Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Beautiful Bari

After Termoli greeted me Saturday morning with rain again, I was happy that my train outraced the rain and I arrived in a Bari with blue skies and the tiniest of clouds, just enough to take the edge off the heat. I joined forces with my couchsurfing host Yixin and fellow Montreal-based world traveller Flo (hi!!) to get the administrative stuff out of the way and get our ferry tickets to Greece (Flo) and Croatia (me) respectively. And good thing we did, since the back-and-forth along the docks and the unclear information about when and where which ticket office would be able to sell us tickets ate up a good part of our afternoon. Ah well, at least we were in fabulous company and could have an inkling of the sea - so close!! We finally called it a day and went to explore Bari's old town, a true labyrinth of tiny streets, full of arched walkways and dead ends that was purportedly designed to shield Bari's inhabitants from the gusty wind and to confuse any potential invaders. Well confusing it is, as I discovered Sunday morning again while meandering around, but also utterly charming. During these days with hot sunshine and mild temperatures, most social life happens out in the street, where people gather round on plastic chairs in front of their doorways to chat, play cards and gossip. The doorways themselves are only covered by light curtains to let the breeze in, giving me glimpses of traditional Italian family life on a Sunday morning - an old lady rolling orchiette, the traditional ear-shaped pasta typical for Bari, and putting them into the sun to dry; the middle-aged couple eating spaghetti while watching formula one; or a group of men discussing politics in a room decorated with the flag of the socialist party of Italy.
It is lively on Bari's streets as well at night, as Yixin and I discovered yesterday night when we strolled down the straight boulevards of the newer part of town. There were Hole-in-the-wall excellent pizza places where the fresh-made selection is limited to margherita, but which nonetheless (or exactly because of that?) sport long lines of customers that eat the piping hot pizza out in the piazza (we joined the masses and can honestly only second their high opinion), there was an arts festival which featured a big band and several other musicians playing out in the streets, and countless people stroll through town on their passeggiata to see and be seen.
Finally, I spent a part of Sunday afternoon on Bari's biggest trade fair (where Yixin had to work), obviously sticking to the agri-food and international gastronomy parts, to get my last taste of typical regional Italian food (and was blown away by the broad featuring of organic and sustainable production methods). A perfect end to a perfect day.
Random moments of the day:
- realizing that restroom choices may strongly rely on your mastering of Italian grammar (see photo) - no pictograms here! (in case you are curious, the female plural ending is -e and the masculine is -i).
- asking a Canadian couple on holidays whether one of them could put sunscreen on my back and having the woman tell me "your mom would be proud!"
- looking through the international artisan stands and stopping at Somalia's stand, which inexplicably featured bills and coins of foreign (and often extinct currencies). I was so close to buying a 500,000 Yugoslavian dinar bill before convincing myself of the futility of the enterprise. How the trader got her hands on these bills - other countries included were pre-1989 Poland, Iraq, Yemen and both Somalia and Somaliland - is still a mystery to me. But I love that it is featured as Somali artisan handiwork.
And now I am hoping to brave the Southern Italian unreliable public transport system (we have repeatedly waited 30 -40 minutes after the scheduled arrival times for buses to show) to make it down to the port in time for my ferry!

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