Bari is the gateway city to both Basilicata and Puglia, since it has the only airport in the area, as well as a regular train service to Rome, three hours and 40 minutes away. Most travelers overlook it in their hurry to reach towns like Lecce and Matera, but it is actually a pleasant place with some excellent restaurants. Bari does receive pilgrims who come to the 12th-century Basilica Pontificia di San Nicola, where Saint Nicholas is buried, but there are few hotels of note. However, the recently renovated 75-room art nouveau Hotel Oriente Bari has significantly raised the prevailing standard.
Decorated in gray and ivory, our light and spacious Junior Suite came with a pair of windows with Juliet balconies; a large, comfortable bed; and a bath with a separate tub and shower. The hotel’s best facility is its rooftop terrace, where drinks are served in warm weather. Since the Oriente’s restaurant is of little interest, head for the excellent Ristorante Biancofiore (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 13) for dishes like squash blossoms stuffed with seafood, and spaghetti with red shrimp and almonds. For something more stylish and refined, try La Bul (Via Villari 52), where we enjoyed squid-ink tagliatelle with bottarga and citron shavings, and salt cod with polenta and green-olive foam. Hotel concierges often recommend Ai 2 Ghiottoni; resist, as it is mediocre and expensive.
Handsome architecture, spacious rooms, reasonable rates, good location, friendly service.
Although very pleasant, this is not a luxury hotel in the generally accepted sense.
Rainfall typically occurs in January and February, but it is unreliable and can happen later. If the river reaches the floodplain, the road to the Skeleton Coast becomes impassable for two months and the journey can only be made by air.