Polignano a Mare is a picturesque town perched on the Adriatic coast in central Puglia. Located 40km southeast of Bari or 40 minutes by train, Polignano a Mare makes for an easy day trip or better yet, a multi-day stopover. The town is famous for its towering limestone cliffs, picturesque beaches and its famous son, Domenico Modugno, the singer of the song Volare (or Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu).
With two days and two nights you’ll have time to enjoy its two closest beaches, stroll the back streets of the centro storico with a gelato in hand and fit in a short afternoon trip to neighbouring Monopoli.
Polignano a Mare’s highlights, most of which are free, are:
- The beaches! Though the ‘beaches’ are either large pebbles or concrete, the surrounding views are pretty spectacular and make up for the lack of white sand
- Walking along the coast (I think the pictures below speak for themselves)
- Wandering through side streets and finding a bar cocktail bar around aperitivo time or panoramic terraces atop the limestone cliffs overlooking the Adriatic sea below
- People watching in the large piazza (Piazza Aldo Moro), with or without a takeaway pizza
- An afternoon trip to Monopoli with its grand walls and peaceful harbour
We visited Polignano a Mare and Monopoli during the first week of October 2016. Keep in mind the photos below may not be reflective of the crowds that arrive in July and August.
The beach closest to the town centre is the very famous (and very much photographed) Lama Monachille located a few minutes walk from Piazza Aldo Moro. The stony beach, while not overly comfortable to lay on without some form of cushioning, is flanked by limestone cliffs on two sides and the Ponte Di Polignano from behind.
If sitting on the stones isn’t for you but you still want to take in the views, there are few bars to choose from overlooking the beach area where you can enjoy the view with a drink in hand.
For another beach experience, follow the coast westward, until you reach a small boat launching area and Lido Cala Paura. While there’s a small sandy and sloping beach area, follow the concrete pathway to the left and you’ll find another ‘beach’, calm, protected water and lots of concrete to stretch out on. While a little uncomfortable, the sunbathers don’t seem to care (and neither did we!).
Walking along the coast
With the town perched on the top of limestone cliffs, the surrounding scenery is very dramatic and worth taking in from different vantage points. Walking west over the bridge and past Lama Monachille, you’ll find more restaurants and accommodation and the statue of Domenico Modugno (and most likely a crowd!).
Continuing along the coast, there are several vantage points to see the town perched on the cliff and also a swimming pool carved into the rock. Following the coast, you’ll arrive at Lido Cala Paura. The total walking time (without stopping for multiple photos) is about 10 – 15 minutes from the bridge to Lido Cala Paura.
Wandering around the Centro Storico
My favourite way to enter Polignano’s Centro Storico (historic centre) is through the gate near Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi. From there, stroll along the narrow street until you reach Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, lined with several restaurants and bars.
For views of Lama Monachille from above, weave your way through the laneways to the left to find Bastione di Santo Stefano.
Wandering through Polignano’s streets and laneways, you’ll find many inviting restaurants and shops to spend your time in. One of my favourite spots is a cute and busy wine bar called La Cueva Café. This place was very popular around aperitivo time, but bring cash (no credit cards accepted)!
Eating pizza while people watching in Piazza Aldo Moro
Just outside the centro storico, you’ll find the large piazza called Piazza Aldo Moro. With several places to sit, it’s a popular place for people watching and eating a takeaway pizza from Casa Mia Trattoria Pizzeria. On Sunday morning, the piazza turns into a large farmer’s market.
One of my other favourite meals involved picking up supplies at a salumeria (deli) on the other side of the bridge from the main square. They sell a variety of cheeses, antipasti, meats and other goodies for a takeaway picnic lunch.
Afternoon trip to Monopoli
With Monopoli a five minute train ride from Polignano A Mare and both historic centres within walking distance from the train stations, Monopoli makes for a very enjoyable and easy half or full day trip. While trains are frequent, Polignano a Mare is serviced by regional trains only, so the high speed trains stopping at Monopoli do not stop at Polignano a Mare. For more information check the Trenitalia website here and check the departures board so you don’t end up in Bari by mistake!
Monopoli’s historic centre is an easy and flat 10 minute walk from the train station. The historic town is a maze of windy streets lined with whitewashed buildings that are pretty in every direction, complete with clothes hanging out the windows and potted plants lining small courtyards.
After finding your way out of the maze of streets, grab a gelato and stroll around the small boat harbour, Via Porto and its walls and Castello Carlo V.
Polignano a Mare ended up being one of my favourite towns in Puglia. Have you visited the region? Is there any highlights I’ve missed? Leave me a comment below 🙂