Having seen Puglia in Italy in high summer, we wondered what the experience was like in the Springtime. So we arranged for some honorary Lotus Eaters to revisit some of the destinations and explore some new ones in March 2023. In spring, you can definitely not expect beach weather. But is a great opportunity to see places with fewer crowds and take in some cultural destinations. Our intrepid colleagues chose to base themselves in Bari once again. A great destination in it’s own right and hub for public transport. They explored North of Bari, trying to find out if there are seaside towns North of Bari worth visiting?
Are there coastal towns North of Bari worth visiting?
North of Bari there are three coastal towns that are easily accessible on the train that have potential – Barletta, Trani and Molfetta. Which are worth the trip?
There is a pattern to towns along the Adriatic coast. Arriving by train you walk through the new town before reaching the historic centre. Invariably built on a headland that faces on to the Adriatic. So the factors to weigh are how long is the train journey (say, from Bari). How long and pleasant is the walk through the new town before you reach the scenic and interesting historic centre. What attractions are there and what is the out-of-season coast like? Are these towns north of Bari worth visiting in the off season?
Read on to find out more about Barletta, Trani and Molfetta.
Is Barletta worth visiting?
Arriving by train (50min from Bari on a Regionale service), there is a large piazza with a rainbow coloured feature. Beyond is the new town proper. The thing that strikes you about Barletta is that it is a large town with busy streets, business concerns and a range of retail outlets. The walk from the piazza has a great deal of traffic, and is not one that could be described as calm.
Barletta’s famous attraction is the Colossus of Barletta. A 5m high statue of a Roman Emperor, ostensibly the largest surviving bronze statue from the Ancient World. The head and torso are original, the legs, in particular, are not. It’s upraised hand holds a cross, replacing an original spear or similar – although the cross doubtless helped it survive to the present time. It sits by the side of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II just off Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi and was visited by a tour group while we were there.
What is the beach in Barletta like?
What’s the seaside like out of season? Is this beach town north of Bari worth visiting in the spring? A further 15min walk through the side streets takes you to the Lido, approached across a huge car park (deserted at this time of year), across the Lungmare Pietro Paolo Mennea (ditto) on to the beach. This is disappointing, even allowing for the time of year. The large beach is silty as well as sandy, has a covering of green vegetation away from the sea, and lacks character. There is an attractive view of the Gargano peninsular to the left, but an unprepossessing one of the fish market complex to the right. Not a place to linger.
Is Trani worth visiting?
Trani is 40mins from Bari by train (on a Regionale service). As one of the larger towns north of Bari, it seems worth visiting. The small station exits onto a fountain and directly ahead an attractive tree-lined street that takes you where you want to go. After 10min or so, the road terminates in a park, the Piazza della Repubblica; go through, turn left and then turn right to bring you to the Porte di Trani. This is a marina for pleasure boats in the main, with a few fishing boats on the far side, and beyond, the much-photographed
basilica cathedral. The marina is fringed with a large number of restaurants and bars with an air of waiting for summer and the crowds to arrive. At the far side, the fishermen sell the day’s catch from the dock – an opportunity to get close up and personal with octopus, squid and more.
Nearby, on the headland is the basilica cathedral situated on the shores of the Adriatic – well, on the shores of concrete paving, anyway. In March 2023 there was extensive building work going on. It looks closed but it is possible
to enter via the outside crypt entrance on the other side of the building. The crypt is unaffected by the building work, but climbing the stairs to the main building reveals the nave has been emptied. There are some carved figures used for processions, a bronze door and that is about it. Nearby, the harbourside castle is impressive and probably worth a visit particularly in the summer, but the next Adriatic coastal town beckons…
Is Molfetta worth visiting?
Molfetta is just 25mins from Bari by train using a Regionale service making it an obvious town north of Bari worth visiting. A small station leads past a small welcoming fountain (it has “welcome” in a number of languages) to an obvious tree-lined straight road with some attractive buildings leading to the sea. The road bears left at a statue, but the way to the sea (Corso Umberto I) is ahead and pedestrianised. After about 10mins it reaches a park, the Villa Comunale. This teems with green parakeets which squark and bicker in the trees above you, giving the inevitable pigeons decent competition.
On the other side of the park, it is a short distance to the sea. No beach, only a road fringing the coast, the Lungomare M.Colonna. Turning left here you reach some bars and shops, precious few of which were open mid-afternoon in March 2023. One place that was open and was a real discovery was the Panetteria del Borgo where they sell the most wonderful focaccia. The port area beyond has just a few boats in it but has a nice laidback feel with the cathedral in the background. From here it’s a 20mins walk back to the station.
Which towns North of Bari are worth visiting?
So, which seaside towns north of Bari are worth visiting?
Barletta is the one to avoid. A long way from Bari, a long way to the sea and a disappointing beach and setting.
Expecting Trani to be the runaway favourite, Molfetta is nevertheless attractive in an understated way and exudes civic pride. The renovations on Trani basilica cathedral are a disappointment. In the end, the focaccia edges it to Molfetta, just.
The obvious conclusion as to which towns North of Bari are worth visiting, is that you should visit both Trani and Molfetta on a day trip from Bari. If you buy a return ticket from Bari Centrale to Trani you can break your journey at Molfetta on the way back, providing you on a train that leaves no later than four hours later.
*Written by an honorary Lotus Eater.
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