Polignano a Mare Highlights
- Fine dine inside the cliffs of a grotto.
- Hike 70m underground in the incredibly beautiful Castellana Cave system.
- Admire the distinctive and remarkable Trulli dwellings in Alberobello.
- Wander the streets of the quaint, whitewashed town of Locorotondo.
About Polignano a Mare
Polignano a Mare is a beautiful and quaint seaside town built into the cliffs on the Adriatic Sea - about a 30 minute drive south of Bari. This relatively unvisited town has beautiful white buildings that are perched high up on cliffs. The town, which dates back to the 4th century, has an almost hipster feel to it now with many small boutique coffee shops and clothes shops hidden amongst the narrow old town streets.
Things to do in Poligano a Mare
1) Walk through the Porta Vecchia gates and wander around the whitewashed streets of the old town. The old town has several churches dating back as far as the 8th century which are well worth a quick visit.
2) Visit the three panoramic view points in the old town for breathtaking views of Polignano and see how the houses cling to and overhang the cliffs. You will notice the Adriatic has caved out grottos just underneath where you are standing!
3) Try one of Italy's best ice creams as you are walking back from the beach or around the old town.
4) Relax and swim in on of the local beaches (which you can find only five minutes north of the old town). Swim out of the beautiful little cove for stunning views of the cliffs of Polignano a Mare.
5) Cliff Diving. Not for the faint-hearted but Polignano offers some of the most famous cliff jumping in the world.
Day trips from Polignano a Mare
Due to its location as well as the atmosphere, Polignano a Mare is the perfect base to set yourself up at and explore all Apulia has to offer before coming home for a great meal and a drink.
1. Castellana Caves
The cave system at Castellana Grotte is one of the best in the world. The caves are around 70m below the ground and were formed some millions of years ago by an underground river. Other than the amazing caverns, stalactites and stalagmites, there are two key highlights: 1) the cavern as you walk down to the caves, has a small opening in the roof which allows a small beam of light in and is an amazing experience and 2) the white cave at the end of the tour has transparent stalactites and stalagmites along with very small colourless snakes (don't worry, they are harmless).
To visit the caves you must buy a ticket for one of the many tours. The tour guides speak amazing English and are extremely friendly and knowledgeable; just make sure you do the 'long' itinerary, a three kilometre circuit, that takes you to the translucent White Cave.
In peak season (July-August), the caves can get very busy so we suggest visiting early in the day to avoid being cramped in there. We visited in June and had no issues at all. It is a constant temperature down in the caves so even if it is hot outside it is worth taking a jumper as it is quite cold down there.
Alberobello is famous for its unique architecture dating back to the 14th century. The town is very cool and well worth the visit to see the "trulli" remarkable dwellings (sorry about the pun, couldn't resist!). Alberobello can get very busy and crowded so it is worth visiting early in the day. You will only need a few hours to walk around the town and see the houses.
Locorotondo is an interesting town to visit as there is not one tourist attraction that you need to is; it is simply just one of the most beautiful towns in all of Italy. The old town is completely whitewashed and the locals fill the streets with colour by planting hydrangeas and bougainvilleas and other plants in their window sills and patios. Every corner you turn you will want to take another photo. Locorotondo is the perfect spot to stop for lunch or a coffee.
Where to stay?
There are several good and relatively inexpensive hotels and country houses (agriturismos) in and around Polignano a Mare. We highly recommend Agriturismo Masseria Del Crocifisso. This Agriturismo is less than 10 minutes by car from Polignano and Castellana Grotte, and is only 19km from Alberobello, making it the perfect base.
The rooms are very clean and overlook the court yard. The host family is very friendly and are brilliant cooks; their homemade pastries for breakfast are some of the best we have had (breakfast is also included in the room rate). They can also cook dinner for you on request.
Eating + drinking
Have you ever imagined fine dining in the side of a cliff with the sea on one side and a grotto on the other? We hadn't, but It does exist! We'd seen the photos but still couldn't really imagine it - however, since eating at Ristorante Grotta Palazzese it is an experience neither of us will ever forget. This restaurant is beautifully set up and is right in the middle of a Grotto. It is not cheap (did you expect it to be?) but is 100% worth it!
The food and wine is very good quality; the seafood and pasta are very fresh and the restaurants sources all their ingredients from local suppliers. (The tuna tartare was particularly good.) We have been lucky enough to eat a few Michelin star restaurants and the food is getting close to this standard, though probably not quite there yet.
To make a reservation you will need to book through their website (a credit card is required to reserve a table): http://www.grottapalazzese.it/it/home/