring Bari, we were now seriously hungry. We hadn't had any lunch due to being on the train, and by the time we'd finally succeeded in checking into the apartment we had well and truly missed the Italian lunchtime. 


The problem was that we were also far too early for the Italian dinnertime! We did another lap of the town but the only places that were open were of the cafe or kebab shop variety; all the restaurants were well and truly closed. 

This didn't seem to be an insurmountable problem, however, because this was precisely the sort of reason why we had rented an apartment rather than a hotel room. We'd already located the nearest supermarket to where we were staying, so we decided to head there and stock up on some pasta for our evening meal. We bought some pasta and mince for a bolognese and in no time at all were back at our apartment.... whereupon we realised that there were no pots and pans in the kitchen!

This is really, really weird, because it's quite a big kitchen. It even has a dishwasher, although what they are expecting us to wash in it I'm not sure. There are rows of cupboards but, when we opened them, the majority of them were empty. All we could find were a couple of plates, mugs, glasses and cutlery. There was a hob and even an oven, but no implements for cooking whatsoever.

Tim wasn't terribly impressed by this state of affairs and decided to call the owner again :D A few minutes later, the old lady appeared at our door to lend us a pot and give Tim some advice on keeping the kitchen clean. She then reappeared a few minutes later to lend us a tea towel as well. Problem solved for now, but I think we'll be eating out for the remaining nights we're staying here xD

Edited by Clare

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