Bari: A Busy Port with Rich History and a Chic Vibe

Bari’s Picturesque Port

The Puglia Region on the heel of Italy’s boot offers crystal clear beaches, rich history, delicious food, a thriving port, quaint small towns, the university-influenced city of Bari, thriving cherry orchards and olive groves despite the rocky soil, and beautiful, welcoming people. We really loved the time we spent getting to know this region, and we’d love to deepen our relationship.

Starting in the port area, our delightful local guide pointed out a beautiful 14th century fortress. The Chapel of Santantonio de Padova inside is no longer a church, but is used for weddings, festivals, and other special events.

Fortress

Moving on to the Barivecchia (old town area) we were delighted to see artisans busy at work creating beautiful handwork in leather, ceramics, and fresh food. We remarked about the sparkling clean streets and were told that the shopkeepers actually wash the streets in the morning!

There are over 20 churches in the old town, most notably the Romanesque Basilica of Saint Nicholas and the Cathedral of Saint Sabino.

The Basilica houses the mortal remains of Saint Nicholas, which were brought to Bari by 62 sailors. Every May, a three-day festival celebrates the beloved saint who is the patron of children, sailors, and unmarried women. His statue is carried to the harbor in procession with food, music, and traditional costumes. On December 6, young women pay tribute to the saint by circling a red marble column in the church six times. Legend has it that if they do this, they will meet their future husband within the year.

Campanile of the Cathedral of Saint Sabino

The sprawling Norman-Swabian Castle is now used as a venue for special events.

Norman-Swabian Castle

But the real star of Bari is the food! With sweet cherries and spicy olives, mouth-watering gelato, and homemade taralli, Bari’s real star is orecchiette, an ear-shaped pasta served with a variety of sauces. Women can be seen making these “little ears” all around the old town. Our lunch at Fra-Bo Restaurant was a plate of fresh orecchiette paired with slow-cooked meat sauce and braciole. Yum!

Tricolore Orecchiette
Preparing Our Lunch in Terra-cotta Pan
Yum!
Not sure if that’s a smile 🙂
Baci Gelato

The Musee Teatro Margherita is a landmark former theater that now houses a museum.

Museo Teatro Margherita

Later in the afternoon, we took a drive through the countryside to visit the trulli in the town of Alerobello. Originally built centuries ago as temporary field shelters, this charming style of construction is unique to the Itria Valley. Trulli are built with dry sandstone without the use of mortar. A keystone keeps it all together.

A field shelter
An original 19th century trulli
A welcoming home
Symbols on the roofs are mystical
There’s even a trulli church!

We ended our day at Masseria Papaperta, an 18th century farm that’s now a popular wedding venue.

Puglia is a sun-drenched region that offers everything you’d expect and more! We have some family, the Diomedes, who are from Bari so we knew it would be special, but we had no idea just how special it would be.

Calabria and Mother Nature

Crotone, Calabria

Arriving in the port town of Crotone in the “toe” of the Italian boot, we were greeted by sunny skies and an interesting coastline. Described in our tour book as a “sun-baked region of rugged mountains, old-fashioned villages, monumental woodlands, and a thriving farm-to-table scene,” Calabria seemed like a wonderful place to escape to the woods for a day to enjoy nature. Who knew…perhaps we could escape the blistering heat of the past two weeks for a hike in the woods.

After a 90 minute ride through farmlands, meadows, and forests, we approached our destination. We learned that olives are grown at the lower elevations, and that the olive oil they produce is especially sweet. We also learned that red-skinned potatoes are grown in abundance, making gnocchi the region’s favorite pasta. Pungent porcini mushrooms are also found growing wild in the moist, dense woods.

Sunny skies and olive groves

Our ultimate destination, the Sila National Forest, has been a protected area since the 15th century. It is home to the 350 year-old “IL Gigante,” the Giants of Sila. Standing at up to 150′ high with trunks over 7′ wide, the giants promised cooler temperatures and cool, crisp, clean air. This “Calabrian Alps” as it is called, seemed an ideal respite.

As we approached 6,000 feet above sea level, we began to see a few raindrops on the windshield. Our guide explained that they hadn’t seen rain in several months, but that a cloudburst isn’t uncommon at this altitude. She assured us it would pass. But when literally scores of hikers came running out of the woods, we knew it wasn’t looking good.

The threatening clouds

Then came thunder, lightning, and a relentless deluge. As we waited at the park entrance for the rain to subside, our guide checked her weather app and learned that the thunderstorm would hover over the area for the next two hours. No hike for us! There was so much rain that the parched ground couldn’t absorb it. Our driver, Roberto, had no place to turn around on the narrow mountain road which was now blocked by all the cars trying to escape, so he had to back down most of the way.

Once about halfway down, we stopped at an open-air restaurant, Vallefiore. Here we enjoyed the best of the local provisions. Starting with an antipasto of home made cheeses, cured meats, and pickled vegetables, next came a creamy porcini mushroom pasta. A variety of grilled pork and a platter of crispy fried potatoes capped off a “light lunch.” We washed it all down with a local wine and ended with an herb-based digestif. We now understand why the Italians have the civilized tradition of siesta after lunch!

But no siesta for us… at least not yet! A short distance away, we were transported back to the Middle Ages as we walked off our lunch in the charming village of San Giovanni in Fiore.

The iconic destination in this village is the Abbey Joachim of Fiore. A treasure of art, culture, and regional history, the abbey stands as a tribute to its founder Joachim, a wealthy man-turned-monk who built this magnificent stone structure.

Inside the Abbey, a museum offers a glimpse of how difficult life must have been in this earthquake -prone area. Three consecutive earthquakes wiped out homes and businesses, and people were forced to start over again and again. Hundreds of locals moved to North and South America during the early 1900s in search of a better life. Photographs reflect the difficulty of life during this time, and some of the children in the photos are likely still alive today.

A local family

As we made our way back to our ship, we had time to reflect on a day that, although wasn’t what we planned, turned out to be a great way to learn about a region less traveled.

Messina, The Door to Sicily

Surrounded by volcanic Mt. Etna, rugged mountains, orange and olive groves, and vineyards, Messina’s location at the northeast tip of Sicily puts it just two miles away from the Italian mainland. Shaped by Greek, Byzantine, and Roman civilizations, Sicily is a beautiful blend of different cultures and histories.

Strait of Messina

The Strait of Messina connects the Mediterranean with the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas. In Greek Mythology the immortal monsters Scylla and Charybdis lived here, as described by Homer in the Odyssey. We didn’t see any evidence of monsters, but our efforts to get up before dawn were genuinely rewarded by seeing Mainland Italy on the portside (left) and Sicily on the starboard (right) side.

Sailing through the Strait in the early morning, one of the first sights are two red and white pylons, one on each side, seeming to reach for the sky. Built in 1955, they served as electrical conductors until 1993 when the power lines were removed. Today they enjoy protected status as historical monuments.

Pylon of Messina

Reaching the Port of Messina, we began to learn more of the folklore surrounding this beautiful place. The Golden Madonna welcomes travelers with the message “Vos et ipsam civitatem benedicimus,” (We bless you and your city.) According to legend, the Blessed Virgin sent a letter to the people of Messina in the year 42. In the letter, written in Hebrew and tied with a strand of her hair, she thanked the people of Messina for their devotion and promised them that she would always protect them from harm. Despite a large earthquake in 1908 and bombings in 1943, the people of Messina have prevailed with great devotion to Madonna della Lettera (Madonna of the Letter,) so much so that she’ll re-appear in my description of the Cathedral below.

The Golden Madonna

Fifteen churches serve the people of Messina (population 236,962.) Most notable among them is the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption (aka Saint Mary of the Letter). Every day at noon, hundreds of people crowd the Piazza del Duomo to hear the lion roar, the rooster crow, and the Ave Maria, which is played as the image of the church disappears and the statues of the people in the bell tower revolve to receive the letter from the Madonna. I joined the group in the blistering sun to record this lovely tradition. At the 8th minute, my phone overheated and turned itself off, but I stayed in the piazza til the end, and was happy to do so. The file is too large to upload, so I’ll just share a photo and would be happy to share the video when I get home.

Clock Tower at Noon

Other beautiful churches include the Church of Saint Caterina del Valverde, the Church of Santissima Annunziata del Catalani, and the Temple of Christ the King which sits high on a hill overlooking Messina

Church of Saint Caterina del Valverde
Church of Saint Caterina del Valverde
Church of Saint Caterina del Valverde
Church of Santissima Annunziata del Catalani
Temple of Christ the King

In addition to Messina’s beautiful churches, the architecture throughout the city reflects its diverse history. Ornate buildings, doors, and windows can be found everywhere.

The corner of an apartment building
The theater is being totally renivated
Beautiful door
A typical street

We also enjoyed a bit of la dolce vita in Messina. The gelato is superb, and the ornate pastries were very hard to resist.

Pistachio gelato
Temptations
Beautiful cakes

As one would expect, fishing is big business in Messina. Every morning the fishing boats cast their nets and bring back an abundance of fresh seafood. Fishing swordfish is a unique process that involves a special boat and highly trained crew. From May through August, these specialists climb a 25’mast to be on the lookout for the prized catch. They communicate sightings to a fisherman sitting on a long gangplank on the front of the boat. When alerted, he hurls a harpoon and hopefully spears a swordfish. After a long struggle, the fish is pulled onboard and the process begins again.

Swordfish boat

The symbol for Sicily is the triscale or trinacria. It comes from Greek Mythology, and includes the head of Medusa whose hair is intertwined with serpents and wheat. One explanation of the three bent legs is that they represent the three sides of the Sicily Triangle. Another is that they reflect those who traveled all around the world seeking the best fruits, stones, and soil, which they then dropped in Sicily. This explains why everything is better in Sicily, according to Sicilians. The symbol is found on the official flag as well as on decorative pottery and even souvenirs.

Our tour guide explaining the trinacria

Above and Below Ground in Napoli!

Naples Seafront

According to our guide Vincenzo, this has been the warmest August in 40 years! Our tour took us above and below this iconic Italian seaport, which has long been a major center of Italian culture for centuries and is best known for its pizza.  In 1889, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy visited Naples. A baker named Esposito made them a pizza named in the queen’s honor. The pizza mirrored the Italian flag: red tomatoes, white mozzarella, and green basil. This margherita pizza has become synonymous with Napoli.

The National Museum of San Martino (formerly a convent) stands high above the city and provides a timeless landmark.

National Museum of San Martino

Naples has the dubious distinction of being the most bombed Italian city in World War II. Nonetheless, there are some beautiful buildings in Naples, such as those that mark a sweeping public square. The San Francesco di Paola Church, reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome, and the Royal Palace with statues of all the kings of Naples keeping watch over the square.

San Francesco di Paola Church
Royal Palace

Naples also boasts two historic castles. The Medieval Castel Nuovo is one of the primary architectural landmarks of Naples.

Castel Nuovo

The Castel dell’Ovo (Egg Castle) is a seafront castle located on the Peninsula of Megarde. Legend has it that the poet Virgil placed a magical egg in the castle’s foundation, which, if broken, would have meant destruction of the castle and disaster for the city. It is said to remain there to this day, along with Virgil’s remains.

Castel dell’ Ovo

Naples also has many beautiful fountains, such as those in front of City Hall at Palazzo San Giacomo and the Fontana El Carciofo (Fountain of the Artichoke.)

Palazzo San Giacomo
Fontana del Carciofo

Volcanoes dot the skyline around Naples, and although the day was hazy, they can be seen as reminders of both the destruction and benefit they produce. The city of Pompeii was destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., but volcanoes also produce lava rock which has served as an important building material in and around Naples for centuries.

Volcanic Island of Ischia
Mt. Vesuvius

We later escaped the afternoon heat by touring the lesser-known Bourbon Tunnels deep below the city. Originally built by the Greeks in the fourth century B.C., they were later used by the Romans as aqueducts. As our tour reflected, they also served as life-saving air raid shelters during World War II.

They have discovered so much of what it must have been like during the war, including a birthing area and toilets that offered little privacy.

Birthing Room
Toilets

Over the years, the abandoned tunnels became a dumping ground for old cars, motorcycles, Vespas, and other artifacts. Recent efforts to preserve the tunnels have resulted in a massive clean-up, during which many of these remnants of the past have been placed on display.

Antique baby carriage
Fireman’s ladder
Vespas
One of many motorcycles

And no visit to Naples would be complete without a taste of Margherita pizza!

Doug’s smile says it all!

As we sailed away from Naples, we passed the lighthouse with fond memories of a beautiful day in the region where my father was born.

Naples Lighthouse

When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do!

Saint Peter’s Square

Our day in Rome started with a panoramic tour (a.k.a. a bus ride around the city to glance at many of the beautiful, historic sites.) Since tour buses aren’t allowed in many places, this approach left us a bit frustrated to say the least, because we missed many of Rome’s highlights. But here are a few pictures we managed to take from the bus.

Basilica of Saint Paul Fuori le Mura (Outside the Walls)
Colosseum
Arch of Constantine
Basilica do San Giovanni in Laterano
Temple of Venus and Rome
Remains of Circus Maximus
Castel Saint Angelo (Hadrian’s Tomb)

When our guide dropped us off at Saint Peter’s Square, our first inclination was to make a mad dash around Rome to be sure we didn’t miss anything. That would have been an exercise in futility, since it was already 97° and our time was very limited.

Then we remembered the cappuccino we enjoyed at Saint Eustachio Il Caffe many years ago. We decided that taking a coffee break at our favorite sidewalk cafe would be much more Roman than rushing around trying to check off boxes on a tour map. So armed with Google Maps, we set off to find Saint Eustachio’s, snapping photos of a few interesting sites along the way.

Piazza Navona
Piazza delle’Orologio

After a brisk 20 minute walk, our efforts were rewarded, and for the next hour we sat in the shaded plaza in front of the coffee shop sipping the most delicious drinks while nibbling on small pastries and chatting with a delightful young couple from Copenhagen.

As we made our way back to Civitavecchia, the port serving Rome, we were happy to have made the decision to “do as the Romans do” by taking a mid-day break to smell (and drink!) the coffee.

The Tuscan Sun!

Although we have loved our visits to Florence in the past, the record high heat and unrelenting sun led us to a decision to spend our two days in Tuscany in the smaller cities of Livorno, Lucca, and Pisa. We just couldn’t wrap our heads around walking around Florence at 104°!

Livorno Harbor

Livorno is the port city serving Tuscany. Its crumbling Renaissance-era fortification walls give way to a small town square. A few blocks away is the Venezia Nuova quarter, complete with a tiny network of canals. The night we were there there was an art fair going on, complete with artisan crafts, food, music, and balloons. We might have sampled a regional Chianti or Mobile di Montepulciano or two! It was fun to mingle among the local residents in a festive small town!

Venezia Nuova Canal
Church of San Ferdinando
Historic Town Hall
Festive Balcony
Art Fair

Making our way from Livorno to Lucca through the rolling, emerald-green countryside, we passed acres and acres of sunflowers, cypress trees, olive groves, and vineyards. We also crossed the Arno River.

Sunflowers for miles!
Arno River

Lucca is a charming historic city on the Serchio River. It is best known for its tree-lined 2.7 mile loop trail which has been built on top of its Medieval walls that still circle the historic old town. The Walls of Lucca are popular for jogging, cycling, and carriage rides. For us, they provided some welcome shade as we made our way around this well-preserved city.

During Roman times, Lucca served as an important meeting place for Julius Caesar and Crassus. It is also the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini. His home is now a museum and bookstore, and a statue of the great composer stands proudly in the Piazza Cittadella. Lucca is also home to several beautiful churches, most notably the Church of San Michele in Forno, around which a lively piazza serves as a meeting spot for locals and tourists needing a break.

Lucca’s traditional pastry, buccallato, is a round sweet bread sotted with raisins and anise. The Lucchese say “Whoever comes to Lucca and doesn’t eat buccallato is like never having been there.” We certainly didn’t want that to happen!

Giacomo Puccini at Piazza Cittadella
In search of the best buccallato
Mission accomplished!

No visit to Tuscany would be complete without a visit to Pisa, where the Square of Miracles welcomes thousands of visitors every day. Here, a trinity of masterpieces – Pisa Cathedral, the Baptistry, and the Campanile (a.k.a. Leaning Tower) – reflect some of the region’s finest art and architecture.

Gateway to Piazza Miracali
The Trinity
The Baptistry
Leaning Tower of Pisa
A bit of fun at the Tower!

Magnificent Monte Carlo

As we sailed into the glittering port of Monte Carlo, we couldn’t help feeling like we were entering a fairy-tale. Nothing about this elegant gem at the base of the Maritime Alps along the French Riviera seems the least bit real, but its stylish, sophisticated aura is both welcoming and intoxicating. It is immaculately clean, safe, chic, and yes, EXPENSIVE, but a day in this sparkling city within the Principality of Monaco was truly enjoyable.

Monaco has been ruled by the House of Grimaldi for 700 years. According to our guide, they’re well-liked and accessible, and can be seen out and about Monte Carlo. The current ruler is Prince Albert II. The Palais Princier is their private residence, parts of which can be visited from April through October. Hundreds of spectators view the changing of the guard, which occurs hourly.

Palais Princier

The Musee Oceanographique is home to more than 6,000 marine specimens. It has been widely recognized for its efforts to care for the world’s oceans for over a century. It’s an architectural masterpiece, seeming to emerge from the shore of the Mediterranean.

Musee Oceanographique
Ornate Front Door to Musee Oceanographique
Yellow Submarine

The Cathedrale de Monaco is the home church to the Grimaldi family. It has celebrated family weddings and funerals for decades, and is the final resting place for Princess Grace Kelly, Prince Rainier III, and other members of the royal family.

Cathedrale de Monaco
Main Sanctuary
Grimaldi Family Private Chapel
One of many side altars

Created in 1984 in memory of Princess Grace, the Roseraie Princess Grace has over 10,000 rose bushes over ten acres. The statue at the entrance was donated by the Broere family “in appreciation and gratitude for the hospitality extended by the Principality of Monaco and for its noble and extraordinary endeavours to save the oceans.”

Entrance to Roseraie Princess Grace
Statue at the entrance

The Casino de Monte Carlo has the distinction of being the most visited site in all of Monaco. With its distinctive Belle Epoque architecture, it stands as a symbol of the opulent world of gambling and entertainment.

The Monaco Grand Prix brings thousands of Formula One fans to Monaco from all around the world. The Circuit de Monaco is a 2,074 mile street circuit laid out on the city streets of Monte Carlo, La Condamine, and the harbour. Temporary facilities take 250 workers six weeks to construct before the race and three weeks to deconstruct afterwards. Parts of the inside track remain available to visitors, and various permanent structures provide racing-related photo-ops along the circuit streets.

Part of the Inside Track
Visitors can jump into this car for a selfie

As a playground for the rich and famous, Monte Carlo offers many recreational opportunities such as beautiful public and private beaches, stylish shops, Michelin-star restaurants, and even a seaside carousel.

During our stay in Monte Carlo, the super-yacht Kismet was docked in the harbour. Valued at over $200 million, Kismet is owned by Pakistani-American billionaire Shahid Khan. With 8 staterooms and a crew of 28, Kismet can be rented for $1.2 million per week PLUS the cost of food, fuel, and dockage. This yacht has been in several films and was rented by Jay-Z and Beyonce during a vacation in Italy. Needless to say, we’ll be happily staying with Viking for a while!

Kismet

Marseille

Our panoramic tour of the highlights of Marseille took us along the beautiful Mediterranean coastline, up through the rocky limestone hills, and into the inviting old port.

Although Marseille is France’s oldest city, rich in historic treasures, it has an exciting vibe as they prepare for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Marseille will be hosting the Olympic sailing competitions, so the harbor areas are bustling as impressive event and viewing facilities emerge. Cranes dot the coastline as preparations are well underway.

Several remarkable monuments dot the coast, including the welcoming Monument Aux Morts Orients and an imposing replica of Michelangelo’s David. Built in 1924, the Monument Aux Morts Orients is a national tribute to the soldiers and sailors who died in battle in the Orient and other distant lands.

Monument Aux Morts Des Orients

And I can’t imagine that David, built in 1903 in the 8th arrondissement on the Prado roundabout, hasn’t caused a traffic incident or two!

Marseille’s David

And beautiful beaches offer recreation and respite from the heat, which reached 90 throughout the day.

Plage des Catalans

Marseille is home to several beautiful churches, most visibly the neo-Byzantine Notre Dame de la Garde, the Cathedral de la Major, and the quaint Saint-Ferreol, known as the Church of the Old Port of Marseille. Notre Dame, perched high above the port city, stands guard over the city day and night.

Cathedral de la Major
Saint-Ferreol Church of the Old Port
Notre Dame de la Garde

The charming Vieux Port (Old Port) is a natural harbor that hosts hundreds of watercraft, from sleek elegant yachts to old style fishing boats. This picturesque quay provides a romantic setting for its many shops, sidewalk cafes, and unique attractions. Many of the shops offer the products of Provence, including whole stores dedicated to the ubiquitous lavender, olive oil, and other mouth-watering delicacies. The recent addition of motorized scooters and bicycles add to the excitement, as riders dart through the crowded sidewalks.

La Samaritaine Brasserie
Pop-up shops along the quay

We might have spent a little too much time in the charming La Cure Gourmande, an iconic shop offering sweets of all kinds, as the shopkeeper offered Doug an apron and a job!

And we couldn’t leave the Old Port without a nod to the Grand Carousel de la Canebiere.

Grand Carousel de la Canebiere

Sete, France

Since Louis XIV chose Sete as the port where the Canal du Midi would join the Mediterranean in 1666, Sete was destined to be a maritime town in the south of France. Known as the “Venice of France” because of its many canals, Sete is a charming town offering a unique introduction to the Occitanie  Region. The residents fiercely cling to their regional identity, and proudly continue to speak their native language as demonstrated by our guide. Occitan to his core, Tony sprinkled his tour narrative with political perspectives and regional songs, which he sang and played on his fife as we made our way through the city.

Tony drew some side-eyes from locals as he led us through Sete with his flute, playing American tunes such as Yankee Doodle when it was time for us to gather!

The Port of Sete was originally inaugurated with a water jousting festival, a Medieval tradition that continues to this day. Every August, thousands of spectators flock to Sete for a week-long contest between two teams: blue (bachelors) and red (married men), although women are beginning to infiltrate the sport. Standing on special boats, the jousters try to knock each other into the river.

As we walked along Fisherman’s Village, we encountered many local fishermen as they prepared to go out for the catch of the day.

Locals gather at Les Halles, the lively local marketplace, where a variety of fresh products of the land and sea are available to enjoy there or take home.

The octopus is celebrated throughout Sete, with a statue in the middle of the town square. It is also baked into a local delicacy called tielle, a pie filled with octopus and tomatoes. It is considered a delicacy and is available all over town.

Our walking tour with Tony was fun, interesting, and HOT! After bidding a fond farewell, we boarded a bus for our ride to Pays de Thai wine region.

Tony is a proud ambassador for Sete
Next stop oysters!

A short ride through the countryside took us to Tarbouriech, the realization of Florent Tabourich’s dream of developing a method of cultivating the most delicious oysters. This unique process creates artificial tides using smart solar panels and wind turbines. The oysters are grown on large frames in the lagoon and are lifted repeatedly from the water throughout their growing cycle, a process resulting in a sweeter taste and fleshy texture.

The proof of the method is oysters with a sweet, salty taste that’s perfectly paired with Picpoul de Pinet, a crisp white wine.

Oysters+wine=a happy Denise

We ended our day in Sete with a return to the lovely canals and a breathtaking sunset.

Barcelona

Welcome back to Timeless Travelers…we’re delighted that you’ve decided to join us once again. On this trip, we’re trying to visit many of the ports we missed on our abbreviated 2020 World Cruise.  Starting with two delightful days in Barcelona, we’ll be cruising the Mediterranean to Istanbul, where we’ll spend several days before flying to Cairo. Once there, we’ll be sailing the Nile before heading home. One thing that’s different this time is that since our world cruise, we’ve added a new member to our family. Mocha Latte is a 2 year old mini Bernedoodle who has captured our hearts. She’s spending this time with her pals at Our Furry Friends, and we’re grateful to Ms. Babette who will make sure she has a great vacation too.

Mocha Latte

Although two days isn’t nearly enough time to experience everything Barcelona has to offer, we ignored our jet lag and packed as much as we could into our precious time there.

Barcelona is an exciting urban center that blends the historic with the contemporary in a way that delights the senses and literally offers something for everyone. With a tremendous focus on art and architecture, it’s truly a feast for the eyes! The influence of such greats as Gaudi, Picasso, and Dali is found everywhere.

The street lamps of Barcelona are exquisite, and range from very simple to absolutely extraordinary.

Barcelona’s markets are bustling centers for local commerce. One of the largest is Mercado de la Boqueria. Originally established in 1840, this market offers a huge selection of Spain’s renowned cured meats, cheeses, fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and mouth-watering prepared foods.

Las Ramblas is one of the most iconic boulevards in Barcelona. Thousands of daily visitors enjoy the sights and sounds of the street, including the live statues that will “perform” for you for a small fee.

Murals, public art, and graffiti are found throughout Barcelona, and colorful street signs add interesting local flavor.

But the crown jewel of Barcelona is Gaudi’s masterwork, La Sagrada Familia. The largest unfinished Roman Catholic church in the world, it was supposed to be finished in 2026 in celebration of the centenary of Gaudi’s death. Covid, however, delayed the church’s completion, and some speculate that it will never be finished. A mix of architectural styles, the church is truly a masterpiece, deserving of a complete story of its own. Here is just a sample of this intricate, magnificent work of art.

There is so much more to Barcelona, its people, art, food, and culture, but with only two days to visit, we simply didn’t have time for everything. Here are just a few more photos that capture the spirit of this vibrant place. We would love to return some day.