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Polignano a Mare Travel Guide to Beaches, History, Caves, Hotels & Restaurants

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About Polignano a Mare

According to an ancient legend, a part of the Greek coast drifted from the mainland and merged with Puglia on the other side of the Adriatic Sea. That is impossible, but it would explain the picturesque white streets of a cozy town, built high on a cliff. The visitors of Polignano a Mare has very well noticed the remarkable beauty of the town. Many fill the narrow streets, dressed as on a wedding day, taking pictures of each other, and jamming the whole old town. A typical popular town among the tourists. Polignano a Mare is a real rejoice in the relatively barren lands of Puglia, like a desert rose, it seduces trespassers from the miles apart.

The view from the bridge over Lama Monachile. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

The Puglian Miracle

During the evenings, Polignano a Mare changes its face. One can explore the narrow alleys almost by himself. Though the Old Town is relatively small, there are more than enough restaurants, cafes, and other places to try the local goods, whose taste feels almost like a miracle, having in mind the barren lands of the region. Polignano a Mare, being a port town, has a fantastic seafood kitchen as well. Combined, every meal in this town feels like a blessing.

But don’t worry, in this article you’ll find all the information required to get the most from your time in Polignano a Mare, or at least avoid making the same mistakes I did. This is a full guide to Polignano a mare, find the quick navigation to the topics that interest you below:

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One could be forgiven for stating that Domenico Modugno is the face of Polignano a Mare. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Polignano a Mare Details

Map of Polignano a Mare

Pietra Piatta, located behind Domenico Modugno monument, offers spectacular views. hoto by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Polignano a Mare History

If there is one thing certain about the history of Polignano a Mare is that the town of Polignano is very ancient. Everything else is lost between Greek, Roman, Byzantian, Venetian, and Aragonese (Spanish) influences throughout the ages, and that comes without involving all other parties, participating in the development of the region.

The ancient roots are nowhere from being a unique feature of Polignano a Mare alone, instead it is rather something shared with the whole area of the southeast of Bari. Archeologically, the presence of humans could be traced as far as to the late stone age but the development of the settlement has remained somewhat mysterious because Polignano a Mare is a city, built on a city, built on a city…

Polignano a mare is city, built on a city, built on a city. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Greek Origins – Neapolis of Apulia

Though we don’t have any records from the ancient writers about the town, it is now known that during the Antiquity, Polignano a Mare was known as Neapolis. It is the same as the current Naples has been known during those days. To distinguish the two cities, Polignano a Mare is referred to as Neapolis of Apulia. I’ll do the same.

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The Traces of Greek Culture

If there is no written evidence found yet to the date, how the hell they know that the town existed by this name? The sole proof of Neapolis of Apulia is the ancient coins, found in the area of the town. They have the name of the town written on them in a manner that is different from the Neapolis coins. Generally, on the one side of the coins, found in Polignano a Mare are the head of Dionysos, or Bacchus, and Thyrsus – a stave held by Dionysian Mystics; and on the reverse – vine leaves and bunches of grapes. For one reason or another, these coins have the theme of Dionysos and his mysteries. 

Palazzo dell’Orologio is the central square in the old town of Polignano a Mare. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Dionysius II of Syracuse

The scholars try to connect the dots by linking the Greek Neapolis of Apulia to Dionysius II of Syracuse, who built two ports on the Italian shore by the Adriatic Sea for the safe navigation between Greece and Syracuse. The coins found in Polignano a Mare are dated to 4th Century BC – the same era Dionysius II ruled the area. Despite that, the archeological record shows an active settlement since the Bronze Age, which would push the foundation of the town about 1,000 years more into ancient times. If Dionysius II of Syracuse found Neapolis of Apulia, he rose the city on an already existing center.

Lama Monachile is an ancient port. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

A Personal Hypothesis

If Neapolis of Apulia was in fact founded by Dionysius II of Syracuse (not to be mistaken with Greek God Dionysus), maybe, he transformed the town for the Dionysian Mysteries. The existence of the town might as well have been kept as a secret, as many of these mysteries of the ancient Greek cults were allowed to be performed only within certain areas. Hence, the lack of written evidence for Neapolis of Apulia.

The Roman bridge of Via Traiana is still used today. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Roman Origins

Some say that it was Emperor Julius Caesar himself, who founded the city after destroying the castle, which stood in the area. Some give the credits to other Italian consuls or generals. One way or another, the bridge of the Via Traiana is the proof that Romans were active in the area and later on – completely dominated it.

After the division of the Roman Empire, Puglia went under the jurisdiction of the Byzantine Empire. The legacy of the Orthodox church still could be seen within the region, just as the traces of Norman, Venetian & Spanish rule as well. With so many conquerors and so much destruction throughout the millennias, it is very likely that many of Polignano a Mare’s secrets will never going to be uncovered. 

Spanish influences could be easily seen across the town. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Modern Polignano a Mare

Among the many legends and opinions, it is easy to get lost. What is certain is the document of 1862, declaring the new name of the city – Polignano a Mare, in a newly formed state – The Kingdom of Italy. Ever since, the history of the whole country became the history of town, until the last star rose from this ancient settlement.

The last internationally notable event in Polignano a Mare was the success of Domenico Modugno, born and raised in the town. This pretty much shapes the current face of Polignano a Mare, with his figure being the central attraction in the town. The whole tourism circles around the area of the monument, but there is much more to see within Polignano a Mare.

Domenico Modungo monument with Pietra Piatta with the old town and Lama Monachile forms the golden triangle of Polignano a Mare. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

5 Popular Landmarks in Polignano a Mare

Now that we got to know the town, let’s go for a walk. a such a small town, Polignano a Mare has rather a lot to offer. I’m sure that everybody will find plenty of things to do for at least a day, though, I would recommend spending a night in this romantic picturesque town as well. I have spent even more time and had no regrets.

Polignano a Mare is not your typical Italian colorful town, it looks more like a white village from Spain. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Monument for Domenico Modugno

If you are not Italian, you might not know Domenico Modugno, but I bet you know his legendary Eurovision winning (1958) song “Volare (Nel blu dipinto di blu)”, or at least one of its cover. Many artists have recorded this song including Frank Sinatra, Gipsy Kings, and even David Bowie.

Polignano is the home town of Domenico Modugno, his house ir just next to the monument. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

A lot of Italians come to Polignano a Mare to visit this iconic monument. Some of the best restaurants and hotels are situated just next to it. To be honest, the statue is a masterpiece of craftsmanship, and while you are in the town, I don’t see a reason not to visit? Especially, when behind it lies Pietra Piatta with its beautiful vistas and echoes of Volare during the evenings.

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The Abbey of San Vito

Situated just about 3km from Lama Monachile and its bridges, the Abbey of San Vito is well worth anybody’s time, who came to Polignano a Mare to do more than just to get a selfie from the bridge. It could be reached by foot and with a car in no time, but you’ll hardly can get there by the public transport. Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit and snorkel gear because the abbey has a beautiful beach as well.

The old town of Polignano a Mare will capture you in no time. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

The Old Town of Polignano a Mare

I cannot single out a certain spot, but that is the point. The whole old town of Polignano a Mare is worth wandering around. It doesn’t matter if you skip a part of itis in the heart of Polignano a Mare always feels like the first time. During my stay in the town, simply walking around was my favorite thing to do. Especially early and late during the day, when half-day tourists leave Polignano a Mare. I cannot say exactly that I blame them. If you want to see the highlights of the town you can easily do that within a day, but you need more time to understand and get to feel at least a bit of the very essence of the town.

It is easy to get lost in the old town of Polignano a Mare, but it is the fun part. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

The old town of Polignano a Mare is a great place for all kinds of photographers. Against the typical Spanish or Greek white walls of the town, almost everybody looks good. Therefore during the day, you’ll find plenty of people posing for shots almost on every corner of the old town. And then again, I can’t blame them. I made vast amounts of shots myself. Without a doubt, the old town of Polignano a Mare is the crown jewel of a beautiful crown.

Poems & Quotes

While you are at the old town of Polignano a Mare, be sure to notice various quotes and parts of poems, written on stairs, doors and white walls of teh town. You won’t understand them if you don’t know Italian or at least some of the other Latin languages, but they are fun to notice. The deeper you do into the old town, the more of the poems you find.

Any corner within the old town could hide a secret, worth finding. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Polignano a Mare Caves Tours

Having all the beautiful places within the town in mind, it wouldn’t be possible if it was not for the high cliffs on which Polignano a Mare was built. Whoever were the first to settle on this spot, let it be Greeks, Romans, or Messapians, they noticed this unusual rock formation.

Throughout the years, these high cliffs were carved out by the Adriatic Sea. It is only natural for many cave systems to emerge beneath the town. Today, cave tours or Polignano a Mare by boat is one of the most popular things to do in the area. Not only you get to see the beautiful Caves but the town itself from all angles. Given its cancelation policy, I always try to plan such tours on GetYourGuide if possible. Like this 1.5h Polignano a Mare caves boat tour, which you can cancel up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.

There is no way to descend to the caves from the city itself. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Ponte Borbonico su Lama Monachile & Roman Bridge of the Via Traiana

This one is a bit tricky because it could be misleading to the people, who don’t take their time to make a deeper insight into Polignano a Mare. There is a notion of a Roman bridge within the town and many confuse it with the spectacular Ponte Borbonico su Lama Monachile (Bourbon bridge over Lama Monachile), which overshadows the actual Roman bridge, built just a dozen of meters deeper into the continent.

Don’t get me wrong, even being modern, Ponte Borbonico su Lama Monachile is the most spectacular place to visit in Polignano a Mare. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Nevertheless, given its age, the Roman bridge is a remarkable proof of Roman construction skills. After all, a true Roman legionary was half warrior and half construction worker. The Roman bridge in Polignano a Mare is only a smart portion of 330km/205mi long Via Traiana road across Southern Italy, from Benevento (to northeast from Naples) to Brindisi.

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5 Beaches around Polignano a Mare

Given the high cliffs beneath the old town of Polignano a Mare, it is not that obvious for the town to contain some good beaches. If you are looking for long sandy beaches – you came into the wrong place, though it doesn’t mean there is no place for a swim. Just don’t forget to take your aqua socks. If not for sea urchins, then for the rocks – when the Adriatic waves rise, it can easily knock you out if you are not standing right.

For most of the visitors Lama Monachile will be the only beach they need. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Lama Monachile

Lama Monachile is that legendary beach you see in all pictures of Polignano a Mare. It is located beneath the famous bridges and is in fact an ancient port of the settlements, which came before the modern version of the town. For most visitors of Polignano a Mare, Lama Monachile will be the only beach they’ll need. Though if you want some privacy, or even space, consider other options. Depending on the wave direction, this beach might be a bit more sensitive to the waves, coming from the Adriatic Sea.

Grotta Pian ais about 20m/65ft long. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Lama Monachile is also the location of Grotta Piana – a small passage straight from the beach to the Adriatic Sea. If the sea is calm, it is great for snorkeling or simply jumping into the sea without touching the ground. If the waves are high, entering the grotto might be dangerous. While you are at it, be careful not to step on tiny crabs, who inhabit Grotta Piana!


Grottone in Grotta Azzurra

This natural pool, located right next to Grotta Azzurra, is great for families or when the waves of the Adriatic Sea makes it impossible to refresh yourself elsewhere. The area around Grottone must be a great place to snorkel as well.

Grottone is a natural pool, protected from the Adriatic waves. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Lido Cala Paura

Located a bit further from the heart of the town, Lido Cala Paura is the second most crowded beach in Polignano a Mare. It is surrounded by fisherman huts and is probably the most used docks in Polignano a Mare. Honestly, Lido Cala Paura felt like an escape for the locals from the tourists in the town. The beach is great for sun-bathing and has plenty of space for everybody around the docks. If you get hungry, the food is right here in fishermen’s schanks. 

Lido Cala Puala is a good option once the sea is not calm. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Ponte dei Lapilli Beach

A remote beach, far from the tourists, and too far for the locals. Located close to illegal camping spots, I guess Pontei dei Lapilli beach is mostly used by the people from the campers and some locals, who happen to live nearby. Nevertheless, fewer crowds are great and it is closest to a normal beach I could find in Polignano a Mare.

Located further from the town, Spaggia di Pontei dei Lapilli is a great choice to find some privacy. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Port’Alga

Located on a different side of the Old Town of Polignano a Mare than the other three beaches, Port’Alga requires a good reason to be visited. I guess the best one is the location, if you happen to live nearby – you go to the nearest beach. There is an island nearby, thus I imagine it could be a good spot for snorkeling.

Cala Monachile in Polignano a Mare is used for Red Bull Cliff Diving. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

How to get to Polignano a Mare

All directions are from Puglia’s Capital – Bari. Getting there will be left to your imagination, but the city is the main hub of transportation in the region and beyond. Most of the visitors of Polignano a Mare, come to the town for a day trip of sightseeing from Bari, therefore the connection between the two cities are well established.

As the Capital of Puglia, Bari has plenty to offer on its own. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

By train

Trains between Bari and Fesano or Lecce operate quite frequently. The journey takes about half an hour and it is easy to plan. You can find the timetable and tickets on the official Trenitalia website.


By bus

Personally, I found trains to be a much easier option to get around in Puglia, though not all locations could be accessed with them. This is where buses come in handy. Given that, if you can travel by train, there is no reason to so by bus, including the trip from bari to Pogliano a Mare. You can plan your trips within Puglia on this website and you’ll be automatically redirected to the company, which operated in the given region.


By car

Car is by far the most popular way to get around in Puglia. The fastest way to travel on the southern part of Italy by the Adriatic Sea is via highway SS 16, or Strada Statale 16 Adriatica. Driving from Bari, take an exit to Polignano a Mare just after passing San Vito.

Driving and parking in inner parts of Polignano a Mare might be stressful. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Best Restaurants in Polignano a Mare

The food quality is probably what I loved the most during my visit to Polignano a Mare. The good restaurants in the town offer much better food for, typically, a lower price. Be sure to reserve a table in advance, and have in mind that calling a couple of hours in front might be too late. Of course, you’ll find other places in Polignano a Mare to fill your bellies, but the difference in the food quality and price is noticeable. It might be as well better to cook the food yourself than eat in a random restaurant with high prices and low-quality dishes.

If you like to eat a lot, I recommend taking a full experience option including antipasti (starter), first, second dishes, drink, and a dessert. Otherwise sharing a starter plus one meal should suffice.

Seafood is great and cheap in Polignano a Mare. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Antiche Mura – This great restaurant was my choice for the first evening and it met all my high expectations. Antiche Mura proved to be a high-class Italian restaurant with a very professional staff, who proved to be a great guidance towards the first adventure, trying-out the local kitchen. If you want to get a table – a reservation is required. You can find the menu, reserve a table, or find more information on the official website of Ristorante Antiche Mura.

Antiche Mura is located at the begining of via Roma – the main pedestrian street in Polignano a Mare. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

La Locanda Porta Picc – Another great option for a decently priced high-quality local Italian food, but for the same reason – a reservation is required. Find all the information here

Grotta Palezzese Restaurant – You might have heard of a high-class restaurant by the sea inside a grotto in Polignano a Mare. This is it. Personally, I don’t like mixing apples with oranges, but if you want to try it out – find all the information here.

Pescaria –  This one I missed and I regret it. Apparently, there is national-wide fast-food / seafood “Pescaria” chain, and it has originated here in Polignano a Mare. During the weekend, I’ve seen pretty long lines, but I bet it is worth waiting for that burger with octopus.

Fcazz e Birr (Foccacia & Beer) – Located right next to the bridges of Polignano a Mare, Fcazz e Birr is another takeout option on the list, just not nationally recognized. If you need a quick snack before continuing the exploration, I recommend trying the typical Pugliese foccacia with mozzarella and tomato in this snack bar. I wouldn’t recommend eating a foccacia in a random place due to the fast-food nature of it but this one felt like it was decently prepared and very tasty. It was not the best food I ate in Puglia, but it was the biggest surprise.

There are plenty of accommodation options with the great sea views within the town. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Best Hotels in Polignano a Mare

As I mentioned before, I don’t think that one day is enough to fully experience Polignano a Mare. The town has plenty of accommodation options to offer, meeting the needs of all its visitors. Here are some of the most luxurious, or best located hotels and other accommodation options in Polignano a Mare:

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Monopoli often is left-out without tourists’ attention it deserves. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Tours in Polignano a Mare

Having everything I’ve talked about so far, it is obvious that one day in Polignano a Mare probably not going to do them justice. Without pouring too much oil into the fire, if you don’t have more time – I would suggest hiring a guide. This way you’ll make the most out of your limited time. All the options listed below are managed by GetYourGuide, therefore they have up to 24h in advance cancelation policy.

 

All content and photos by Alis Monte. If you want to collaborate, contact me on info@ctdots.eu. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

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