To Bari vecchia and beyond

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So poggiofranco isn’t exactly the most aesthetically pleasing part of the world but it’s a great base to explore southern Italy. What better way to start your adventure than starting your adventure at home. On Sunday, me and Dave decided to brave the new Italian cold front which swept over Puglia on Saturday night and took the bus…our first time on public transport which, I think symbolises the fact we are now official locals here. Once you use public transport and get to know your way around the roads, that’s a sure sign you’re in it for the long haul. Anyways, we took the bus into Bari Centro and walked, walked and walked to explore our relatively new surroundings.

Our first stop was Bari vecchia. Translation, old Bari- Bari vecchia was lit up with a hazy street light glow against our glum, cold and dark back drop was absolutely beautiful to see. I think Bari vecchia may be nicer lit up at night than during the day. Mainly because the buzz of everyone Christmas lights was playing with my festive emotions, getting me even more excited for this coming Christmas.

We wandered aimlessly through the winding labyrinth of streets, passing the old city walls and working our way through the maze, unaware of which direction we were heading in. We passed shrines, nativity scenes and of course the Don of all buildings here in Bari, the basilica dedicated to the patron saint of Bari, Saint Nicholas…father Christmas to me and you…maybe another reason why I am so excited for Christmas!

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The architecture is beautiful. Think quintessentially Italian and you have a sense of what we trekked through. Quaint little coffee shops, takeaway pizza shops with the glow of the authentic wood burning ovens, balconies, peoples sheets hanging high up across narrow passages and the occasional Italian smoker on the corner. Not to forget the ounces of churches we passed and religious relics and statues casting shadows over us in the dark.  

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It seems amazing that cars can even pass through these streets, in my opinion it is almost ludicrous that cars and vehicles are allowed to drive through such charming antiquated streets. It really will be a pleasure to sit out here in these street in the sunshine with a beer in my hand.

Once we made it into the main square area, it was like a prettier scene from 28 days later. Not a soul was out. We continued walking hearing only our own voices and footsteps echoing through the streets. 

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Then we continued on in our quest and ended up in Bari Centro which was a lot busier than where we had just been. It is a crazy juxtapostion of what could be 2 different cities. One modern, busy and thriving city with western chains like H&m and Zara; designer brands like Gucci and Prada are a stark contrast to the stone buildings of yesteryear lain virtually untouched in Bari vecchia. It really is a wonderful contrast. Even the old town gets busy on less cold nights but there is nothing like the poignance of a cold dark and quiet night to really make you appreciate the beauty of somewhere. 

 

Bari may have its problems and has had its fair share of troubles in the past but there is nothing as a good as the rose tinted glasses of a foreigner which can easily see the positives in everything. 

The Barese Experience

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I am a little late in starting to document my travels as I have now been in Bari for 2 months. This is my 8th week. I’m well over the half way period and in just over 3 weeks I’ll be home for Christmas! I cannot believe how fast it has all gone. You almost adopt a new pair of eyes when you travel somewhere and things that were seemingly normal before become enhanced. Buildings and parks that you wouldn’t bat an eyelid at become landmarks or captured on camera as a staple point of your new home. I live in Poggiofranco which is just outside of Bari in a nice little area where everyone has designer coats and well-kept dogs. I live with Dave, the other teacher and fellow newbie and Francesco, a former student of the school who has been letting out rooms in his flat for about 10 years to us expat teachers. I have been spoilt with kindness from every possible angle since arriving here. The thing that has amazed me more than the place itself is the sheer friendliness and warmth from the people here. Granted their hospitality doesn’t stretch to the roads where you’re in danger of being ran over at a zebra crossing or blocked in by their double, triple crazy parking.
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I feel at home for now, which after 8 weeks I’m taking as a massive victory. My job is fantastic. I couldn’t speak more highly of it. I have classes I love and classes that absolutely break my balls from start to finish but I am happy. The fact that time has flown since my arrival in October is living proof of this.

Maybe the reason I am so happy is that I have my two greatest needs fulfilled, I sleep well and eat like Henry 8th on a fat day. The food here in Puglia is an absolute DREAM. Forgive me if the blog takes on a foodie focus but let me just say one word

…PANZEROTTI…
Pizza, made with either minced meat and mozzarella, or ham and tomatoes. FOLDED then DEEP FRIED.
Panzerotti Frite. if the Scottish thought they won the war of fried foods with the deep-fried mars bar they were severely mistaken. Anyone who has not fried a pizza has never lived. Dave and I went out with some students for Panzerotti and Peroni last week and it was immense. After chipping in our cents, we received what looked like a tonne of friend goods from the takeaway, we used a random car bonnet as our table and dished out the stash.
To eat a Panzerotto is a challenge in itself. When you take your first bite you realise the steam will burn your face off. This is inevitable. Deal with it.
….The stance…Now depending on your choice of footwear, it is very important how you stand during a Panzerotti session, the Mozzarella and juices WILL seep through the dough and they WILL spill out the bottom. To avoid scalding your feet you should stand with your feet apart. To avoid stains of your clothes push your bum out, lean forward, shoulders rounded forward. This is maximum damage control and part of the enjoyment.
Another reason food is good here: PANZEROTTI ARE THOUGHT OF AS A SNACK. A standard size pizza, deep fried…a snack!

Other foods which are fantastic here: Mozzarella, especially di Bufala, marron glace, Sweet Canneloni, HOT CHOCOLATE, Coffee, Foccacia and anything made with sugar.

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I have been on a few trips now, which tell me I will wet myself during the warmer months at the beaches that are near here. I went to POLIGNANO A MARE a few weeks ago and I’m counting the days until the weather changes and we can head to beach, jump in the sea and swim in the grottoes. Polignano looks like Amalfi except the houses and buildings are just one colour rather than a mix of pinks, yellows and pastels. It is insanely beautiful and the old town, a maze of winding streets and courtyards, small coffee shops and restaurants look like they’ve never changed since the beginning of time. Just a slice of what’s on offer here. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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Life is Good!