As with most of the major cities throughout Italy, Bari has a very long and tumultuous history, filled with drama, intrigue, battles won and lost and incredible stories.
You can go all the way back to 5500 BC to find the first inhabitants of the area now known as Bari. They were a tribe of Proto-Indo-Europeans who originated in Greece and migrated to Italy. It was a barbarous part of the world whose traditions were Greek, although they were not officially a Greek colony.
Once the Romans began their rule in the 3rd Century BC, the area became an important port for trade as well as protection of the entire costs. Even back then, its harbor was a huge fishing port.
In the Middle Ages, Bari became an entry port for the Slavic slave trade and became a magnet for being conquered by the Normans during the Byzantine period. By the 2nd Century, it also became a haven for some of the most famous Saints of the time, including Saint Nicolas of Myra, who began to attract pilgrims. It was then that the economy of Bari began to truly flourish. After numerous occupations by a variety of emperors, Bari went through a series of being destroyed, but always managed to rebuild itself.
In the late 15th and early 16th Centuries, Isabella di Aragona, the princess of Naples incorporated Bari into its kingdom and lived there. Years later, Joachim Murat, brother-in-law of Napoleon, built a new section of the city in the early 19th Century which bears his name of Murattiano. The port began to thrive and grow once again, but suffered major damage during World War II.