Puglia is the region of Italy known as “the heel” of Italy’s “boot.” Charming white washed villages dot the countryside and the coast. Visitors will be delighted with the ambience, food and culture that thrives in this area of Italy. The following villages are all located on the coast with beautiful sea views, excellent seafood and access to beaches.
Polignano a Mare is a charming village set directly on the sea. Only 30 minutes from Bari, it is easy to access and offers some very interesting diversions. “Cala Porto” is a famous beach at the feet of the town. “Balconata sul Mare” is a must see with its spectacular views of the beach and the sea. Be sure to wander the winding streets of the town where you will find poetry supposedly written by a man who calls himself “Guido del Flaneur.” Check out “Vicola della Poesia”, a staircase not far from Balconata sul Mare. For a unique dining experience, go to “Grotta Palazzese,” a restaurant tucked into an ancient cave that has been welcoming diners since the 1700’s. With a broad terrace overlooking the sea, this restaurant may not be best known for its food but it’s a fantastic setting for an aperitivo.
Monopoli is a delightful fishing village on the coast whose history goes back to the ancient Greeks. Like so many towns in Puglia, exploring the winding streets and small shops is a wonderful way to spend a day. Be sure to include the old port (“Porta Vecchia”) on your tour of the village as well as the 16th century castle of Carlo V. Stop in one of the piazzas to enjoy a glass of wine while watching people go by. Check out the Baroque cathedral which was built on the spot where the original cathedral was constructed beginning in 1107. There is an archeological museum in the crypt with statues and ancient tombs.
Another charming coastal town is Otranto whose history dates back to the Greeks and, later, the Romans. Defeated by Turkish troops in 1480, the town was later liberated. You can visit the 15th century castle which was built after the Turks were defeated. Check out the Romanesque Cathedral begun in 1088 whose 12th century mosaic floor is one of the largest in Europe. Enjoy lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants in the port while watching the fishermen come and go. Take advantage of the beautiful beaches and spend an afternoon sunbathing and playing in the turquoise water.
Gallipoli (“beautiful city” in Greek) truly reflects its name. An island accessible only by sea or the 17th century bridge, the town offers much to explore and admire. Like so many ancient towns, Gallipoli was attacked, sacked and governed by various people including Goths, Byzantines, Normans and Bourbons until the unification of Italy in 1861. There are many Baroque churches and palazzi and a 13th century fortress. Shops along labyrinthine streets and alleys offer local produce and crafts. Be sure to enjoy an evening stroll along the seafront. Have an aperitif while admiring the view. Visit Spiaggia della Purità (a local beach) for some sun and relaxation.
Vieste is another beautiful village perched on the cliffs overlooking the sea. Wander the winding streets of this medieval village. Visit the 11th century “Santa Maria di Merino” cathedral and the medieval “Castello Svevo.” Don’t miss the “Pizzomunno” limestone monolith nearby. Explore the many grottos found in the face of the cliffs. Of course you will find delicious seafood but if you want something different head to the interior to enjoy countryside restaurants offering a variety of dishes centered around local vegetables and meat.
Wherever you choose to go you will discover extraordinary towns to explore, delicious food to eat and beautiful scenery to admire.
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