Sometimes I've heard: "What 's there in Barletta to be seen?", said with a surprised tone and a bit of scorn. Unfortunately, it's true that many people, from Apulia too, don't know this town and get surprised when someone goes there to visit it. That's what happened to me when I said that I wend to visit Barletta to some friends from the Ionic side, so unconscious of the beauties the Land of Bari offers. Yet Barletta does have things to be seen! Unfortunately, I could stop there just for a day and can assure that it's not enough: there is so much to be discovered, to be admired and to be experienced.
Here a little selection of what to see absolutely if you haven’t the possobility to stay in town for more than a day.
Also known as the Colossus, everyone calls it Eraclio. Legend says that this bronze statue, probably representing emperor Todosio II, was brought by Venetians from Costantinople; because of a storm and its considerable weight, it was thrown into the sea to make a critic navigation easier.
The statue dates back the 5th century but the legs, the only part that isn't original, which were melted and used to forge the bells of the church of Manfredonia.
You find it in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, another focal point of the town. The street that opens in front of Eraclio (yes, I call it like that either) is the area of the movida of Barletta, full of crowded places during Apulian cold nights.
#2 THE SQUARE AND THE CELLAR OF THE CHALLENGE
Who's never heard about the challenge of Barletta?
It's an important piece of Apulian history and if you are in this area, these are places that you can't miss.
It's easy to recognise the square from the parallelepiped as monument and reminded of that event. The inhabitants of Barletta tell with pride the story of Fieramosca and his 12 men, who defeated the French, releasing Italians' honour.
Right in front of the square there's a portal, which has as sign a little metal flag decorated with a sun. That's the cellar where they say that Fieramosca and the French La Motte declared the challenge during a banquet. The spark was the accusation of cowardice made by the French against Italians, but the latter silenced them without delay.
The cellar has been recreated in a palace of the 15th century; it seems to dive in another age as you get down the stairs at the entrance and a sparkling armour welcomes you. The fire place and the wooden table on the left create a cellar atmosphere, whereas on the opposite wall there are shields and emblems.
Each year they organise in February the commemoration of the Challenge and some of the medieval costumes used are exposed here. The attention in the details is amazing and I can't avoid to think that every woman would be enchanted admiring the beauty of these dresses.
I've to underline the keeper's kindness too, who showed us a hidden corner of the palace, a cistern. It makes you thing of a pool and periodically it fills up of fresh water, sometimes until frighteningly high levels. Because of this, inside there's always a nice cool temperature, even though a bit humid.
#3 THE CATHEDRAL
Wonderful both inside and outside. From every angle you can see its abses or its bell tower: when you arrive in Barletta, you glimpse the sharp figure of the back side; from the towers of the castle you always see the bell tower. Well, it's a continuous subliminal message and, actually, not entering would be a crime. I've admired with wonder how two styles, the Romanesque and the Gothic, got together creating a so harmonious structure. They're not mixed, but you can see exactly where one
style ends and the other begins, but you can't perceive any separation between the two.
#4 THE CASTLE
I dedicated to this attraction a whole blogpost, so I won't linger on it. Anyway, it must be visited absolutely, so I couldn't miss to mention it here too.
#5 "DE NITTIS" PICTURE GALLERY
A great impressionist was born in Barletta and the picture gallery hosted in the beautiful Palazzo Dalla Marra has been put in his name. Beside international masterpieces, the picture gallery also hosts three works of the compatriot painter.
#6 THE SEAFRONT
As in every town that face the sea, also Barletta has its seafront, divided in east seaboard and west seaboard. It's the perfect place for relaxing, romantic walks, with friends or with the family, in conclusion, I see it a bit as a passpartout. Don't forget that, good for the inhabitants of Barletta, there's a direct access to the beach, so, if while walking you want to take a dip, well, you can make your wish real immediately.
WHAT IF YOU WANT AN ICE-CREAM?
I often want it, especially when I make the tourist, but celiac disease obliges me to choose with attention places where to go, ice-cream parlours included. Barletta has more than some places that offer gluten free food solutions and what made my taste buds happy has been the ice-cream parlour Bonelli, right in the middle of the historical centre, little far from the Cellar. A kind and wary service, one of those that make you feel quiet, and a really delicious ice-cream. Unfortunately it lasted too little!
Much more should be added in this list, not just for thing to see, but for experiences to live and food to taste. And for the people of Barletta. I've gone around a lot and can say with certainty that it's not easy or granted to find kind and willing people as the inhabitants of Barletta. Also human aspect is an important part of the discovery of a town, also because people make a place special.