“Staggering”. That the only word I can find that describes not only the number of people present, but also the number of exhibitors and their wares. The Bari Trade Fair – known throughout Europe as the “Fiera del Levante” (fair of flags) hosted an incredible 2,500 exhibitors from Europe and abroad and an estimated 700,000 visitors. The fair – which lasted from September 10-17 – is THE premier trade show in the Puglia Region, generating an estimated 100 million euro to the local economy and that’s not including the individual sales and profits of each exhibitor present.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
Attending the Fiera Levante has become an annual odyssey for my wife and me. Even though I’ve tried to find excuses for not going, I can’t seem to stay away. I’m not a big “shopper” but this is more than just shopping. The Fiera del Levante is different people, cultures, food and music. Kind of like traveling the world with out leaving the comfort of your home.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
This is the largest market of its kind in the south. Although the Fiera del Levante mainly serves the large Central and Southern Italian market, its activities extend to the Balkans and the Mediterranean Area. While hundreds of thousands of men, women ad children are enjoying the sights and sounds and spending their money at the same time, behind the scenes the trade fair acts as a conduit for business: what is referred to as the “Business Exchange” Center at the fair promotes contacts between exhibitors and foreign entrepreneurs and dealers and assists them in their negotiations. The Center has been estimated to produce foreign trade worth hundreds of millions of euro (but to be honest this mainly in the sectors regarding machinery for agriculture and the building industry, power tools and some durables (first and foremost, computers, software, and furniture).Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
The first Fiera del Levante was held in 1930 and was an immediate hit. In fact, the Fiera del Levante’s promotional campaigns and the many associated events of the fair have more than lived up to it’s campaign slogan of: “Bari, where Europe meets the East”. Bari is the capital of the Puglia region and sits at the eastern-most point of Italy. Bari is also the primary staging area for the south’s imports and exports. People and goods arrive from and leave for the Balkan area through the port of Bari. The Fiera del Levante is where agreements of cooperation between Italy and the countries on the other side have been signed.
To that end, the Fiera del Levante aims mainly at the huge market formed by the regions of Southern Italy, but it also extends its influence to the Balkans and the Mediterranean area, to the Near East and North Africa.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
The original exhibition grounds covered an area of about 100,000 square meters but these have gradually expanded over the years and now occupy a total area of around 300, 000 square meters, showcasing a range of exhibitors that includes furniture, technology, leisure activities, photography, gold and jewellery, fashion, agriculture, building technology and food.
Take another look at that list. Maybe you didn’t notice of few specifics in particular: gold, jewelry and fashion. You’d think my wife died and went to Heaven. For me it meant the beginning of a longggg day. Where else can you find hand-woven fabrics from India, exotic perfumes from Turkey, deer-skin boots from Denmark and wooden carvings from Africa all with walking distance from one another?Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
But I digress.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
The countries on the East coast of the Adriatic and those of the central and eastern areas of the Mediterranean form a market of over 200 million people demanding products and services to satisfy not only their primary needs but also to sustain and accelerate the on-going process of economic development. These are the countries that largely concern the Fiera del Levante when selecting the themes and contents of the fairs and exhibitions for future agendas. The Fiera del Levante, not least because of its strategic position, fosters contacts between Europe and the Mediterranean area, which are also thus facilitated.
Furthermore, the Fiera del Levante directs its attention to cooperation with the countries of the Far East. This involves mainly China, which has already been taking part in the September International Trade Fairs for several years and which recently signed a huge trade agreement with Italy. Both Chinese and Japanese operators, as well as those from other countries of the East, attend many of the specialist fairs in Bari.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
The Bari Trade Fair is not the only reason to visit this beautiful city which sits on the Adriatic coast. Bari can be reached from anywhere in the world by means of flights via Rome and Milan. There are good road connections, including the A14 Adriatic Motorway. Bari is on the main Bologna-Lecce line and is connected by a good train service.Daily ferry services connect the port of Bari with Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Turkey.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
Bari really is “a bridge between Europe and the East” and the Fiera del Levante is as good a reason as any to visit.