Known as "the Pearl of the Adriatic", Polignano is the ideal place to plunge into uncontaminated waters and explore a picturesque historic centre by the sea. Whether you're passing through a longer road trip of the region, or visiting on a weekend break, the town has plenty to entertain, especially on a warm summer's day.
Polignano is believed to have prehistoric origins since archaeological sites and excavations have been found in the surrounding area.
The city developed on a rocky spur, right in front of the Adriatic Sea which offers majestic views. Among many other places, there are several caves, the most important being Grotto Palazzos, undisputed queen of the sea caves of Puglia. Inside this cave, there is the famous Hotel Ristorante Grotta Plazzese which has been awarded one Michelin star.
An interesting area is the old town; here you can feel the legacy of different cultures including Byzantines, Spanish, Normans: the area is accessed by passing under an arch. It consists of different decorative styles, different colors and scents, made up of small streets, white houses, but also stairs with different writings of verses by great poets on them.
Like all tourist sites, especially those by the sea, Polignano a Mare has its own spectacular charm. The city attracts a lot of tourists who are enchanted by this amazing place that seems to be almost a painting.
It is perhaps the most photographed place in Puglia. Indeed, the best photo of the "Wiki Loves Monuments Italia" 2020 competition (the Italian edition of the biggest photo contest in the world) is a shot by Nicola Abbrescia representing Polignano a Mare whipped by the stormy sea.
From Bari airport (48 km) take a shuttle or a light metro to the central train station in Bari. Trains to Fasano, Brindisi or Lecce stop in Polignano a Mare. From Brindisi airport (83 km) reach Brindisi central train station by shuttle. Trains to Bari, Molfetta or Foggia stop in Polignano a Mare.
From highway A14 (Bologna – Taranto) and A16 (Napoli – Bari) reach Bari and exit at Bari nord tool booth. Follow the signs to downtown Bari, Brindisi, Lecce. Continue towards Brindisi on the state road named SS 16 and exit at Polignano a Mare nord. From Brindisi, take the state road SS16 towards Bari and exit at Polignano a Mare / Conversano.
- 1 Polignano a Mare railway station (Stazione di Polignano a Mare), Viale Trieste.
The best way of getting around Polignano a Mare is, without any doubt, on foot since it is a very small town and all main attractions can be easily reached. Furthermore, it a walk in its narrow streets is a very pleasant experience, especially on sunny days.
Walking from the Polignano a Mare railway station, in Viale Trieste, to Centro Storico (old city) will take about 10 minutes.
Walking from Centro Storico to the famous statue of Domenico Modugno, crossing Piazza Giuseppe Verdi, will take about 5 minutes.
Walking from Centro Storico to Grotta Palazzese, one of the major caves in Polignano a Mare where there is a luxury restaurant, will take about 5 minutes.
Would you like to have Apulia at your fingertips? Polignano a Mare offers everything you need to discover Apulian local products and its landscapes.
This beautiful Italian municipality belonging to the metropolitan city of Bari, gives the opportunity to enjoy the panorama of the Lama Monachile beach. It is a little pebble cove set under its Bourbon bridge, a structure which attracts a large amount of tourists every year. Actually, Polignano’s strong point is the view of the cliffs overlooking the Adriatic sea. Thanks to them, Polignano hosts the Red Bull Cliff Diving, the international diving championship every summer.
Another distinguishing feature is the old town, where you can follow the path of the alleys and let yourself be carried to the balconies. During the journey poems written on the steps of the houses could be found. The only way to enjoy the old town is walking on foot or riding a bike. Lastly, going for a stroll on the Lungomare, you will reach the Domenico Modugno’s statue, honoring the famous songwriter born there.
- 1 Statue of Domenico Modugno (First square, northwards). This statue of the Italian singer/songwriter was dedicated in 2009. It is about 3 metres tall and was conceived and erected by the Argentinian sculptor Hermann Mejer. Modugno is depicted in the open-armed gesture which he is famous for. A native of Polignano a Mare, he is the author of the famous song Nel blu dipinto di blu (also known as Volare). Behind him there is the beautiful crystal clear sea, and he is turned towards the city so that his people who admired him are involved in a sort of great hug. The Lungomare Domenico Modugno is also a nice spot to take photos overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
- 2 Chiesa Matrice Santa Maria Assunta (St. Mary's Assumption Mother Church) (in Piazza Dell’Orologio). The mother church was consecrated to the Holy Virgin in 1295. It dominates Piazza dell'Orologio square. The church has a simple but elegant facade and a robust tower bell. The late Renaissance elegant portal is flanked by two statues in valuable niches. The bell tower, more than 23 m high, consists of three orders, each in a different style. Inside the church there is a masterpiece, “The Nativity” sculpted by Stefano da Putignano.
- 3 Lama Monachile (Cala Porto). It is one of the best landscapes offered by the place. It consists of two rock walls falling sheer to the sea with a small inlet in the middle; it seems that the name "monachile" derives from the fact that originally the spot was chosen by many nun seals (foche monache in italian). It is located along the ancient Via Traiana, built by the Emperor Trajan to connect Rome to Brindisi, and was used in the past as a port of call for ships coming from the East. The beach is now located in the centre of Polignano, immersed in a breathtaking natural landscape. This small cove is known for its crystal clear waters and pebble beach, flanked by rugged suggestive cliffs. Here, its high rock on which the city stands is interrupted for a few metres to allow access to the cove that overlooks the Adriatic at sea level. Going down towards Cala Porto it is easy to admire the incredible panorama, enriched with a combination of different beauties: the sea caves set in the high cliff are marvellous. Men have contributed to making everything even more picturesque thanks to the construction of numerous houses directly overlooking the sea. It is amazing also admiring the ancient bridge on one side and the sea on the other, whose infinite line has the same color as the horizon. The view of Lama Monachile is enhanced by a 15-m-high bridge built in the early 1930s by the Bourbons, who made Cala Porto a real commercial port. This Apulian beauty collects a fascinating story too often taken for granted, but which is actually known by very few people.
Massively chosen by tourists all year round and really crowded in summer, it is also the hub of the world famous event 'Red Bull Cliff Diving Polignano' where the citizens' houses almost emerge directly from the waters of the Adriatic Sea and are perfect spots to admire professional divers: a passionate audience witnesses spectacular dives at a height of more than 20 m by athletes from all over the world.
- 4 Bourbon's Bridge on Lama Monachile (Ponte borbonico). Built by the will of the Bourbon dynasty, it had the purpose of connecting the two cities of Bari and Lecce]along the new Apulian Royal Consular Road. With a breathtaking landscape, this bridge is one of the favourite places to take pictures of the Lama Monachile's beach down below.
- 5 Old Town of Polignano a mare (Centro storico). The various cultures that alternated in Polignano over the centuries (Arab, Byzantine, Spanish, Roman and Norman) are still visible in the old city. The entrance is through the “Porta Grande”, today labelled as the Marchesale Arch, as it was the only access inserted in the feudal palace. Then, Fulvia Miani Perotti square opens to the visitor as soon as the arch is crossed. In ancient times it was equipped with a drawbridge, of which the holes for the chains and hinges are still visible.
On the right is the palace of the feudal lord, today owned by the Valentini Counts, while in front of it there is the terrace of the Governor's palace. On the left, in via Mulini, after passing the building where the Civic Library is located, tourists can see the birthplace of Msgr. Pompeo Sarnelli, priest and scholar from Polignano who lived between 1649 and 1724. From Piazzetta Miani the larger Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II can be easily reached, along a small road where a pillory, the place where those condemned by the Ducal Court were exposed to public derision, is located. It is still possible to admire a part of the hook that held the pillory and the stones smoothed from the bodies of suffering people. At the end of the street, there is the largest square in the historic centre, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. On the left, there is Palazzo dell’Orologio, seat of the town hall until 1837. An ancient sundial can still be seen on it, while at the top a small bell gable rises.
In this ancient village it is amazing to follow the path of the alleys since there are many very narrow streets and dead ends that offer wonderful corner views. There are fabulous panoramas, so getting lost across the white houses and flowered balconies is a typical experience for tourists. Streets and alleys have a timeless aura, with a unique and poetic touch: in Polignano the historic centre is full of poems written almost everywhere, on the ground, on walls and on doors by an artist called "Guido, the Flaneur”.
- 6 Grotta Palazzese, Via Narciso, 59. This spot, belonging to the Leto family, is a cave in the rock overlooking the sea. Today it houses a luxury restaurant, one of the 25 most beautiful in the world, but it seems that in the past it already had considered a worthy attraction (as evidenced by a painting by the French painter Desprez).
- 7 Arco Marchesale (Porta Grande). It is the remaining structure of the ancient defensive walls which were restored in the first half of the 16th century. Nowadays, it is the only access to the old city and it represents one of the most renowned architectural examples in Polignano a Mare. On this gate it is still possible to see the holes through which the sliding chains made the drawbridge work, in order to cross Lama Monachile down below. On its barrel vault there were three storm drains, which were then walled, through which boiling oil was spilled in case of external attacks. Another important detail which could be seen on this arch is a representation of Christ's crucifixion which dates back to the end of the sixteenth century even though its attribution is still unknown. The arch is topped by a religious building which took the name of "Confraternita di San Giuseppe" after its modernization in the eighteenth century.
- Palazzo dell'Orologio, Piazza dell'Orologio. It is a medieval building reachable through Arco Marchesale. Originally the palace had a meridian on it, but it was then replaced by a clock in the nineteen century. On the three-storey building the symbol of the city is situated between the first floor and the ground floor that hosted both a storage and a prison. The clock, instead, is placed on the facade corresponding to the second floor and today it is still wound up manually. At the top of the building there is the statue of San Vito, patron saint of the city of Polignano a Mare.
- 8 Fondazione Museo Pino Pascali. It is a no-profit institution inaugurated in Polignano a Mare in 2010, with the aim of exhibiting and highlighting Pino Pascali's masterpieces. It is in a former 19th-century slaughterhouse.
- 9 Grotta delle Rondinelle (Swallow's Cave). It is one of the largest and well-known caves of the eastern coast. It is 6-7 m high above the sea level and it is only one of the 40 caves in Polignano a Mare. The cave has a double entrance: a wide access allows to enter by the sea, leading to a nice pebble shore, whilst inland a collapsed sinkhole represents the main access, naturally created after the rock diaphragm above the cave fell. The name of this cave derives from an ancient legend about the city of Polignano a Mare: according to it, a swallow had her nest destroyed by a violent storm and it was leaded to the sea together with her puppies; during storms, hearing the squeaking of the swallows would lead to misfortune.
- 1 Cala Paura. Situated not far from the city-centre, it is a peculiar small beach with rocky coves that outline the coast, fishermen's houses and boats stranded on the shoreline. This beach is completely free and provides both a rocky ground and a wooden platform usually employed in order to sunbathe. It is also possible to rent beach-umbrellas, deck chairs and pedal boats.
- Festa di San Giuseppe. March 19. Sacred masses and the lighting of bonfires in many parts of the city.
- Festa di San Vito (patron saint celebration of Saint Vito). June 14. The relics of the saint are carried around the streets and on a raft in a sort of marine parade. The final destination of the procession is an altar placed in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele where the mayor lays the keys of the city. The event is characterised by traditional music and popular dancing also with fireworks and illuminations that animate the city.
- Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series: Polignano a Mare. summer. An international diving championship held every summer in Polignano.
The main shopping areas are situated in the narrow streets of the old citadel. There are many local shops which sell some local products such as souvenirs, handmade shoes, bags, dresses and jewels. These shops sell some objects for a perfect day at the beach: bikini, masks, fins, beach towels, sunscreen, sunglasses. The area is also plenty bakeries which sell some local products such as focaccia, panzerotto, ice creams and pasta; there are also many cosy restaurants serving fresh sea products. Tasting good wine while admiring the sunset standing on a terrace or sitting on the rocks is a real Apulian experience.
As for food specialties, Polignano a Mare offers two main Apulian dishes: the 'panzerotto and the focaccia barese. The former is a stuffed fried, half-moon shaped pasta. It can be stuffed with many ingredients, both sweet and savoury. Focaccia is like a pizza-shaped, flat oven-baked bread garnished with tomato, mozzarella and oregano.
- 1 Infermento, Piazza San Benedetto, ☏ .
- 2 Pescaria, Piazza Aldo Moro 6/8, ☏ . Seafood restaurant.
- 3 Il Mago Del Gelato, Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi 48, ☏ . Delicious ice cream and granita.
- 4 Grotta Palazzese, Via Narciso, 59 (inside a cave). Exclusive restaurant.
- La Rotellina, Via San Vito 5 (near Lama Monachile).
- La focacceria, Via San Vito 10 (near Lama Monachile).
Polignano a Mare is famous for its Caffè Speciale prepared with coffee, sugar, lemon zest, cream and amaretto (obtained from chopped sweet almonds): these are the five magic ingredients that give life to this special coffee, then served warm in small glasses. The combination of coffee and lemon represents its peculiarity, whose aftertaste is felt, but very harmonious.