The small town of Polignano a Mare is located on the Adriatic coast of Apulia. It is not yet overrun with tourists, but it is one of the more popular seaside resorts in Apulia.
It takes about 20 minutes by train from Bari to arrive in the small coastal town of Polignano a Mare. The town is so small that you can easily discover everything here on foot.
Things to know about Polignano a Mare
Archaeological investigations have shown that people lived here very early on. The foundation of the village probably goes back to the Greeks, who built the town of Neapolis here. Later, in Roman times, there was a branch of the Via Trainan, which made Polignano a transfer station to the seaport in Brundisium (today Brindisi).
From a tourist point of view, the bathing beach of the village is the real attraction today. The old town centre with its beautifully whitewashed houses and narrow streets is worth seeing, but offers no hidden highlights. The coast with its cliffs and bays, on the other hand, does. This is also where the cliff divers show their skills every year at the Red Bull Cliff Diving, when they artfully plunge into the sea from the 24-metre-high cliffs. This is also the time when the small town is almost overrun with visitors.
Exploring Polignano a Mare
From the station, we went on a half-day excursion to discover the town.
Our first destination was the place we saw most often on the internet when we were looking for a place to visit. Directly between the cliffs of the town’s steep coast is a small bay with a stone beach. It is said to be teeming with people in summer, but in November we were almost alone there and could enjoy the dreamlike view undisturbed.
First we enjoyed the view from the Ponte Borbonico su Lama Monachile, which crosses this valley inlet. A staircase leads into the gorge. Here the city has created a beautiful green area in the upper part and a “beach bar” (was closed in November) uses the income from the tourists. There are paths leading to the stone beach and from there to the sea.
The view into the bay is beautiful and I was particularly impressed by the view of the rugged cliffs. But there we should find many more impressive places during our little discovery tour.
Monumento a Domenico Modugno
Next, we were drawn a little away from the old town. We wanted to see the statue of Domenico Modugno. Lovers of Italian music certainly know who we are talking about. I readily admit that I only knew who he was after I heard his lyrics, “Volare, ooh, Cantare ooooh”, which are probably best known in Germany.
The singer sang this song in 1958 in the Sanremo Festival, and later numerous other artists sang the song. Domenico Modugno was born in Polignano and grew up nearby.v
The statue stands on a viewing platform. Unfortunately, there was a large construction site here when we visited, which, if the plans are to be believed, will create a beautifully designed promenade around the statue.
We were drawn along the coast towards Grotta Azzura. On the way, we were surprised by numerous dreamlike impressions of the coastal landscape. For example, we discovered a small swimming pool that had been carved into the stone of the coast. Right next to it is a restaurant, from whose terrace the pool can be reached.
Stroll through the alleys of the old town to the cliffs
We then went through the Arco Marchesale into the old town. Small winding alleys criss-cross the town.
It is not easy to keep track of everything here. In between, we passed small squares and here, as in the alleys, it was deserted.
As usual in the south of Italy, most of the shops were closed around lunchtime. The few that were open were clearly geared towards tourists and you could buy mainly ceramic products and olive oil.
Some of the alleys suddenly ended at a railing and in front of it was the cliff. Looking down, one could see how rugged the coast was. There were large grottos and small undercuts everywhere. Some places already looked so washed out that I can only admire the house owner above them. I would be worried that the undercaves would collapse in any major storm.
One of the largest caves below the town is the Grotta Palazzese, where a noble restaurant awaits its guests. Here you can sit on a natural rock terrace in summer and enjoy the view of the sea.
In summer, there are dives and boat trips to the larger grottos, which are very popular with visitors. In November, we had to make do with a walk above the grottos. Every view along the cliffs was nevertheless unique and beautiful.