Ancient and medieval times
The origins of Bari are quite obscure: the digging done in the old part of town near Saint Peter Church show that probably the first settlements date back to the Bronze Age, in particular to the Peucetii people. The town then became Municipium in 300 b.c., a part of the Roman Empire. The settlement called Barium flourished with the building of the Via Traiana. During the 4th century the Town became Episcopal Siege and when the Roman Empire fell, it was contended between the Lombard and the Byzantines (the structure of Bari Vecchia dates back to this epoch and it surrounds the ancient Court of the Catapano) who plundered it in 669 together with the Emperor Constans II.
The town then fell in the hands of the Berbers (becoming an emirate from 847 to 871) and afterwards in the hands of the Lombard Dukes of Benevento. In 875 the town was occupied again by the Byzantines who made it the capital city of Longobardia, that included Apulia and Calabria.
Freed by the Venetian fleet after having been besieged by the Saracens for six months, in 1002 the town rebelled to the Byzantine Government under the leadership of “Melo da Bari”, who succeeded in obtaining the full autonomy of the town in 1018.
Afterwards Bari was besieged by the Normans in 1068 who finally occupied it in 1071. In 1087 the Holy Relics of Saint Nicholas were brought to the town. Between the 12th and the 14th century the port of Bari witnessed the departure of many crusaders.
In 1098 in the Crypt of the new Saint Nicholas Church, the Vatican Council chaired by Pope Urban II; more than 180 bishops got together in order to discuss the problems regarding the relationship between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Church right after the Great Schism.
After the destruction brought by William The Wicked, the town flourished again in the Swabian Age with the construction of the Castle ordered by Frederick II.
A long period of decay characterized the town under the dominations of: Alduino Filangieri di Candida, Master of the Court and executioner of Bari since 1284, the Angevins and Spain. This period of decay was interrupted by the flourishing Venetian domination, which saw the rebuilding of the maritime port and the developing of the maritime commerce. Two great characters that inhabited the Castle were Isobel of Aragon and Bona Sforza.
On 25 April 1813, Joachim Murat started the expansion on the outside of the town’s medieval walls (the “New district”, or the “Murattiano district”), characterized by an orthogonal layout of the streets. The population grew quickly from 18.000 to 94.000 at the beginning of the XX century.
The town soon became provincial capital and began to host important buildings of public institutions (The Piccinni Theatre, the Chamber of Commerce, the Apulian Aqueduct, the Petruzzelli Theatre, the University of Bari) and the famous publisher Laterza.
During the twenty years of Fascism in Italy, the monumental seafront was build and the “Fiera del Levante” (Fair of the East) was also unveiled, the latter started this idea of Bari as a point of strong connection with the East, a belief that was highlighted by the European Union that classified the town of Bari as a ‘European Gateway’.
During the XX century the population growth led to a chaotic expansion of the town that reached 400.000 inhabitants during the 70s and 80s.
The town has now become a metropolis and for this reason it faces many phenomena such as the commuting while the tertiary and the secondary sectors grow faster and stronger. Thanks to its geographical position Bari is often a destination of the migrants coming from the East. August 6, 1991 the Vlora ship brought to Bari more than 20.000 Albanians.
In 2000 the old part of town was remodelled and renovated. This renovation brought new life to the town together with the renovation of other services such as the Airport, the seaport, and the railway.
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