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.
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 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.