A road trip to Puglia is hardly complete if you don’t include Polignano a Mare in your itinerary. At 35 km (21.7 miles) and just 30 minutes drive from Puglia’s capital Bari, Polignano is anything you’d expect from a small town in southern Italy: quaint, picture perfect, slow-paced and absolutely charming.
Visit in the summer, and you’ll find a place packed with tourists – local as well as international. Visit during shoulder season – in October, like my sister and I did – and things in Polignano a Mare will have slowed down as it starts settling in for winter. Chances are you’ll have the place almost to yourself, then.
If you are considering a quick weekend getaway in Puglia or a longer summer holiday in this part of the country, continue reading: I will tell you everything there is to see and do in Polignano a Mare, Italy, and share a few tips to plan your trip.
The Best Things To Do In Polignano A Mare, Italy
Hang out in Lama Monachile Beach
The most iconic spot in Polignano a Mare is its Lama Monachile beach, officially called Cala Porto. This is a rather small beach of white pebbles framed among cliffs and with clear acquamarine waters. You can access it via the Ponte Borbonico through a stone staircase.
The beach can get incredibly crowded in the summer months, when people enjoy swimming and basking in the sun. We visited on a rainy day in October and while it certainly was not beach weather, this didn’t take away from its charm.
If you plan to spend some time at this beach in the summer, make sure to bring a folding beach chair and a pair of flip-flops or, even better, rock shoes. Since this is a pebbly beach, it can be simply uncomfortable to sit, and getting in and out of the water becomes a real challenge!
Take in the views from Terrazza Santo Stefano
For the most impressive views of Lama Monachile beach, go to Terrazza Santo Stefano (Santo Stefano Terrace), a short walk from Ponte Borbonico bridge. It’s honestly more of a balcony than a terrace, but the view from there is quite simply breathtaking.
Admire Lama Monachile Bridge
Ponte Borbonico isn’t just a great place from where to admire the beach below, and the easiest access point to the beach, but also a great view in and of itself. The bridge was part of the ancient Via Traiana, a Roman road that connected Benevento, in what now is the Campania region of Italy, to Brindisi, in Puglia. It also went through Egnazia – an archeological site not too distant from Polignano.
Pay your tribute to Domenico Modugno
The name Domenico Modugno may not ring a bell, but you will certainly know some of his most famous songs. Volare and Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu, a 1958 hit, are the best known internationally, though my favorite remains Meraviglioso. This famous Italian “cantautore” (songwriter and singer) was born in Polignano a Mare in 1928 and although he left the city when he was just 9 years old, his origins certainly inspired his works (it’s quite easy to see how!).
In 2009, the city erected a 3 meters statue to honor its most famous citizen. It’s located in a beautiful spot overlooking the sea.
And from Pietra Piatta
Right from the spot where Domenico Modugno statue is located, you can access the Scalinata Volare (Volare Staircase) to go to Pietra Piatta, another favorite local hangout place from where you can enjoy yet more stunning views of the city and of Lama Monachile beach.
Walk along the Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo
My sister and I stumbled upon this waterfront by complete chance when we were actually looking for the access point to Lama Monachile beach. It’s located outside of the historic center, and the views of the Adriatic Sea and the city are absolutely magnificent from there too!
Explore the Centro Storico
No visit of Polignano a Mare is complete without a proper walk around the Centro Storico. Most of the attractions are located around the beautiful Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, which you can access via the Arco Marchesale.
Once in the square, you will immediately spot the Palazzo dell’ Orologio (Medieval Clock Palace), where a 19th century rope clock replaced a sundial. Right on top of the clock there’s the statue of Polignano’s saint patron, San Vito, and a bell tower.
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele is also where you’ll find Santa Maria Assunta church, which dates back to 1295. The church has a 22 meters (75 feet) bell tower and inside you’ll spot a few statues by Stefano da Putignano.
Piazza Vittorio Emauele II is also a nice place to grab a drink at the end of a day of exploration.
For a guided walking tour of Polignano a Mare click here.
Go on a Cave Boat Tour
Can you think of a better way to experience Polignano a Mare than from the sea? Right on the foot of the cliffs there are many sea caves that can be explored during a boat tour. In the summer months, you can also enjoy swimming in the Adriatic Sea during the tour!
You can book your boat tour here.
Visit Fondazione Museo Pino Pascali
Pino Pascali Foundation is located at easy walking distance from the Arco Marchesale, in a building that offers incredible views of the sea.
Born in Bari in 1935, Pino Pascali parents were from Polignano a Mare. He is thought to be one of Puglia’s best artist. The museum was founded in 1998 and is Puglia’s only museum of contemporary art. There is a permanent exhibit, and regular temporary ones.
Fondazione Museo Pino Pascali is open Wednesday to Sunday from 4:00 to 8:00 pm. Admission is €5.
Follow the poetry
One of the things you’ll spot walking around Polignano a Mare Old Town is poetry written on doors and walls – in Italian. You may initially think it’s just a teenager’s vandalizing buildings, but the story is significantly more interesting (and beautiful).
Back in 1984 Guido Lupori left his job in Bari to move to Polignano a Mare, where he pursued his passion and became a writer. He started writing his favorite poems around the walls of the city – not only his work, but also that of other poets. He signed himself as Guido Il Flâneur – Guido The Wanderer.
Vicolo della Poesia is probably the most picture-worthy spot. It’s were poetry is written on steps!
Pop into Abbazia di San Vito
If you fancy a walk out of town (about 40 minutes) or have a car, head to San Vito Abbey, about 4 km (2.4 miles) north of the center. The abbey dates back to the 10th century and overlooks a small fishing village. Unfortunately it is not open to the public, but just the views are impressive!
Practical Tips To Plan Your Trip
How to get to Polignano a Mare
My sister and I visited Polignano as part of our road trip around Puglia. This is definitely the best way to enjoy the region and everything it has to offer. You can rent a car in both Bari Airport and Brindisi Airport.
Check out the prices of car rental in Puglia here.
Contrary to other places in Puglia, Polignano a Mare is well connected via public transportation, and you can get there from Bari by train.
Trains depart from Bari central station several times a day and take around 30 minutes. Tickets cost €3.
You can check the train timetable and get tickets here.
Where to stay and eat
There are plenty of good accommodation options in Polignano so you won’t have troubles finding something suitable to your needs and budget. If you plan to visit in the summer, make sure to book well ahead of your visit to secure a good spot at a reasonable price. Here are some good places to stay:
IL VIANDANTE – A small studio apartment in the center of town.
QUINTESSENZA LUXURY DOMUS – A fabulous place to stay, where all rooms come with a jacuzzi!
There are plenty of great restaurants in Polignano a Mare, serving all tastes and budgets. I have selected a couple you may like:
GROTTA PALAZZESE – This famous hotel and cave restaurant is thought to be one of the best and most exclusive outdoor dining experiences. The views are certainly stunning, and the food delicious. Go there for a plush dining experience. Just be prepared for a very expensive check!
LA LOCANDA PORTA PICC – Located in Via Anemone 34, this is a better option for something more low key and moderately priced. The food is delicious and the staff incredibly kind and professional.
To prepare your trip to Puglia make sure to read my other posts:
- What To See And Do In Alberobello, Puglia
- The Best Guide To Locorotondo
- A Short Guide To Ostuni
- The Best Guide To Monopoli
- A Short Guide To Martina Franca
- 13 Cool Things To Do In Matera, Italy
- The Best Things To Do In Lecce