The Puglia Diaries

The thrills and spills of a British Council Language Assistant in Molfetta, Italy

Bari (not to be confused with Barry, Wales)

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Molfetta falls under the province of Bari, the largest city in Puglia. Almost all the young people I have met here study in one of the myriad university faculties dotted around the city. Last weekend, Bari beckoned with its modernity and fresh sights, so I made arrangements with my fellow Leeds language assistant Katie, who as luck would have it has been placed there. After school on Saturday (you read correctly….), I boarded a train and rattled into Bari within a short twenty minutes.

I picked a rather dull day to visit for the first time but the heavy grey skies and the threat of rain didn’t stop me from appreciating my surroundings. I met Katie at the station and she led me down a pedestrianised shopping street towards the seafront. I passed Gucci, Benetton, Zara and many other shops promising a bigger selection than Molfetta’s Corso, if I should ever need it. Not that I shop at Gucci.


We made it to a square facing the sea, which apparently is usually peopled by afternoon city dwellers. It was fairly quiet what with it being the Italian early afternoon downtime. We weaved our way through the old part of the city, happening upon a huge hidden basilica and strolling awkwardly past people’s open doorways. Apparently it is dangerous to walk these small passageways alone. There was an eerie stillness in all the twists and turns, which would have been a bit creepy if I was by myself. We stumbled upon the Norman Castle (Normano-Svevo) and after buying tickets from a shady, stinky office, we explored the small museum.


The layout was the least intuitive thing I’d ever seen. There were open doorways but lots of roped-off areas, so we kept having to double back on ourselves. Although the courtyard was quite nice and the doorway was impressive, the museum mainly showed off engraved stones like the one below. With a complete absence of explanatory plaques, we looked and shrugged. ‘Yeah…stones’.


When we left the castle, it started to rain so we ducked for cover in a seafood restaurant. One look at the menu told us that it was in fact only fish, and that anything as simple as a salad was going to cost at least an arm and maybe a leg. I’m not proud of it, but we did a runner. We hadn’t eaten or drunk anything but they had laid out the tablecloth and all the shiny plates for us specially. Well embarrassing. We scurried off into a little sandwich bar and instead had our fill of hot dogs and piadine with dodgy cheese. Over lunch, we coincidentally got talking with an English person, freshly arrived in Puglia to teach, like us.

We walked to the port from which ferries head to Greece and Croatia, and we talked about potential summer jaunts across the Adriatic. On the seafront, I was able to practice my appalling photo taking skills. I am reluctant to agree with my sister Izzy, but she may be right in saying that I cannot choose the right light and the right position. So sue me. This is one of the better pictures.


After a teeny tiny hazelnut coffee and lots of comparing of students, teachers, situations and impressions, I hopped on a train and whizzed back home again. I have a feeling I’ll travel to Bari quite often, when I feel a need for city pavements and modern buzz instead of Molfetta’s green-shuttered peace. I’m loyal to my lovely little town, but it’s always nice to have options.


Author: Elly Cooke

Recent graduate of English Literature and Italian from the University of Leeds. Book lover and part-time Italian speaker.

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