History of Bari

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The historiographers called the province the name 'Peucezia', after the Peuceti, a race that had strong links with the neighbouring magnogreca salentina people. The urban culture of this people can be seen alongside megalithic structures such as the Dolmens (artificial caves built of stones and stone plates) and the Menhir (standing stones). The Romans really brought a territorial structure to the areas that ran parallel to the coastline, which rises up towards Murgia. The most populous areas were concentrated along the coast towards the East because of trade with the other rich agricultural cities in the hinterlands.

The growth of the historical center is closely linked with the development of the ecclesiastic buildings, which were often the heart of these urban centers: Bari was a bipolar city from the time of Greek-Byzantine domination, and contrasted with the urban power signaled by the cittadella catapanale (city of the Byzantine captain) home of the Basilica di S.Nicola. In the late Middle Ages the Cattedrale di Bari dominated the city, not only because of its size and the presence of the 'larghi' major piazzas (Piazza Odegitria, Piazza S. Sabino, Piazza Bisanzio and Rainaldo) around it, but the also because of the network of streets around, filled with other sacred buildings, some of which, are now only recorded in ancient documents. Continuing along the main road called the 'strada delle crociate' (street of the crusades), which leads on in the direction of the Cathedral, you will the encounter the Chiesa di S. Marco, spiritual home to a flourishing colony of Venetian residents in Bari during the Middle Ages and as you continue along you will reach the second important part of the city, indicated by the cittadella nicolaiana. The third 'area' of the city is the 'penisoletta', along the sea, with its large monastic complexes whose buildings follow the curve of the island. The layout of the 'cittadella Conventuale', is visible in the ancient buildings and thought-provoking ruins, especially the Chiesa di S. Scolastica. This complex leads to the most modern district of the historical center, based on a 17th century design, where the network of the straightest streets bear signs of the great changes that took place. The new urban 'feudalità' created its residential palaces through a series of slow changes in the way buildings were constructed and the materials that were used, the 'ruga Francigena' (now Via palazzo di Città) and the Piazza Maggiore became some of the most important 'spaces' in the city. The development of the network of streets in 1602, the construction of new palaces, allowed the formation of a fourth urban area. The gradual addition of new religious orders allowed by the Counter Reformation and the modifications of pre-existing areas of worship, produced a dominant building, characterized by impressive baroque buildings of Chiesa di S. Chiara and with its beautiful interior, such as those in Chiesa di S. Gaetano. Each era has left its imprint on the city, which can be seen in the buildings and monuments, memories of the past, which have survived. The Byzantines left the deepest impression on the city; they were in Bari at various times between the 7th and 12th centuries. Byzantium knew how to make the people feel secure, due to its detailed organization of the State, administration etc, it also facilitated economic and social growth as well as maritime traffic, essential for the prosperity of Puglia, keeping the trade between the East and West alive in all parts of social, economic and religious life. The Byzantines were supplanted in 1053 by the Normans under Roberto il Guiscardo. Then came domination by the house of Svevi, who had an impact not only in Bari but on the whole of Puglia, creating many castles and cathedrals in a style defined as Romanesque-Apulian (see Castello Svevo). The Angioini followed the Svevi, and then came the bad government of the Spanish with the Aragonese, this period was defined by a harsh increase in taxes and by the spread of malaria. In 1707, the Aragonese were defeated by the Austrians and Bari saw a period of recovery, characterized by a flourishing commercial market through the sea and trade over the water. Then came the Bourbons, and the city continued to recover; during the 17th century links with Naples were very strong, there are documents and manufactured goods 'manufatti' which record this period. In 1860, the city was unified with the rest of the kingdom of Italy.

At the end of the 19th century the urban configuration changed notably: at the same time as the industrial development and the increase of the population, the urban center also developed stretching far beyond what is today known as the center, exceeding the limits signaled by the 'extramurale' street (the street that went beyond what were once the city walls) Today the city is known as the 'California of the South' the capital of the region that is the most progressive in comparison with to the other areas of the South, more active and commercially competitive. It isn't as spread out as the other metropolises that you may come across but it has everything that other large cities can offer.