So let me tell you about my adventures in Trani, Italy! Conveniently located between the much larger Adriatic port cities of Bari and Barletta, the city of Trani is one of the Puglia region’s hidden treasures. I tell you this because I discovered this coastal town completely by accident. It was mid-September and I was trying to find a Bed-and-Breakfast in a town near Barletta. Apparently I made a wrong turn somewhere and the next thing I knew I was in the Piazza di Trani.
The only thing missing on this particular afternoon in this particular piazza was a tumbleweed blowing by and maybe Clint Eastwood drifting in on a horse. It’s that kind of town. So I can understand why Trani isn’t featured on more travel itineraries for Southern Italy. But come to think of it, maybe that’s in the town’s favor as visitor’s can spend their time in Trani leisurely (REALLY leisurely if it’s not tourist season) and away from big crowds and the potential risks such crowds bring with it.
Saint Nick was a Popular Guy
It’s amazing how “out-of-the-way” some locations can seem if you are not familiar with them. My wife and I slid into a small bar for a café and I tried to strike up small talk with the barman. When I asked, “Soooooo…what is there to do and see in this neck of the woods?” He pointed behind me to the hugely imposing
Cattedrale di San Nicola Pellegrino. Kind of a no-brainer as the cathedral is the dominant site from the coast and the port and pretty much visible no matter where you are in the city.
Seeing as the city of Bari is relatively close by and also seeing that Saint Nicholas (yes, that St. Nicholas) is the revered Saint of Bari and beyond, I was sure that this was the same guy. But no, this is St. Nicholas Pellegrinobetter known as St. Nicholas the Pilgrim. Not quite the same. Kind of like the difference between a steak and a piece of chicken. But this St. Nicholas is popular in this town just the same. Lord knows if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years in Italy it’s the abundance of venerated Saints.
But I digress.
The cathedral would not look out of place in Monty Python and the Holy Grail or Robin Hood or any number of other films of the genre. The church’s main crypt contains the remains of St. Nick. And for my money, that alone I worth the price of admission. Also there are some way-cool 12th-century mosaics depicting Alexander the Great and Adam and Eve. Kind of an odd pairing but what the heck do I know. I am just a lost tourist. As cathedrals go, I give it 5 stars. You can read more about it here.
Near the cathedral is the church museum, the Museo Diocesano, which exhibits a collection of sculpture and archaeological finds from Trani’s many churches.
I can’t think of too many town’s a long the Adriatic coast that have a castle. Some are in better condition than others. The Castello Svevo of Trani sits just beyond the cathedral and dates back to 1249. Way back in the day (the days being back in the 1970’s) the castle was used as a prison. I thnk it has a more interesting back-story as a prison than as a castle. Anyway, now it’s open for tourism.
Lost in the Centro Storico
Walk past the cathedral and the castle and the next thing you know you in no-man’s land better known as the Centro Storico. Apart from the people living there, I don’t think the buildings/hovels/nitches in the CS have changed much over the last 500 years or so. I could be wrong. None-the-less, the Centro Storico – more than anything else – will give you a taste of what living in Southern Italy is all about. Don’t forget your camera.
No matter where I find myself wandering around I need to eat at some point. After poking my nose around and speaking with the usual suspects I came up with the following fast track. And remember, my over-riding criteria is that I eat a bunch but don’t pay very much.
Ristorante Falcone (with a terrace patio facing the coast)
Osteria la Banchina (also on the coast)
U’Vrascir Antico (deep in the heart of the Centro Storico)
After gorging yourself on wine and food you’ll want to take a snooze. Fortunately Trani isn’t so small that it doesn’t have a few hotels. Check these out and don’t forget to check under your pillow for a mint.
Hotel Trani (3 stars)
Hotel Royal (3 stars)
Bed and Breakfast Domus Angela (on the beach)
Bed and Breakfast Marimar (also right on the beach)
Like I said, some of the most awesome locations are the ones you find by accident and Trani is no exception. I never did find the Bed-and-Breakfast I was originally looking for early in this tale, but I managed to find something a lot more interesting.