Bari is an ancient city and already by the 1st century BC, in a passage from Orazio’s V satira, the wall that encircled the city was referred to (…usque Bari maenia piscosi). From the walls seen by the Latin poet, which were made a few centuries earlier to defend the peucetian cities, a stretch of a tens of metres emerged during restoration work of the monastery of St. Scolastica in the 1970s. (see chart). The construction consists of large square blocks arranged in overlapping rows in a Hellenistic matrix style, similar to other examples in Puglia (Monte Sannace, Conversano, Altamura, Manduria). Unfortunately, other parts of the wall that date back to this period did not come to light so it is not possible to determine with any certainty the extent of the ancient city, but by the findings that have emerged through several archaeological excavations it can be said that the settlement went to at least the area where the cathedral was built on around the sixth century. (see chart). For the period throughout the early medieval and medieval era where the city is always described as being well defended by sturdy walls the chronicles of sieges and descriptions by travelling pilgrims have to be trusted. This is the case for example with the notes of Monaco Bernardo around 865 whilst moving through Puglia on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Moving through Bari, which had been conquered by the Saracens in 847 and had become the seat of an emirate, he describes the defence of two very large walls. The Muslims held the city for 50 years and it would take a siege of three years and the army of Ludovico II to finally free Bari. Another siege, this time by the Saracens, took place in 1002 when the city resisted the attacks until the arrival of the Venetian fleet led by the Doge Orseolo II. In this case, in addition to confirming that the city walls were very efficient, we also know from the description of events, that the monastery of Saint Benedetto was positioned outside of them. This information allows us to put an exact limit of urban extension until the dawn of the year 1000. The Byzantine domination of the city (876-1071), gave it the role of capital of the "Tema di Longobardia", which led to the construction of a fortified military and administrative hub (kastron), and was the base of the Catapano (imperial official). This fenced place inside the walls contained, in addition to housing troops and officials, several churches and civil buildings. The final Norman conquest took place in 1071 with the capitulation of Bari after a three-year siege marked a profound change to the defensive structure of the city. The Byzantine kastron with all the buildings it contained, was razed to the ground to make way for the new basilica (see chart) intended to contain the miraculous bones of St. Nicola which were stolen in 1087 from the city of Myra in Lycia, in modern day Turkey. With the advent of the new conquerors the defensive hub was moved to the west, where a castle (see chart) was built from scratch outside the city walls. The situation, however, even after almost a century after the capture of the city by the Normans did not appear fully stabilized. In fact, due to continuous revolts in the towns of Puglia, Bari would see a violent crackdown by Guglielmo II known as Malo that would also destroy a large proportion of the walls. This event however proved not be fatal and after a period of neglect and abandonment the city began to repopulate and assumed an important role in trade towards the east. During the time of Federico and later Angiona the city would be provided with adequate defenses until the advent of the Aragonese who with Bona Sforza ensured the creation of new ramparts around the castle (see chart) and the building of a new city wall which was demolished in the nineteenth century.
After all these events, only the eastern stretch from Piazza Ferrarese (see chart) going up to the Fortino Sant'Antonio (see chart) and continuing to the Monastery of St. Scolastica (see chart) on the tip of the peninsula of the urban defences remain. The current view of the Wall does not do justice to the sight of those who came from the sea had right up to the 1930s. The wide road built in those years that now surrounds the old centre of Bari, although necessary for the infrastructure of the city, has completely changed the nature of the city.
The sea lapped at the base of the walls around the entire perimeter of the city on the east side and on the west where a crown of ancient monasteries (St. Scolastica, St. Peter, St. Teresa delle Donne, Saint Francis della Scarpa and Saint Claire) joined the section of wall reaching up to the castle (see Box). From the north door, adjacent to the castle, the walls cover the entire south side to the second door southbound where the remnants are visible in Piazza Ferrarese (see chart).
Since the beginning of the nineteenth century with the construction of the new port in the west of the city and with the building of the borgo murattiano the city wall was pulled down on the south side and replaced by buildings that today overlook Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Only to the east is it saved, even though a good portion was buried with the construction of the road. Urban redevelopment work has freed the bottom of the stretch from the fortino down towards piazza mercantile (see description) making the ancient part of the docks of the old port visible. (See chart).
From Viale Enzo Ferrari, continue in the direction of Strada Provinciale 204 / Viale Gabriele d'Annunzio / SP204.
Take Viale Europa, SS16, Via Napoli and Corso Vittorio Veneto in the direction of Piazza Mercantile in Bari.
Continue along Lungomare Augusto Imperatore. Piazza Ferrarese is on the right.
Walk towards Piazza Mercantile
From the toll booth at Bari Sud of the Autostrada A14,
Take E843, Viale Giuseppe Tatarella, the underpass Sottopassaggio Giuseppe Filippo, Via Brigata Regina
Continue along Lungomare Augusto Imperatore in the direction of Piazza Mercantile in Bari.
Piazza Ferrarese is on the right.
Walk towards Piazza Mercantile
AMTAB bus lines #2, #4, #10, #12, #12/, #21, and #35 stop near Piazza Ferrarese (continue on foot to Piazza Mercantile)
Lungomare Imperatore Augusto-Corso Vittorio Emanuele