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Best of Polignano a Mare & Monopoli: Travel Guide & Tips for your Day Trip

The beautiful coast around the two towns of Polignano a Mare and Monopoli is one of the most photogenic and most visited travel destinations in Puglia. The whitewashed houses in Polignano a Mare in particular, which are perched right on the edge of a cliff, are one of the most popular photo motifs in Puglia.

We visited Polignano and Monopoli on a day trip during our roadtrip through Puglia – and also took a short detour to San Vito. You have enough time in a full day to visit the main attractions and most beautiful spots. In this travel guide we reveal our travel tips for a day trip to Polignano a Mare, Monopoli and San Vito.

Polignano a Mare Travel Tips

1. Polignano a Mare

Knowledge & info about Polignano a Mare for your day trip

  • Polignano a Mare is known for its spectacular location on the cliffs of Puglia. The houses are perched right on the cliff edge – wow!
  • The town is one of the most touristy in Puglia. You really need to refer to mass tourism here, especially in the summer months. Polignano’s tiny old town was still incredibly busy when we visited during the off season.
  • There are countless grottos around the cliffs in front of Polignano. If you stay longer, you can explore them on a boat tour.
  • We recommend around 2 to 3 hours for a visit to the old town and the main attractions and sights – longer if you also would like to have a bite to eat.
  • There is paid parking outside the old town. We parked our car at Parcheggio San Francesco e Sant’Oronzo. It is less than a 10-minute walk to the old town from there.

Travel Guide Polignano a Mare: Sights & tips

Lama Monachile Beach

One of the most famous photo motifs in Polignano a Mare is the town’s legendary beach, Lama Monachile. The small, picturesque bay is located right down from the old town.

You can enjoy the fairy-tale view of Lama Monachile from several viewpoints. These two are the most well-known:

  • From the bridge called Ponte Borbonico, which you more or less automatically come to on the way towards the old town.
  • From the viewing platform called “Belvedere su Lama Monachile” (located inside the old town).

Of course, you can also stroll down to the beach and go swimming if you wish. A pebble beach awaits you here with beautiful clear water. Keep in mind that the beach is usually packed in the main season (July, August) and it’s hard to find a spot.

Polignano a Mare’s old town

Go through the city’s medieval gate, the Arco Machesale, and you will come to the labyrinth of alleyways in the old town. Polignano a Mare’s old town is located on a peninsula and is closed to traffic.

It is best to simply let yourself drift – the old town is not very big, so quick to explore. Before long you will probably end up in the spacious main square of Polignano, the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. There are not only several cafés and restaurants nestled here, but also two main attractions of Polignano a Mare.

One is the main church of Polignano a Mare, the Chiesa Matrice di Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo. It is certainly not the most impressive in Puglia, but if you are already there then take a look inside. The second is also located in the main square, the Palazzo dell’Orologio with its pretty clock tower.  

You will notice rather quickly that Polignano’s old town is incredibly touristy. Souvenir shops are lined up one after the other and it is incredibly crowded here, especially in the main season. Just as a small warning.

Viewpoints in Polignano a Mare

There are several viewpoints in Polignano a Mare that, in our opinion, count as some of the city’s highlights. You should not miss the following:

  • Belvedere su Lama Monachile: The best view of the Lama Monachile (see above).
  • Belvedere Terrazza Santo Stefano: This viewpoint is located in the very north of the old town. You get a great view of the coast from here.
  • Grotta dell’Arcivescovado: Located north of Belvedere Terrazza Santo Stefano and offers a similar view of the cliffs.
  • Scogliera del Lungomare Modugno: The only viewpoint on our list that is located outside the old town. From here you can capture a postcard perfect photo. (The location was being renovated in Autumn 2022.)
Polignano a Mare Tourist Attractions

Culinary tip: Mint Cucina Fresca Restaurant

Polignano was the last stop on our day trip, so we stayed for dinner and booked a table at the restaurant Mint Cucina Fresca.

A small, very hip restaurant awaits you here in the middle of the old town. The restaurant is predominantly frequented by tourists, but that is the case almost everywhere in the old town.

The small menu features creative fusion dishes – with everything from vegan and vegetarian to fish and meat. Important to know: if you are searching for classic Italian cuisine, you’re in the wrong place. We really enjoyed the food, and we were happy to have an evening away from pizza and pasta.

More info & booking: Mint Cucina Fresca

2. Monopoli

Knowledge & info about Monopoli for your day trip

  • With almost 50,000 inhabitants, Monopoli is not so small. Yet its historic old town is pleasantly compact.
  • In case you are wondering about the similarities in the names: The city of Monopoli has nothing to do with the famous game Monopoly
  • Monopoli is a beautiful port town with its whitewashed houses making it the perfect photo opportunity. The relaxing flair here really appealed to us. It is certainly not nearly as busy as in Polignano a Mare.
  • We recommend allowing about 2 to 3 hours for you to explore Monopoli.
  • We parked very close to the city at the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. It was no problem to find a spot there in the off season.

Travel Guide Monopoli: Sights & Tips

Basilica Cattedrale Maria Santissima della Madia

The main sacred building of Monopoli is the Basilica Cattedrale Maria Santissima della Madia. The church originates in the 12th Century and was rebuilt into a baroque work in the 18th Century. The church interior leaves a very special impression due to its marble columns. It is well worth taking a look inside.

Cala Porta Vecchia (city beach)

Once you walk from the cathedral through the pretty alleyways of the old town, you will quickly find yourself at the city beach, Cala Porta Veccia, a small sandy beach with rocky sections. You have a nice view from the small viewing platform to the southeast shore of the beach and the whitewashed houses of Monopoli.

Of course, you shouldn’t expect to find the perfect bay here, but for a small city beach located incredibly close to the old town, the beach made a very nice impression on us.

Monopoli Puglia

Castello Carlo V & city wall

You can already see the historic city wall (“Bastione di Babula”) from the beach. At the northern end of the old town you soon come to Castello Carlo V, originating in the 16th century. Only parts of the former area still exist today.

Castello can also be visited (during opening times) – we only admired it from the outside and walked further on from there to Monopoli’s lighthouse.

Porto Antico (old port)

The old port of Porto Antico is just a stone’s throw away from Castello Carlo V. There are several small fishing boats are anchored here in front of the picturesque backdrop of the old town. Even though the water was unfortunately very dirty and full of rubbish (at least when we visited), we found the maritime flair here very nice.

Monopoli old port

Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi

Last but not least: behind Porto Antico you reach Monopoli’s old town again and also rather quickly come to Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, one of the most central spots in Monopoli. Here you find not only several cafés and bars, but also the Torre Civica Secolo XVI Monopoli, a historic city tower.

Culinary tips for Monopoli

Finally, a few recommendations in case you are looking for a café, restaurant or gelato shop in Monopoli:

Rosso Granato Monopoli: A small, very hip restaurant, which serves modern Italian cuisine. The lunch menu has changing daily specials. The staff are incredibly friendly. You can either sit inside or outside in a small garden area (next to the street). Overall, great value for money. 

Terrazza Don Ferrante: This restaurant is located on the rooftop of a 5-star boutique hotel, Don Ferrante, and is also open to external guests – be it for lunch or simply an afternoon coffee with a view. Great location with high prices.

Gasperini: This nice gelato store has possibly the best ice cream in Monopoli.

3. San Vito

San Vito is a little different because you won’t find a city here, “just” a beach town – and a rather special one at that. A mighty, historic abbey (Abbazia di San Vito) is enthroned here and makes for a really special photo opportunity. The abbey is privately owned and therefore unfortunately cannot be visited.

As special as the backdrop is, the beach is not amazing in our eyes. Truth be told, we didn’t find the water that inviting on account of the rubbish. Therefore, we would tend not to recommend San Vito for a beach day. In case you get hungry: a few restaurants are nestled around from the beach – some are almost right on the water.

San Vito is located just a ten-minute drive north of Polignano a Mare. If you have time and the desire, a short photo detour is worthwhile.

San Vito Puglia

4. Homebase: Where to Stay for the Day Trip?

We chose the small town of Putignano as our homebase in this part of Puglia. From there we not only visited Polignano, Monopoli and San Vito, but also explored Bari a little.

Our choice fell on the wonderful Dimora Clementina – a really fantastic place to say, which we can warmly recommend to you. The design and furnishing are really to the highest degree. We felt incredibly comfortable there.

One highlight is the fantastic breakfast, which was prepared daily with a lot of love by the lovely owner. Our conclusion: great value for money!

You can book your stay here: Dimora Clementina

Dimora Clementina

5. Transport Travel Guide & other Helpful Information

How to get to Puglia

The main airport in Puglia is in Bari. There are direct connections from many cities in Europe. From Bari airport it takes about 40 minutes by car to Polignano.

You can search for cheap flights here: Skyscanner

How to get around Puglia

We recommend you to book a rental car to discover Puglia. We always book our rental car through Sunny Cars. Sunny Cars is a comparison platform. You book via Sunny Cars and then pick up your car from a local rental car company there (e.g. Hertz). The big advantage with using Sunny Cars is the fully comprehensive insurance. You can find more information about driving in Puglia in our travel guide: Puglia Road Trip.

You can search for cheap rental cars here: Sunny Cars

Disclaimer: Affiliate Links

This travel guide contains our personal recommendations in the form of affiliate links. If you book or buy something via the links, we will receive a small commission. This will not change the price for you at all. A million thanks from the both of us! 

Have you already been to Polignano a Mare, Monopoli and/or San Vito in Puglia? How did you like it there? Would you like to share some additional tips? Or do you have questions about your day trip? We look forward to your comments!

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