What to see and do

The Town center

To access the old town, you must go through Porta Grande, which is currently called Arco Marchesale, which represented the only gateway to the town until 1780, when Porta Piccola was open on the eastern side of the town. In the Arco Marchesale, you can still admire the inlets into which the grate flew, the old doors hinges and the XVI century fresco representing the crucifixion of Christ.

The gateway gives access to the historical centre and you get then to piazza Vittorio Emanuele II where you can see a public clock of the XIX century. The clock is still recharged by pulling some ropes. In front of you , you can see Palazzo of Governatore, which was the house of the governor of Polignano a Mare.

On the right, you can admire the Chiesa Matrice dedicated to the Assumption, but built over the ruins of a pagan temple. It was built in Romanesque style in the second half of the XIII century and restored several times in the following centuries. The interior is divided into three naves with a baroque two-story presbytery and is embellished with a wooden choir from 1600 and works by the sculptor Stefano da Putignano.

In Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, which is the main square of the town, you can go for an aperitif, when the sun comes down, or you can enjoy a refreshing ice cream after dinner, in the most popular bar of Polignano, sometimes listening to people playing music and singing songs in a cheerful atmosphere, right in the middle of the square.

Walking along the alleys of the historical centre, among handcraft studios and night clubs, it is possible to admire the little whitewashed houses with their courts and roof terraces, where it is possible to enjoy the unique view of the high rocky cliff dotted with vast and deep grottoes. It is also possible to take a closer look of these grottoes, by visiting the scenic Palazzese cave (that houses a restaurant to which it is necessary to ask permission to access it); walking along the narrow stairs dug into the rock that leads to an artificial balcony, or by taking a boat trip.

During your stay, choose an evening and take 10 minutes to go to one of the several terraces overlooking the sea, and enjoy some time in the silence, just listening to the sound of the waves, breaking against the rocks. Looking at their power and energy, is just impressive.

Churches

Outside the historical center, you can find the Church of Saint Anthony, which was built in the XVI century and that for a long time was the site of a convent of Friars. The church preserves a Chorus from 1768 and some interesting paintings. The church of Saints Cosmas and Damian, was built over the ruins of a previous church and here you can find the statues of Cosmas and Damian, and the sculptures of San Rocco and San Sebastiano by Stefano da Putignano. A few kilometers from Polignano a Mare, driving towards Bari, you can visit the Abbey of San Vito: placed a few steps from the sea, you can admire its sober lines and structure, built as if it was meant to reach the sky. The Abbey has been for long a place where churchgoers used to go, to say thanks to Christ, who made some miracle, as testified by hundreds votive offerings.

 

A walk Around the Town

But Polignano a Mare is not only churches and old palaces: you could actually just enjoy a walk through the narrow lanes, to experience how life was during the years, when Polignano was an important center for the exchange of merchandise.

The white houses tell you of how people did their best to find a solution to survive the high temperatures during summer and the houses, clinging on the cliff, reminds us of a people devoted to the sea.

Polignano a Mare has always been a land of artists: maybe the quiet atmosphere, the blue chrystalline water and the stormy seas may have deeply inspired some people and have brought out the best of them. One of the main artist, who was born in Polignano, is Domenico Modugno, an Italian singer, composer and actor, who suddenly became popular all over the world for his most famous song “Nel blu dipinto di blu”, that maybe overseas people know as “Volare” and that everybody in the world can sing. It is possible to admire his statue in the promenade named Lungomare Domenico Modugno.

After a sculptor and a singer, Polignano is probably trying to give birth to a poet and painter, since walking around the town, you can read poetries painted on the walls, doors and house ladders! It is probably a person, who likes to express his/her thoughts by painting quotes all around the city, with the indulgence of inhabitants and institutions, since he/she does no harm and it’s actually quite romantic and attractive!

 

The beaches

The FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education) has awarded, in 2011, Polignano a Mare as one of the best beaches in Italy and Europe, not only for its beauty but also for the quality of water and services offered, security measures, the access to the beaches for children and disabled, green areas, tourist information and recycling. Polignano a Mare is definitely one of the most beautiful and famous seaside resorts of the Apulian coast.

Cala Porto: it’s probably the most famous beach of Polignano a Mare, being placed just a couple of steps away from the city center and beside the cliff, where the town is leant. This is the most common image of Polignano, being published on all postcards and websites. The beach is made of little, white pebbles and we suggest you to get a pair of plastic shoes to swim, because the sea bottom is rocky and it will be more comfortable with a pair of suitable shoes. If on the right there is the cliff overlooking the sea, on the left side there is a kind of passage under the rocks, that leads you to a small bay, from which brave people dive. One day spent in Cala Porto and you’ll feel like in paradise! Useless to say: the water is blue, crystalline and clean!

Cala Paura: On a stretch of coastline that has been miraculously preserved from the madness of tourism, as well as small beaches, you will find aficionados of beach chairs! Cala Paura is placed immediately outside Polignano a Mare: it is a small creek, with three fishing boats lying on the shore. Enjoy this little piece of paradise with local families with folding chairs and refrigerator in hand, and with boys and girls tenderly embraced, unaware of the treasure that is before their eyes.

Cala Fetente: the Oasis Cala Fetente is a cozy beach in the north of Polignano a Mare. You can taste excellent cold drinks, great food and fried fish.  The atmosphere is romantic in the evening with music and candles. During summer weekends there is always a DJ and people are dancing on the sand on the seashore.

Cala Grottone: rocky beach and rocky sea bottom, but once you are there, you can bath in a kind of natural pool amongst the rock, repaired from the waves. If like daring, right beside the pool there is a rock from which many people love diving in the open sea.

Other beaches worth seeing in the nearbyes are Porto Cavallo, Ponte dei Lapilli, Porto Contessa: there is no priority in our opinion, just go there if you have some spare time after visiting the other quoted above, which are definitely worth seeing.

B&B La Baiana
Street: Vico Corte, 12
70044 Polignano a Mare (Ba)
Maps & Directions

If you are looking for a nice place to sleep, within the ancient walls of the city center, just a couple of steps away from the main square of Polignano a Mare and from the beach of Cala Porto (about 50 mts), B&B La Baiana is your one stop place!

B&B La Baiana has been recently renovated out of an old typical house  and is managed by a young couple, always available for all your needs. The hotel has a fresh look, the rooms are wide enough for a “summer stay” and all the rooms are equipped with soap, shower gel, bath clothes, etc. Our room was placed on the ground floor, with direct access from the road, but the town is so quiet, that you can hardly hear any noises. If we have to quote a con about our room was the wardrobe: definitely too small, but we were coming from a long trip around the south of Italy and we had the motorbike equipment to store somewhere. Anyway, it’s ok if you stay for a week or two and you have with you just your summer clothes. Furthermore, there are bigger rooms, some of them furnished as small flats, so you can ask for one of them.

There is air-conditioned, LED Tv and Wi-Fi in all rooms. Rooms are cleaned every day (you can even smell it!).

We advise you not to expect a luxurious hotel with room service, but if you need a place to sleep, which is clean and comfortable, you can’t ask for more.

On top of the building, on the third floor, there is an amazing small solarium: a terrace equipped with tables, sofas, sun beds and a shower to refresh. It’s nice staying there at the sunset, when the air is not that hot anymore and the sky turns into red, especially if you bring with you a cold drink and share it with your beloved. Please, note that there is no bar in the hotel, so if you want to have a drink, you have to get it in advance at the bar behind the corner! Actually there is no proper hall in the hotel, but the owner is always around or at the bar, having a chat with passer-bys. In a sense, it’s like being at home!

Breakfast is included. Maybe you are asking how it is possible, since there is not even a hall! When you arrive, the owner gives you as many cards as the days you are going to stay: you show them to the partner bar of the hotel and you can have breakfast! During our holiday, which was in the summer 2013, the partner bar was Millennium Café, which is placed right beside Porta Marchesale. If the partner bar stays the same, we recommend you to have (a part from classic croissant and cappuccino) a Pasticciotto, which is a fragrant pastry, stuffed with custard.

You can find B&B La Baiana on booking.com

Osteria Piga, the place to discover
Street: Via don Lorenzo Milani, 21
70044 Polignano a Mare (Ba)
Tel.: +39 080 4248751
Email: info@osteriapiga.it
Website | Maps & Directions

Osteria PIGA is a typical restaurant that tourists can hardly find, being not in the city center of Polignano a Mare, but it definetly deserves a drop-in!

Being a characteristic Italian osteria and not a restaurant for tourists, here you will have the chance to eat some amongst the best dishes of the area, taste the real flavours of Apulia and eat something different from the mass food.

If you go there during winter, you’ll eat in the main room, which is typical of Italian osterias, where the walls are covered with stones and wood; a nice fireplace will keep you warm. During summer, you’ll have the possibility to eat out, on a nice patio.

One of the first things you will notice, will surely be the professionailsm and cordiality of the owners and of the whole staff: the waiter/owner is a kind of “living menu” and he helps you to choose the best dish for you and the most appropriate quantity you may be able to eat, according to what you order! We liked this aspect a lot, because we find it very honest and professional.

If you are the kind of person, who does not get scared with quantities, we suggest you to get the PIGA starter, which is a selection of cold cuts, cheese, vegetables and other delicacies, that the chef prepares and change every day. If you decide to go for this starter, you’d better choose between pasta or meat. If you decide to have both, you may not be able to eat all. If you would like to follow our suggestion, we had Tagliatelle al Primitivo di Manduria, speck e funghi, which is a dish of pasta with a typical Apulian wine, speck and mushrooms: it is simply delicious and very tasty. We also had Gnocchetti PIGA con straccetti di filetto, pomodorini pachino, rucola e pecorino romano: gnocchetti is a kind of pasta made with potatoes and this dish is topped with fillet strings, tomato, arugola and sheep cheese.

After this, we really wanted to order some meat, but we were overwhelmed with food and we couldn’t go further! Luckily, the owner advised us at the beginning, so we didn’t waste our money in ordering something that we weren’t able to eat! 5 stars to the owner’s suggestion! Anyway, we heard that meat at PIGA’s is really good, so just give it a try if you have enough space in your stomach!

By the end of the day, this is a perfect restaurant, if you want to eat something different and typical,  with a very good price/quality ratio and where you can eat in a cheerful and soft environment.

Three things are to be noticed:

_they serve meat based dishes only

_they also offer a menu for celiacs

_it is closed on Wednsdays

Ristorante Antiche Mura
Street: Via Roma 11
70044 Polignano a Mare (Ba)
Tel.: +39 080 4242476
Email: fabiomalena@katamail.com
Website | Maps & Directions

If you want to taste the real flavors of traditional Apulian cuisine, you can not help enjoying a dinner at restaurant Antiche Mura, just a few steps away from the main entrance to the old town of Polignano a Mare.

We have to say it, and we do it immediately, that this restaurant is not meant for a cheap meal: we spent € 40,00 each but the quality of the food and the high standards of the service paid back and let us forget the amount spent.

The location is very warm and classy and the staff extremely welcoming and attentive to your needs. As soon as you sit down, they welcome you with a small appetizer, according to the availability of fresh food of the day. The menu is wide but not infinite and this is a guarantee of good quality; the selection of wines is good. We obviously suggest you a typical Apulian wine: we had a white wine from a local producer called Polvanera. The taste is light and balanced, dry but extremely fresh and pleasant at the same time, perfect for a fish dinner. Concerning the food, I think that whatever you order can leave you speechless, but unfortunately we could order just a few dishes and we’d like to share our impressions with you, so that you know what is “tested” and good!

As a starter we had the “Antiche Mura” starter and a plate of raw seafood. Trust us when we say that dishes are more than abundant, especially the “Antiche Mura” starter, which is rich of typical Apulian food like stracciatella pugliese and burrata (two kind of fresh cheese), roast seafood, muscles with potatoes and many other specialties, all going with the typical Apulian bread, which is very tasty and a little bit salty. Concerning the raw seafood plate, we can just say that there is the best selection of fresh seafood that you can imagine and you can smell the sea coming out! After that we decided to have a main course each and we chose Ciccatelli ai Frutti di Mare con Purè di Fave, which is a typical short pasta with seafood and mashed broad beans: simply delicious! The other one was Tagliolini Neri, Seppie e pane soffritto, which is a long pasta with squid ink, garnished with squids and going along with a plate of fried bread cubes, which are supposed to be added to the pasta dish, according to your will: we could never imagine that such a good dish may exist! Last but not least, we had a dessert and we decided to have something typical, obviously: Sporcamus, which is a mille-feuille with whipped cream and abundant powdered sugar on top, which inevitably makes your face white (in the Apulian dialect, sporcamus means “something that makes your face dirty”)! The second one was a kind of chocolate cupcake, proudly served on a high glass cakestand. At the end of the dinner, the owner personally offers you some chocolate and liquors.

We enjoyed this magic dinner, while the staff was always very careful and attentive to our needs: they constantly kept an eye on our table to check if we may need anything, but without being pushing or oppressive.

What we really appreciated about the restaurant and its staff, was that they always recommended for the best and not to sell us food forcedly. As a matter of facts, at the very beginning we wanted to order second dishes, too, but the owner suggested us not to do it and to order half portions for the main courses, because we couldn’t eat everything and it’s never too late to add something more. Luckily we listened his suggestions and we managed to fully enjoy the whole meal!

We definitely recommend it!

Rating: *****

La Casa del Mojito
Street: Via Annunziata, 19
70044 Polignano a Mare (Ba)
Tel.: +39 080 968 2712
Email: lacasadelmojitoclub@libero.it
Website | Maps & Directions

Is it a hot night in Polignano a Mare and you would like to have a refreshing drink? The best place is La Casa del Mojito.

It is a lounge bar and the name itself perfectly explains the nature of this place: they make any kind of mojito you can imagine! From the classic one to the passion fruit flavour, passing through the liquorice and ginger versions. You could actually have a different taste any night during your stay!

No worries if your friends don’t like mojito: for them there is a wide choice of beer and other popular drinks that the guys can make to meet other people’s taste.

The place is quite small inside, but there are chairs and big cushions on the stairs of the surrounding houses; the people who live there never complaint about that, on the contrary, if they see you are standing, they help you to find a place for you to sit down! The guys, who are working there are very welcoming and fast in preparing mojitos, despite the procedure is quite long. All the ingredients are fresh (if you go there in the late afternoon, you can see boxes full of lime and mint arriving), they choose each piece of lime that they have previously cut, discarding all the pieces that they don’t feel suitable for a good mojito; then they scrupulously respect the whole procedure to make a real good mojito for you!

Open from 6pm till late at night, we warmly suggest you to pop in there for a drink, if you are around.

Rating: *****

What’s typical

Polignano a Mare is a place where, though there isn’t a really typical product, the town collects many typical products of the province of Bari. What is really excellent is food and here we list you some amongst the best products you can enjoy in the area:

Oil: it’s probably the best product the Apulian land can give us. Once you get in the area, you  can’t help seeing  the thousands olive trees spread everywhere: they produce what is considered the best olive oil in Italy. If you want to know the real taste of olive oil, just take a slice of bread, spread some oil over and enjoy the tasty flavor of green olives. Your taste buds will thank you and you will have the good smell of olives in your mouth for several minutes. You can obviously use olive oil also on meat, fish and vegetables.

Orecchiette pasta: it’s a kind of handmade pasta and it’s called this way, because each piece reminds of the shape of small ears. The most common and tasty way to eat them is with turnip greens: don’t miss this dish if you pop up in the Bari area.

Bread from Altamura: a local excellence is the Bread of Altamura, which some years ago has become a DOP product. This bread has not only an excellent taste, but also a typical form, slightly flattened and long. It’s quite a tasty kind of bread, slightly salted.

Focaccia: Focaccia is quite a common dish all over Italy, but the one you can eat in region Apulia is just unique! You can have 2 kind of focaccia: Focaccia Barese is made with wheat flour, while Focaccia Pugliese is a mix of wheat flour and boiled potatoes, which let it appare higher and softer. The most typical topping is with fresh tomatoes, black olives, oregano and olive oil

You’ll probably would like to buy something typical to bring to your friends and relatives at home. One of the nicest places in town is Oro della Terra, a small shop placed in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele (the main square inside the walls of Polignano a Mare), where the owner, a very nice and polite lady, offers you a wide selection of typical food, from aromatic olive oil (mandarin and basil olive oil are excellent!), to handmade pasta and Bombetta Pugliese, the typical very spicy sauce. If you tell her it’s a present, she packs what you buy in a very nice way. She also delivers what you buy, if you don’t have enough space in your luggage. She does it for sure for national deliveries; for international parcels, you may ask her and maybe agree a delivery.

Dance! You’ve been bitten by the tarantula!

If while walking through the streets of region Apulia, you inevitably start dancing and you feel you can’t stop, then you’re listening to Tarantella!

The Tarantella is mainly a partner dance, which features numerous twirls and spins. The weird name, probabily comes from a kind of wolf spider, called “tarantula”, whose bite was popularly believed to be highly poisonous and to lead to a hysterical condition known as “tarantism”.

Some say that someone who had supposedly been bitten by the tarantula spider had to dance to an upbeat tempo to sweat the poison out. Yet, there’s no suggestion that a spider existed in Italy that could cause depression or delusions!

Through the years, Tarantella has become a kind of courtship dance.  Usually music for the tarantella is in 6/8 or 3/4 time, or you may find some versions in 4/4 time with a lot of triplets. Though the dance is partnered, many of the steps are danced away from each other, and steps together are often taken with the partners side to side instead of face to face. As a matter of fact, years ago it was disreputable that men and women would touch each other in the public, especially if they weren’t married. So Tarantella was a way to court each other, without breaking traditions or being ashamed.

The woman teases the man by dancing all around him (mainly barefooted) and voluptuously passing a scarf around his neck and the man replies by putting his hands around her, always paying attention not to touch her. They dance according to the characteristic steps, which remind of small, rythmical jumps. The dance goes on like this till the end, in an exciting swirl of music.

We warmly recommend you to attend a show with Tarantella music and dance: even if you are not a dance lover, the rythm of the music, beaten by typical southern instruments like tambourines and castanets, will involve you so much, that you can just start dancing and at the end of the show, you’ll feel part of this magic land.

Never attended a Taranta show? Watch this video!

The fish “sagra” – Mareviglioso

One of the most typical events in Italy is the “sagra”: it originally was a town festival meant to celebrate the saints; currently a “sagra” is a food festival, which attracts many people also from the surrounding areas. Many cities and towns in Italy every year (especially in the summer) organize a festival to celebrate the most typical food they have. And what’s really typical in Polignano a Mare? Fish, what else?!

The Fish Food Festival in Polignano a Mare, usually takes place at the end of August and you can enjoy 3 days of taste, music and cheerfulness! A curiosity: the festival is called Mareviglioso and it takes its name from a wonderful song from a famous Italian singer (Domenico Modugno), who was born in Polignano a Mare. It is actually a pun between the title of the song Meraviglioso (=marvellous) and Mare(=sea)viglioso.

Charming melodies spread in the air along the promenade, where dozens stalls cook fish for people, coming until late at night. Old sailors songs follow the people, through their itinerary towards the discovery of taste and tradition. Taking part to this festival, you will have the chance to see how seafarers really cook fish; the street is full of huge braziers, where fresh fish is cooked upon request, giving you the opportunity to taste fresh-cooked food.

Amongst all the kind of food (shellfish, mollusks and other) cooked in different ways (mainly fried and grilled), what we warmly suggest you to taste is the sandwich with octopus: it may look weird as soon as you see it and some of you (especially women, we suppose!) may get impresses by the idea of eating an octopus sandwich, because the octopus is in its original shape and not cut or else, but if you really want to taste and smell the sea, you can’t miss it! After the first bite, you’ll ask for more!

Framed amongst typical balconies and natural caves, the sea, with its fruits, colors and the work of fishermen, becomes the protagonist of this cheerful festival, the summer event that animates the charming town of Polignano a Mare with culinary events, concerts, historical reenactments, exhibitions and street performers. This is where artisans, local producers and wineries from region Apulia show the best pastries, seafood specialties and the finest wines ready to be tasted. A food and wine festival that enriches, with delicious flavors and scents, this charming summer party.

You’ll definitely won’t miss a concert of Tarantella, the typical music of region Apulia, which is amongst the most recognized forms of traditional southern Italian music. (Click here to learn more about Tarantella). The rhythm of this music will overwhelm you and you won’t be able to stop dancing!

The memory of the past blends with the warmth of a simple and genuine celebration. The ancient traditions of the seafaring revives in the Palio of the Sea, the historic regatta dedicated to St. Vito, patron saint of the town of Polignano a Mare. It is here that, with strokes of oars and balancing on fishing boats, in a magnificent and joyful show, that Cala Paguro, Cala Ponte, Cala Ripagnola, Cala San Vito, Cala Portalga and Cala Incina (the main areas of the town) challenge each other to win the Palio, the banner, which represents the city of Polignano Mare.

History

Small town along the Apulian coast, placed 40 kms South of Bari, Polignano a Mare overlooks the sea on a spectacular cliff 20 metres high, inside which are numerous and wide grottoes. Since the Palaeolithic, the territory was definitely settlement for groups of people that found a shelter in the natural grottoes. Yet, the history of Polignano is more certain after the year 1000. The first written document, which refers to Polignano a Mare, dates back to 992 b.C.: the news before this date, are wrapped in the charm of legend, which tells us about people living in the village of San Vito and who escaped the terrible violence of Diomede, finding a refuge in a new city, that in greek is polis nea. It’s probably from the words polis nea, that come the name of Polignano.

After joining the Eastern Roman Empire, Polignano experienced many dominations, like the Longobards and the Arabians.  With the marriage of Henry VI and Costanza D’Altavilla (1186) it passed under the Swabians and remained till the Angevin’s coming (1266), who fortified the village to protect themselves from ottoman invasions. They strengthen the trade relations with the other coastal centers with a massive presence of businessman. During the Aragonese domination, the Venitian merchants developed and took over the trade activities in 1506 and, soon after it was the time of the Reign of Naples, to which the Spanish reign followed. Hit by the plague in 1690, Polignano became part of the Bourbon reign and in the XVII Century it became a strategic point for the trade routes and for the control of maritime traffic over the illegal landings. In the XIX century, after the Risorgimento uprisings, which led to the unification of Italy (1861), Polignano finally became part of the Reign of Italy, under the Savoy family. In 1962 the town got the current name of Polignano a Mare.