What’s in this article
Polignano a Mare is in lovely Puglia, in the province of Bari.
You know, the oldest part of Polignano a Mare is really charming.
The small medieval village clings to the edge of a rock jutting out into the gorgeous blue waters of the Adriatic Sea.
And just below the cliffs overlooking the sea, there are so many caves carved out over centuries by the water.
Some of them are huge!
The landscape they create is incredibly beautiful.
Polignano is famous for its perched location, the amazing natural caves, being the birthplace of Domenico Modugno, and its historic center covered in poems and rhymes.
The whole town has a poetic feel to it.
Let’s discover together the best things to do in Polignano a Mare!
I’m excited to explore this charming place with you.
Some History of Polignano a Mare
Polignano a Mare’s origins remain a mystery to this day.
We know that people have lived in this area since prehistoric times, but we don’t know how the town came to be.
The most widely accepted story is that Julius Caesar himself founded Polignano.
He took a strong interest in this place because it sat at a crucial crossroads on the road from Rome to Brindisi, making it very important economically.
Once the Greeks arrived in southern Italy, Polignano developed into a real city and adopted the Greek Orthodox religion with the arrival of monks from the East.
The town’s history is like a beautiful, wealthy symphony that just keeps getting louder.
Each group that gained control over the centuries – the Normans, Aragonese, and Venetians among them – added their own small but distinctive touches that still define the town today.
In 1862, the town was officially named ‘Polignano a Mare’ by royal decree. This modest place has attracted the attention of monarchs and notable figures throughout history and culture, and it’s still beloved by many visitors today.
The town is divided into two distinct areas.
The more modern part dates back to the 18th century, rising uphill towards the inland with its recent buildings.
But the oldest part of Polignano a Mare, perched on the cliff overlooking the sea, is undoubtedly the most picturesque – a maze of narrow alleyways, staircases, loggias and terraces with stunning views.
This is where you’ll find Polignano’s true soul – in the nooks and crannies of its medieval core.
Where is Polignano a Mare and what it’s known for
Polignano a Mare sits atop limestone cliffs overlooking the gorgeous Adriatic Sea near Bari in the beautiful region of Puglia.
The 20 meter high cliffs provide stunning views of the crystal clear waters below.
Polignano is known worldwide for three main things.
First, cliff diving – the town has hosted the Red Bull cliff diving competition which drew thousands of spectators in the tiny town.
The daring divers leaping off the cliffs must have been quite a sight!
Second, the stunning natural landscape – the rocky coastline and steep cliffs make Polignano a Mare a scenic place to visit, especially on a hot summer day when you can enjoy the beach and seaside.
And third, the town is known as the birthplace of famous singer and songwriter Domenico Modugno, composer of the classic song “Volare” – one of Italy’s most iconic musical treasures.
The combination of cliff diving, stunning cliffs overlooking the sea, and the town’s musical heritage have made Polignano a Mare famous far beyond Puglia.
Best things to do in Polignano a Mare
If you’re in Polignano only for one day and want to make the most of your stay, you may want to consider taking a guided walking tour. Book it here!
Explore the Historic Centre
We’ll start our journey in the heart of centro storico, the historic centre.
To explore the historic town centre, head straight for the Marchesale Arch.
It sits in the lively Piazza Giuseppe Verdi, filled with cafes and restaurants.
The arch was built around 1530, after the city walls were renovated.
It served as the town’s sole connection to the outside, guarding the entrance.
As you pass under the Marchesale Arch, look up to see a late 16th-century painting of Christ’s crucifixion.
High above the arch is a 16th-century church now known as the Confraternita di S. Giuseppe, or Brotherhood of St. Joseph, named so after its 18th-century renovation.
As you stroll down the narrow alleys, keep an eye out for the tiny balconies overflowing with colourful flowers.
The residents here take pride in decorating their homes with blossoming plants and vines.
Tip from a local: Before starting your visit to the old town indulge in a truly magical cup of coffee!
It’s made with five ingredients that give it an unforgettable flavor: coffee beans, lemon zest, amaretto liqueur, sugar and cream.
Created by local legend Mario Campanella, you can enjoy this special coffee at his shop “Super Mago del Gelo” in Piazza Garibaldi 22, right across from the Arco Marchesale.
So treat yourself to a cup of Mario’s magical coffee brew before setting out to explore this historic town.
One sip and the unique blend of flavors will transport you back in time as you wander the charming streets and squares of the old town.
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II – The heart of the town
Polignano a Mare is a place meant to be explored slowly, discovering its hidden corners, charming squares, and unexpectedly picturesque views that beg to be captured with your camera.
Strolling through the historic center, you’ll find yourself surrounded by whitewashed houses with breathtaking sea views, all connected by a hypnotic maze of alleyways, narrow streets, staircases and terraces overlooking the azure waters.
In just a few steps, you’ll find yourself in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, an animated square home to one of Polignano’s must-see attractions – the Chiesa Matrice church dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta.
Consecrated in 1925 in a Romanesque-Gothic style, the church exudes a sense of serenity despite its simple exterior.
The 23 meter bell tower next to the church adds charm, and inside the church surprises with its elegance, decoration and artwork.
Another jewel in the square is the Clock Palace, a precious medieval relic.
The three story palace houses a manually wound clock that still keeps accurate time, and features the figure of San Vito, the patron saint of Polignano a Mare, adding a spiritual touch.
Look for the poetry along Polignano’s Centro Storico
While you stroll along the colourful alleyway, look out for the verses of a local artist.
At every turn, there are words of wisdom from a local artist that bring the town to life.
“Guido il Flaneur” is a Bari native who’s called Polignano a Mare home for years.
His writings, alongside those of important writers and poets, accompany you through the alleyways, offering poetry at every turn.
So the best way to truly experience Polignano a Mare is to get lost in its winding streets, letting the words and stories of its poet act as your guide and companion along the way.
Discover Vicolo della Poesia
For the best photo ops, head to Vicolo della Poesia for Instagrammable facades draped in pink and purple bougainvillaea.
You’ll find it just a short walk from Balconata Sul Mare and Terrazza Santo Stefano.
This isn’t just any photogenic spot – the steps themselves are considered one of Guido’s most famous works of poetry.
Don’t hesitate to ask the friendly locals for directions.
They’ll point you to Vicolo Della Poesia.
The magic of this place will sweep you and your loved one off your feet the moment you set foot on those poetic stairs.
Polignano has a way of casting its spell on all who visit.
Take in the view from Terrazza Santo Stefano
Walking through the historic city walls and the fortifications that have protected Polignano a Mare through the centuries, you’ll come across Terrazza Santo Stefano viewpoint.
And, you simply cannot visit Polignano a Mare without taking in the stunning view from this terrace.
The sight of Lama Monachile beach and the town sprawling along the coastline is truly breathtaking.
But this viewpoint is just the beginning!
As you wander the town, you’ll come across plenty more vantage points with sea views.
The Balconata Sul Mare or “Balcony on the Sea” just behind Terrazza Santo Stefano offers a panoramic vista of the horizon.
Stop and take it all in – the sparkling water and the distant coast.
You’ve been standing awhile; time for a refreshment!
Pop into one of the cafés or restaurants nearby and grab a drink.
Recharge your batteries before setting off again.
The views just keep coming!
Visit Pino Pascali Museum of Modern Art
Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Pino Pascali is Apulia’s only contemporary art foundation.
It houses a permanent collection of the artist Pino Pascali, a Polignano a Mare native who inspired the museum’s name, as well as numerous temporary exhibitions.
Original images and drawings signed by Pino Pascali are displayed inside the museum along with his full cycle of works inspired by Mediterranean culture and life.
The museum also exhibits toys made from recyclable materials that represent Pascali’s joyful experience as an artist.
The museum is a 10-minute walk from the historical town facing the sea in a former municipal slaughterhouse.
Enjoy the view from Ponte Borbonico
The 19th century Bourbon Bridge in Polignano a Mare is an excellent vantage point from which to enjoy one of the best views of the town and the extraordinary beauty of Lama Monachile.
The bridge, almost 15 metres high, was built during the Bourbon era and its architecture is very reminiscent of Roman structures.
Its structure is undoubtedly very beautifully, but the breathtaking view that opens onto Lama Monachile cove will certainly draw your attention!
Sunbathe at Lama Monachile (Cala Porto)
Lama Monachile, also known as Cala Porto, is a long, narrow cove surrounded by cliff sides, located less than five minutes’ walk from the historic centre.
If you have looked up pictures of Polignano a Mare, you have probably seen a photo of Lama Monachile, as this cove is one of the most famous and photographed scenes in the town and along the Bari coast.
Its location among the rocks, white pebbles, surrounding caves, and beautiful sea makes it so photogenic.
If you visit Polignano a Mare during the summer, keep in mind that the beach may be crowded.
I also recommend bringing appropriate shoes for walking on the pebbles. Walking barefoot is not something I recommend.
Lesser known beaches in Polignano to checkout
If you want to get away from the crowds at Polignano’s Lama Monachile beach, check out these lesser-known gems loved by locals:
Cala Paura: This shingle beach is a favorite among locals for its more secluded feel and “open sea” vibe. It’s less crowded but just as beautiful as the popular beaches.
Cala Paguro: Just next to Cala Paura, this beach is easily accessible and still offers that quiet, off-the-beaten path experience.
Cala Fetente: This inlet beach north of Polignano features fine white sand and stunning turquoise waters, is a true hidden gem.
Get a taste of the “real” Polignano by escaping the crowds at these local favorites. Stroll the shingle shores, dip your toes in the crystal-clear waters, and take in the stunning views that only the insiders know about.
Stroll along Domenico Modugno lungomare (seafront)
When you get to the newer part of Polignano, be sure to check out the Domenico Modugno promenade.
You’ll see a huge statue of the famous singer-songwriter that’s almost 10 feet tall – it’s definitely a highlight of Polignano!
The statue was created by the Argentine sculptor Hermann Mejer and unveiled in 2009.
It’s so cool to see the statue of Domenico Modugno with his arms spread wide open, just like he did when singing his most famous songs like ‘Nel blu dipinto di blu’.
Enjoy the view from Pietra Piatta
Behind the statue is the promenade with a beautiful staircase called “Scalinata Volare” that leads to a panoramic terrace known as Pietra Piatta. From up there you get an amazing view of the old town of Polignano a Mare, Cala Monachile beach and the gorgeous blue sea as far as the eye can see. Definitely check out the statue and spectacular views from the terrace – it’s a must see in Polignano!
Explore Sea Caves of Polignano a Mare
One of the coolest things to see in Polignano a Mare are the amazing sea caves!
The area has over 70 sea caves carved out by the waves and wind over time, that can be visited on boat tours.
On nice days, you can also dive in the crystal-clear waters.
Among the caves not to be missed, the Rondinelle cave is one of the best known and most extensive on the entire coast.
You can reach it from both the sea and land.
Photographers, climbers and divers love it.
The Grotta Azzurra cave is closer to town and easier to access.
Though smaller, the sunlight entering it creates beautiful reflections and plays of light.
The Grotta Piana cave opens up in a gorgeous indentation of the coastline just below the village.
Divers enjoy exploring it.
Grotta Palazzese, well known for the (very expensive) restaurant inside.
And there are so many more – the Grotta di San Lorenzo, Grotta del Guardiano, Grotta della Chiangella and beyond!
The sea caves of Polignano a Mare are a must see.
Take a boat tour and explore these natural wonders carved by the sea.
Both include lessons before you set off.
On the other hand, if you’re a sailing enthusiast who prefers more sedate activities, consider the tour from Polignano a Mare to Monopoli aboard the catamaran Almarano.
It includes the use of stand-up paddleboards, and appetizers.
Almarano departs from Cala Ponte marina.
Visit the Abbazia di San Vito
If you have some extra time during your visit, I really recommend checking out the small village of San Vito, just a short distance from Polignano’s town center (about 3 kilometers away).
You can stop by the beautiful San Vito Abbey located in an amazing spot overlooking the sea.
The abbey was built all the way back in the 10th century as a home for the Conventual Friars Minor of the Holy Apostles.
Nowadays, the abbey belongs to La Greca family but the adjoining church is open to visitors.
Every June 14th on the feast day of Saint Vitus, they hold a lovely procession bringing the saint’s relics to the church by boat.
It’s definitely worth a visit if you have a chance!
Experience Scuba diving for beginners
If you’re looking to try scuba diving for the first time or improve your beginner skills, beautiful Cala Paura in Polignano a Mare, Italy is the perfect spot.
Polignano a Mare is home to stunning underwater scenery, including a rare Mediterranean coral reef only recently discovered.
The crystal clear waters and calm conditions make Cala Paura an ideal location for beginner divers.
You’ll have an unforgettable experience exploring the seabed and getting up close with marine life as an instructor guides you through the basics in a fun and relaxed manner.
The 3-hour dive includes:
• An English-speaking instructor to walk you through everything step-by-step
• A light snack to keep your energy up
• All the necessary equipment
Don’t miss the chance to see Polignano a Mare’s hidden underwater world for yourself.
Book here your beginner diving adventure at Cala Paura!
The beautiful scenery and patient instruction will have you eager to dive again soon.
Try Local Cuisine and Restaurants in Polignano a Mare
Polignano a Mare is famous for its yummy cuisine.
There’s an abundance of restaurants to try.
Enjoy the genuine flavors of Italian cooking while taking in this beautiful coastal city.
Here are some must-visit restaurants in Polignano a Mare:
Grotta Palazzese – Dine in a cave with breathtaking sea views.
Antiche Mura – Offering panoramic views and Mediterranean delights.
The seafood here is absolutely delicious, both cooked and raw.
For a quick but still tasty meal, I recommend trying Pescaria‘s famous fish sandwiches.
You can choose between octopus, prawns, swordfish and salmon.
Be sure to try some local specialties like “tiella barese”, a rice dish with potatoes and mussels only found here.
Or the popular “Orecchiette,” small ear-shaped pasta with various sauces.
In the summer, frisa with cherry tomatoes and focaccia barese are must-tries.
Look for a bakery – they’re called “Panetteria” or “Forno” – for some hidden gems.
The focaccia pizza bread with toppings is a great quick snack.
Buy one and head to the beach for the perfect lunch with stunning views!
Excursions and Day Trips from Polignano a Mare
There are so many beautiful places to visit near Polignano a Mare!
Trani is a lovely coastal town not far from Polignano.
You’ll see the castle and cathedral perched on the cliffs overlooking the sea. Make sure to try some of Trani’s famous Moscato wine – it has a delicious, sweet flavor.
A short drive inland are the Castellana Grotte, an extensive cave system over 3 miles long and almost 400 feet deep in places.
You can take a full or partial tour of the caves, which are open all year round. Night tours are offered periodically for an extra special experience!
Alberobello is a must-see, known for its unique trulli buildings – it’s the only place in the world with an entire town made of trulli.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is well worth the 30 minute drive to explore the quaint buildings and enjoy the local specialties, especially at sunset.
The beautiful Itria Valley starts right outside Polignano, with its farms, rolling hills and picturesque landscapes.
Be sure to visit the charming towns of Locorotondo and Cisternino, full of historic buildings, craft shops and delicious local wine.
The “Città Bianca” (White City) of Ostuni, about 30 miles away, is another fascinating place with its whitewashed houses, cobbled streets and centuries-old shops.
Ostuni is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site – one visit and you’ll see why it’s earned this status.
Matera, 70 kilometers from Polignano, should not be missed if you have time.
The Sassi di Matera – ancient cave dwellings – are stunning and now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A day trip to explore the Sassi is a must for any visit to this beautiful region.
Hope this helps give you some great options for places to explore near Polignano a Mare!
Let me know if you have any other questions.
How to get to Polignano a Mare
Getting to Polignano a Mare is easy!
The best options are flying into Bari Airport then taking a bus, train or taxi. You can also fly into Brindisi Airport and take buses, trains or taxis from there.
The Polignano a Mare train station has regular regional trains from Bari.
The journey takes about 20 minutes and drops you right in the center of town.
Buses within the Bari area are convenient, but there aren’t many direct bus connections from other parts of Italy.
Driving is simple – take the A14 motorway to Bari, which you take following the A2 Rome-Naples followed by the A16 Naples-Canosa.
Once on the A14, exit onto the SS16 (E55) where the entrances to Polignano are located.
If you are already in the area, you can opt for the provincial roads that connect the hinterland to the town, specifically the Conversano-Polignano and the Castellana Grotte-Polignano.
• Fly into Bari Airport then take a train for the easiest journey
• The regional trains from Bari run regularly and take 20 minutes
• Driving from Bari or nearby towns is straightforward via major highways
• Buses within the Bari area are a cheaper option but less convenient
Where to stay in Polignano a Mare
Polignano a Mare has lots of great places to stay!
The town has been named the most welcoming resort in the world for 2023 by Booking.com, so you’ll have plenty of options.
Whether you fancy luxury hotels, sweet bed and breakfasts, or cosy holiday apartments, there’s something for everyone’s taste and wallet.
Luxury Hotels – Boasting amazing Adriatic Sea views, Polignano a Mare houses several luxurious hotels.
Treat yourself to the ultimate comforts and top-notch amenities.
- Grotta Palazzese Hotel is more upscale with higher prices, but there’s no place with a better view in Polignano a Mare.
- Giovi Relais Polignano will be the perfect choice for your next trip to Polignano a Mare! Located close to Lama Monachile beach, the staff at Giovi Relais Polignano will make sure you have an incredible time during your stay.
- Tuo Hotel Polignano a Mare (formerly Hotel L’Abbate) is a well-maintained new hotel just a short walk from the town center. The rooms are very comfortable and lovely, and the hotel has an indoor parking garage which is great especially in the busy summer months.
- Covo Dei Saraceni can be your budget-friendly option in Polignano a Mare! With its great location and gorgeous sea view, the team at Covo Dei Saraceni will ensure you have a wonderful time.
Charming Bed and Breakfasts – For a more intimate vibe, charming bed and breakfasts are all around the town.
Get personalized service and homey lodgings with a local touch.
- B&B Fico D’India is a charming little bed and breakfast located right in the heart of Polignano. The rooms are beautifully decorated with lovely ceramics and other handcrafted items from Puglia, making you feel right at home.
- B&B Il Più Bello Dei Mari has a fantastic location right in the charming town of Polignano a Mare, less than a kilometer from the beautiful Cala Sala beach and just a short 14-minute walk from the Lama Monachile Beach.
Holiday Apartments – Appreciate your own space with a holiday apartment. Ideal for families or groups of friends travelling together.
- At Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu, you’ll have a fantastic experience and enjoy this cozy apartment with one of the best views ever! The apartment’s location and sea view will make your stay truly authentic and comfortable.
- La Perla Del Mare will make sure you have a great time during your stay in their seaview apartment with parking in Polignano. If having a parking space is important to you, this is the perfect place!
- Finisterre Casa di Mare, I stayed here and the balcony view of Lama Monachile beach was absolutely stunning! The loft was practical and situated in the historic center, and the owner made my stay very comfortable.
There are plenty of great accommodation options in Polignano a Mare, I’m sure you’ll find the perfect place for you!
Book ahead during July and August, or wait for last minute deals for the best prices.Booking.com
Best Things to do in Polignano a Mare: Conclusion
Well there you have it – I hope this “Best things to do in Polignano a Mare” guide has given you all the information you need to plan your own trip to Italy!
If I missed anything or you have any other questions, just leave a comment below and I’ll add more details.
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I wish you an amazing visit to Polignano a Mare!
Have fun exploring all it has to offer.
Ciao and happy travels!
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