the sporty type

There’s no better way to start our trip to Bari than at sunset on the Pane e Pomodoro Beach. The way the sun goes down here bathes even the end of the most gleaming summer day in a soft light. The red of the evening sky creeps up from the sea and spreads itself out among the streets and squares of perhaps Apulia’s liveliest city.

And yes – you heard it right – Bari’s most famous beach is really called “Pane e Pomodoro” – Bread and Tomatoes. It’s quite easy to get there. Whether on foot, as a jogging route, or by bicycle: from Bari’s old town, you only have to head up the beach promenade towards Corso Trieste, and you can already stretch out your beach towel.

This is the ideal place for a bit of stretching at sundown. And this is a pleasure you can enjoy almost the whole year round, as summers here are wonderfully long. From Bari city centre, it’s around twenty minutes on foot, and from Pane e Pomodoro you can walk on further to Torre a Mare.

I can’t have enough of the view at this part of the walk: the sandy beaches transform slowly into fascinating cliff formations, and a sea of colours and unique landscapes accompanies you as you progress. And once you’ve come this far, you must visit the Parco di Punta Perotti park.

A real blot on the landscape – a huge and unfinished building – stood ten years ago where the park has now been created. After long-winded disputes across the whole of Italy, the building was finally demolished in 2006, and the city regained access to a large green area.

The park invites you to come and relax and pass the time away thanks to its sports areas, sun sails and very comfortable park benches. I jog with my music and headphones through the park, and it’s particularly the park benches and colourful activity around them that catches my attention.

The natives of Bari are fond of transforming their environment – especially pavements – into additional living rooms. Stools and tables are also often brought outside, and the whole day is spent in the open air. Conversations are always lively and passionate.

I run past people, but then slow down and immediately feel part of the community. Children, young people, adults and the older generation – everyone sits together. This is the magic of the South.

Circolo canottaggio Barion. Bari
Barion rowing club
Circolo canottaggio Barion. Bari
Barion rowing club
Pane e Pomodoro. Bari
Pane e Pomodoro city beach

Bari’s wide beach promenades are not just a social meeting place, they’re also ideal for jogging. A great route leads from Pane e Pomodoro through the city centre, past the historic old town (Bari Vecchia), and along the port and the oleanders of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Then you reach the grounds of the trade fair, the Fiera del Levante. One of Bari’s most popular city districts forms the crowning point and journey’s end: San Girolamo.

There you must visit the Lido San Francesco beach. Entry is free of charge and it’s easy to find the entrance thanks to the many beer sellers that have set up stall there, accompanied by their loud amplified pop music. Here you feel the pulse of life. People are eating, drinking, laughing and enjoying doing nothing.

The beach greets us with the wonderful smell of parmigiana, and pavilions invite you to unwind and relax. You’re not tired? Then from the Lido San Francesco, you’re just a few metres away from the wonderfully shady pine forest. The city forest offers a very wide selection of sports equipment and is ideally suited to jogging. Everything has been newly arranged and nothing left to chance.

This area was recently renovated – along with the nearby Centro Polivalente Capocasale centre. Locals can now play football and basketball on the centre’s multipurpose site, and there’s even an roller-skating rink.

Big Air surfing school

But that’s not all. I quickly get the impression that a popular policy is to convert – on both a general and targeted basis – former problem areas into sports facilities and public parks. What a great idea! This leisure-oriented concept is also true of the Parco Due Giugno. Along with a tortoise pond and Wi-Fi, there’s a running track for athletics fans.

The park is situated next to the local hospitals. Bari’s innovative urban concept stretches down to the south where you find sports stadiums, football fields, a popular aquapark and an ice hockey arena, although the north also has something to offer around its trade fair grounds. Here the Stadio del Nuoto swimming pool and Stadio della Vittoria sports stadium are directly next to each other. Bari’s swimming pool  is a jewel of tidy and functional design.

There you can swim your laps in the open air Olympic swimming pool, practice yoga (lots of different yoga styles are on offer, of course), flex your muscles in the fully equipped indoor fitness studio, or just unwind in the spa. The Stadio della Vittoria, built in 1930, is located directly next to the swimming pool.

The stadium for the Mediterranean Games was renovated in 1997. The characteristic metalworks adorning the entrance to its grounds immediately catch your attention. Each work of art symbolises one of the Games’ 21 participating nations. Around 30 reliefs on the iron entry gate pay homage to Cyprus, for example.

The artwork features animals, plants and objects typical of the island, a reminder of the valuable dialogue between man and nature. Today the stadium is mainly a venue for concerts and games of the local rugby team Tigri Rugby Bari and the American football club Navy Seals Bari.

Parts of the stadium are open to the public during the day, such as the martial arts studio, the offices of the Italian Olympic Committee, and a library for children and young people. The external areas offer several football pitches and tennis courts open to everyone. Here you can just spontaneously join one of the hotly contested games.

By the way, the subject of football is writ large in Bari, and there’s only one football god: “la Bari”, its illustrious local football club. Just to make sure you ascribe the proper priority to football: the Stadio San Nicola stadium, south-east of the city perimeter, is Bari’s only edifice designed by a star architect – Renzo Piano.

It was built for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Besides that, here you’ll quickly learn that in fact the whole city is just one big football pitch. On every corner you see people of all ages kicking footballs around in small-scale games. In the old city, too, you’ll often hear someone shouting out: “Here! I’m free!” I sprint and reach the ball, pass it, and then stand watching the children, fascinated at how they kick around in the ruins of the Santa Maria del Buon Consiglio church as if it were the finest English grass pitch.

Pane e Pomodoro. Bari
Pane e Pomodoro city beach

Besides improvised football pitches, sports grounds and parks, Bari actually only has one sports protagonist: the sea. Wind conditions here are perfect for surfing. Along the coast to the north and south of Bari you can rent surf equipment and even take surf lessons.

Here, I’d fully endorse three operators: TanaOnda Surf  and ShakaSurf  in the north of Bari and Big Air in the south . And not forgetting sailing sports, of course. The most important sailing clubs are located near Molo di San Nicola: the exclusive Circolo Canottieri Barion  and the Circolo della Vela di Bari . Or perhaps you prefer diving?

Pane e Pomodoro. Bari
Pane e Pomodoro city beach

And there are no good or bad hours of the day to do it – in Bari you go fishing at any time. Fishing is a simply wonderful way to pass the time.

Lungomare Augusto Imperatore. Bari
Seafront Augusto Imperatore
Pane e Pomodoro. Bari
Pane e Pomodoro city beach

Close to the Faro Borbonico lighthouse there’s the Club dei Sommozzatori , one of the most famous diving clubs in the whole of Italy. Here you can explore the underwater world of the Adriatic to your heart’s content. Finally, there’s always fishing. If you’re not used to deep-sea fishing – no problem. Here all you need is a fishing rod and a little time.

And there are no good or bad hours of the day to do it – in Bari you go fishing at any time. Fishing is a simply wonderful way to pass the time. Here they say the actual fishing itself is “secondo piano”, in other words, completely incidental. Just a few moments after casting my line, a pensioner already comes up and starts a conversation.

Even if I don’t understand exactly what he’s saying, he continues anyway, because people from Bari simply like to talk (as you’ve no doubt noticed yourself). Relax and give them your full attention, because if a fish bites, he’ll certainly be the first to notice it. When that happens, he’ll also tell you the best recipe to prepare your catch. And, who knows, perhaps he’ll also invite you to lunch?

di Paolo Ermano

Circolo della Vela, Bari

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