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If Lecce is the south’s Florence, Bari is its Bologna, a historic but forward-looking town with a high percentage of young people and migrants lending it vigour. More urban than Lecce and Brindisi, with grander boulevards and better nightlife, Bari supports a large university, an opera house and municipal buildings that shout confidence.

Most travellers skip Bari on their way to Puglia’s big-hitter, Lecce (the towns have a long-standing rivalry, especially over soccer), but Bari doesn’t lack history or culture. The old town contains the bones of St Nicholas (aka Santa Claus) in its Basilica di San Nicola, and an excellent archaeological museum is concealed in Bari's historic bastions. For travelling foodies, there's superb seafood and a bustling street food scene.

The second-largest town in southern Italy, Bari is a busy port with connections to Greece, Albania and Croatia, and sports an international airport with connections to much of Europe.

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