Where is Polignano a Mare located?
Polignano a Mare is one of the most known places in Apulia, for its beauty and characteristic balconies facing the sea. It is 33 kilometers from Bari, continuing south, between the locations of Monopoli, Conversano, Mola di Bari and Castellana Grotte. Overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Polignano a Mare is located in an area considered the Land of Bari, just outside la Valle d’Itria (Itria Valley) (from which is a few kilometers away) and it is 100 kilometers away from Salento. In the surroundings of Polignano you find the hamlet of San Vito and many districts, some of which are on the border of the town with Monopoli, Mola di Bari and Castellana Grotte.
Why is Polignano a Mare famous?
Polignano a Mare is one of the most popular destinations in Apulia, known for the beauty of its territory and for its stunning historic center overlooking the sea, featuring unique and unusual landscapes. The coast of Polignano stands out for its numerous lama and inlets, one above all the famous Lama di Monachile, iconic image of the town: the karst formation of an erosive groove that conveys rainwater directly at sea. This beach of Polignano is extremely iconic as it is located in the center of the town. Here is a bridge (accessible) of Via Traiana, a Roman street built between 108 and 110 a.c that connected Benevento to Brindisi.
Polignano is also famous for some celebrities, that were born a raised here, such as Domenico Modugno, known as Mr. Volare (it is his and Franco Migliacci the song “Nel blu dipinto di blu - Volare”, the most famous Italian song in the world according to the 2006 Ipsos survey) and Pino Pascali an eclectic artist of Puglia, the most famous of italy of the twentieth century, considered one of the most important art masters of arte povera , whose works have been around museums of the world, from Tate to MoMA.
In Polignano, some locations have been dedicated to these artists, respectively the statue of Domenico Modugno and the Pino Pascali museum, places you can’t miss.
Many movies have been filmed in Polignano, from “La ragazza con la pistola” of Mario Monicelli (1968) with Monica Vitti and Carlo Giuffrè, to the most recent “Cado dalle Nubi” and “Che bella giornata” of Checco Zalone, “Io che amo solo te” of Lucio Bianchini, the fiction “Volare-the great story of Domenico Modugno”, with Beppe Fiorello. In 2012, in Polignano some scenes of the Bold and Beautiful were filmed, maybe one of the most famous soap operas in the world. We’ll talk about curiosities in detail in the following paragraphs.
Polignano is also famous for hosting a stage of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, an international diving competition. To give you an idea of what happens on this occasion, take a look at this spectacular dive of the champion Alessandro De Rosa in our advertisement from a few years ago.
For the beauty of its sea, Polignano has been receiving special and international recognition of the blue flag, reserved to 49 cities and assigned every year from the FEE, Foundation for Environmental Education.
What to do and see in Polignano a Mare: a complete guide of the locations to visit
If you are organizing a holiday in Apulia and you want to visit one of the iconic places of the region, read this Polignano a Mare guide, with places selected by real local people. Our recommendation is to visit Polignano a Mare by foot, to then choose one of the many solutions offered locally (bike, cycle rickshaw, ape calessino - known also as vespacar, boat tour) to visit other attractions that are little distant from the town center. The town in general is small and, therefore, it won’t be difficult to visit Polignano in one day or two.
Here is a list of things to do and see in Polignano:
Historic Center of Polignano a Mare:Walking through the narrow streets of the historic center of Polignano is a must: this is definitely the first thing to do in Polignano. Go through the Arco Marchesale, the great gateway that gives access to the historic center, and walk into the narrow streets by crossing the first small square (Piazza Fulvia Miani-Perotti) that runs alongside the Palazzo Marchesale, and then continue to the larger Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, known as Piazza dell'Orologio. This path, from the Arco Marchesale to the historic medieval monument, was the only entrance to the ancient city of Polignano. The Piazza dell'Orologio is overlooked by the Chiesa Matrice, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo, built in 1295 and a lovely example of the union of Gothic and Baroque style, which houses numerous works of the sculptor Stefano Da Putignano. Everything here in the historic center of Polignano seems to be a postcard: to visit Polignano, we recommend walking through every narrow street until you reach the wonderful balconies overlooking the sea. In the historic center of Polignano you can also visit the characteristic Piazza San Benedetto (not far from here you can access the famous Grotta Palazzese), the best-known street, Via Roma (here in the past few years have been installed the "singing lights,"decorative lights with the lyrics of Volare by Domenico Modugno). From the historic center you can easily reach Lama Monachile, Polignano's most famous little beach (which access is free of charge), the statue of Domenico Modugno and the boardwalk dedicated to him, Cala Paura and - in the other direction - the Grotta Ardito panoramic point (where most of the scenes of "La ragazza con la pistola" were filmed) and therefore the Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo, at the end of which you will find the Pino Pascali Museum and - further on - the Scoglio dell'Eremita.
Stairways in the historic center of Polignano with poems by Guido
Most likely you will notice poems written on windows, doors, stairs: they are poems and quotes drawn by Guido the Flaneur, that is Guido Lupori: in an interview he described himself as a "reader, not a writer," after a life in Bari as a building contractor, he chose to move to Polignano where he began to paint walls and stairs of Polignano with aphorisms and poetic verses.
Balconies of Polignano a Mare
In the historic center of Polignano, it is possible to look at the sea while walking around, thanks to Polignano's spectacular balconies: all the streets of the historic center have loggias overlooking the sea. The most famous balcony in Polignano is the one overlooking Lama Monachile, and it can be reached by walking along the narrow streets of the historic center starting from Piazza Vittorio Emanuele or Piazza San Benedetto. This walk is ideal if you want to visit Polignano by foot! Polignano's balconies, Lama Monachile and the bridge are ideal places to watch the Red Bull cliff diving World series, the diving competition held every year in Polignano.
Museums of Polignano a Mare
The Fondazione Museo Pino Pascali (Pino Pascali Museum Foundation) is the most important museum in Polignano a Mare as well as the only museum of contemporary art in Apulia: it is located in Via Parco del Lauro, 199 (near Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo) and it preserves numerous major works by Pino Pascali, including the "Missile," "9 mq di pozzanghere," and la “Balena “(the "Whale)”. The artist, born in Bari to parents from Polignano a Mare - where he is now buried – is considered one of the main names in 20th-century Italian art, a precursor of arte povera and conceptual art. Although he never directly mentioned Apulia or Polignano, Pino Pascali's works often take their cue from landscapes and images of the typical everyday life of the Mediterranean: unspoiled nature, earth, straw, the rural culture and especially water inhabit his works, defining a typical style, the result of a re-elaboration of memory of the past, together with a desire to oppose to urbanization and industrial production. Today, his works are exhibited in some of the major museums in Italy and abroad, from the Prada Foundation in Milan to the Pompidou Center in Paris, to MOMA in New York or the Tate Modern in London. At the Pino Pascali Museum in Polignano, it is possible to consult drawings, scenic designs and sculptures of the artist that are preserved in the Pascali Archive.
San Vito in Polignano a Mare
Three kilometers from the town of Polignano a Mare is the hamlet of San Vito, known for its picturesque harbor and the imposing Abbey of San Vito, a monastery built on the ruins of a Greek city, Apanestae. Its history is often associated with the legend that sees a princess of Salerno origins who transported the relics of the saint and his preceptors (Modesto and Crescenza) here, and then had a church built and dedicated to him. During the feast of St. Vito in Polignano (celebrated on June 14th, 15th and 16th), the image of the saint is carried in procession by sea. The Abbey of St. Vito is definitely one of the things to see in Polignano, a splendid structure that owes its uniqueness to the unusual combination of architectural styles and forms.
Numerous interventions have altered the original structure of St. Vito Abbey over the years, inhabited first by Basilian monks and later by Benedictine monks. Inside the Abbey - which is private - is the small church of St. Vito, which can be visited during mass times. The abbey overlooks an 18th-century tower which stands out in the beautiful little harbor.
From the Grotta Ardito Panoramic point and from the balconies of Polignano a Mare you will surely notice the imposing Hermit's Rock, also known as the small island of San Paolo. Unfortunately, the history of the Hermit's Rock is mainly attributable to anecdotes and stories: it seems in fact that this place was inhabited, but no documents can prove it. According to some legends, the Hermit Rock was inhabited by a "lonely man," a missionary who was passing by Polignano on his way back from his pilgrimage to the Holy Land and decided to settle on the small island very close to the coast. Here, the same fishermen who provided him with basic necessities discovered his death: this is why - always according to the story - it was decided to build a memorial chapel on the islet that no longer exists. Today, the Hermit's Rock, where a large cross stands out, is part of a Special Protection Zone as it is the home of the Corsican seagull, considered the most beautiful amongst the European seagulls. It is not possible to visit the Hermit’s rock, but you can get close to it during one of Polignano's many boat trips.
Beaches in Polignano: where to go?
There are many beaches where you can go swimming in Polignano a Mare, but in most cases the coves closest to the center and within walking distance are made of pebbles or rocks, ideal for those who love to dive. If you visit Polignano with children and are looking for a sandy beach, our advice is to move to the surrounding areas (particularly to the nearby hamlets of San Vito and San Giovanni). The most famous beaches in Polignano are:
- Lama Monachile, Polignano's most famous sight (cove with pebbles and rocks), free access;
- Cala Grottone (rocky, ideal for those who love diving) accessible from Lungomare Domenico Modugno, near the famous statue dedicated to the singer;
- Cala Paura, two beaches ideal for children, with pebbles, located within the characteristic fishermen's harbor. The beach can be reached on foot from the historic center by walking along the Domenico Modugno boardwalk, or by bicycle using the bicycle path on Via San Vito;
- Sandy beaches in Polignano: 3 km from Polignano, in the direction of San Vito and near the tourist port of Polignano, there are several sandy beaches, including (in order) Porto Cavallo (a medium-sized beach with the possibility of resting on nearby rocks), Porto Contessa (a small beach)
- San Vito beach: in the locality of San Vito it is possible to find at least three free beaches with sand, two in front of the Abbey of San Vito, one nearby the Saracen Tower;
- San Giovanni beach, one of Polignano's lidos: this is a cove with sand located within a paid facility, 4 km from the center of Polignano and near San Vito;
- Cala Port'alga, one of the most picturesque coves in Polignano a Mare. Cala Port'alga is a small, picturesque fishing port with rocks and cliffs and a small pebble beach. It is accessed by a staircase and is located south of Polignano (2 km from the center), near the Scoglio dell'Eremita (Hermit's Rock) and Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus Boardwalk). In recent years, Cala Port'alga has become one of Polignano's most photographed beaches because of its natural beauty and some unusual arrangements, such as a bookcase made from a wooden boat;
- Cala Incina, 4 km from the center, is located halfway between Polignano and Monopoli. It is an ideal cove for diving (it was here, in the 1980s, that a group of divers placed a bronze statue of a madonnina (on the seabed). Of particular beauty is the tower overlooking the cove, the construction of which was ordered by Viceroy Pedro of Toledo and dates back to 1529.
Other Lamas and coves of Polignano are:
- Lama Le Macchie (Ripagnola area)
- Lama delle Piantate or Fetente Cove
- Cove of Santa Caterina
- Pozzovivo Cove
- Lama Sant'Antonio
Caves of Polignano: which ones are they, how to see them
How many caves are there in Polignano a Mare? At least twenty-one! Among the things to do absolutely in Polignano is a boat tour to discover the caves.
Here is a list of the main caves in Polignano:
- Grotta delle Rondinelle
- Grotta dell’Arcivescovado
- Grotta Chiangella
- Grotta Palazzese
- Grotta delle Monache
- Grotta di Pietro e Paolo
- Grotta Stampagnata
- Grotta dei Colombi
- Grotta di Sella
- Grotta Azzurra
- Grotta Piana
- Grotta Ardito
What to eat in Polignano.
From mozzarella to cold cuts (one above all, capocollo di Martina Franca) to meat (bombette) and, of course, fish (raw and cooked). Polignano's economy is particularly linked to agriculture: the Polignano carrot, also known as Bastinaca di San Vito, and the Polignano potato are in fact the two main local products.
If you don't know what to eat in Polignano a Mare, check out this list of typical dishes in Polignano:
- Fish and raw seafood: As in any seaside resort, Polignano's typical dishes are seafood-based. Try raw fish for a true local experience! To not risk it, trust the experts: Pescheria Lo Scoglio is the historic fish market in Polignano managed by Bartolo L'Abbate (founder of Pescaria!) where you can order raw or already cooked fish, to take away or eat on the spot. If you're looking for a seafood restaurant in Polignano, an informal place where you can eat pasta dishes made with the freshest and most sustainable fish, cooked fish or to take away, stop by and see Bartolo at 93 Via Mazzini (and tell him the Pescaria blog sent you!). Also at Pescaria you can find fish pasta dishes, raw seafood, salads with fish and fried fish;
- Octopus sandwich in Polignano (also gluten-free): no visit to Polignano is complete without an octopus sandwich! This is the birthplace of Pescaria, the first fast food fish restaurant in Italy that you may know for its seafood sandwiches. Our menu has everything you should eat in Polignano, from octopus sandwiches and urchins (depending on the season) to raw seafood and fish tartare. Browse Pescaria's menu and drop by during your trip to Polignano! Ps: Don't let the line discourage you, we have planned several ways for you to enjoy your experience with us in peace. Remember, you can always reserve a table at Pescaria, or order takeout. Our seafood sandwiches are also available gluten-free!
- Fava beans and chicories: a typical dish of the peasant culinary tradition, fava beans and chicories is a typical vegetarian dish of the area. Simply unmissable;
- Carrots of Polignano (Carrots of San Vito): this is a typical product of Polignano that has obtained Slow Food presidia recognition as a splendid example of agriculture based on quality and recovery of traditional production. The uniqueness of the San Vito carrots in Polignano is not only its coloring (in fact, it appears as a colorful vegetable, which can be yellow, orange, dark purple) but in its unique flavor given by a higher than average level of salinity in the fields facing the sea, where it is grown. Polignano carrots are irrigated with brackish water. You can buy Polignano carrots at most supermarket fruit and vegetable counters, or from local greengrocers. It is not uncommon to find Polignano carrots on menus of local bars and restaurants!
- Eggplant parmigiana: the queen of the summer, prepared with fried eggplant, tomato puree, basil, mozzarella or cheese. Our chef, from Pescaria, offers a variation of parmigiana with fish (fried eggplant, tomato sauce, silane, fresh basil and catch of the day);
- Special coffee in Polignano, in other words coffee, sugar, lemon zest, cream and amaretto. Try to believe it!
- Focaccia and panzerotti, the true ancestors of street food: in Polignano they can be found almost everywhere, from bars to restaurants!
- Bombette di maiale: pork rolls stuffed and barbecued, typical of the area (in particular of the Itria Valley), the undisputed stars of local cuisine.
Curiosities about Polignano a Mare: movies and celebrities
Polignano has become famous not only for its beauty and breathtaking landscapes. There are many famous people who have lived in Polignano, who have lived and loved it. Here are two interesting facts about Polignano:
Films shot in Polignano
There are really many movies filmed in Polignano, not only in recent times. In 1968 Mario Monicelli chose Polignano to shoot most of the film “La ragazza con la pistola” ("The Girl with the Pistol,") an Italian cult starring Monica Vitti and Carlo Giuffré. Some scenes of this famous film were shot on the Lungomare Grotta Ardito. Enjoy the vision of ancient Polignano with this excerpt!
In the following years up to the present days many actors and directors have brought Polignano to the big and small screen, this is the case of Checco Zalone's films (Cado dalle nubi, Che bella giornata), or of Carlo Vanzina, Marco Ponti (for the films "Io che amo solo te," based on the novel by Luca Bianchini and "La cena di Natale") and many others. But that's not all: in Polignano is set the Rai fiction dedicated to Domenico Modugno "Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno," starring Beppe Fiorello, and some scenes of the famous soap opera Bold and Beautiful (for the hardcore fans, the main subject of the Bold and Beautiful episodes set in Polignano is the marriage between Ridge and Brooke).
Photos of Polignano taken by Luigi GhirriIn
1982, famous Emilian photographer Luigi Ghirri took numerous photos of Polignano during his trip to Apulia. The photos represent the small church of Santo Stefano (in the historic center, behind the beautiful Santo Stefano balcony, the small harbor of Cala Paura, the cliffs of Polignano).