Polignano a Mare: White-washed buildings, pebble beaches and a restaurant in a cave
Mention Polignano a Mare to any Southern Italian and they will likely burst into a rendition of the most famous song to come out of Italy - Volare . Domenico Modugno, who first performed the song (no, it wasn't the Gipsy Kings), hailed from this pretty coastal town.
It's a picture-perfect fishing village; white-washed buildings perched precariously on limestone cliffs and set twenty metres above the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic, pretty pebble beaches and an abundance of seafood restaurants, including one carved into a cave.
It’s just what your Instagram feed needs.
It’s hardly ‘off-the-beaten-track’, but unlike other Pugliese places like Ostuni and Alberobello, you aren't likely to bump into many international tourists. This salty seaside resort is strictly for Italians.
Here's a quick snapshot of what the town has to offer:
THE OLD HISTORIC TOWN
Nobody quite knows when the settlement came about, though personally, I like to think there is some truth in the ancient legend which tells that a piece of Greek coast drifted across the water to merge with Apuglia. Tenuous, yes, but it does feel peculiarly Greek here. Like much of Puglia, Polignano has been occupied by everybody from the Normans to the Greeks, all of whom left their cultural stamp on the architecture here.
ALL THE QUOTES
There seem to be lots of burgeoning romantics in Polignano a Mare too, and one particular die-hard fan of Emily Dickinson.
PRETTY PEBBLE BEACHES
Cala Porto, a small pebble beach flanked by two cliffs, is the most iconic beach here. During high season it's extremely popular with Italian families and children keen to throw themselves off (dive off) the nearby cliff. Cala Cavallo and Cala San Vito offer stretches of sand away from the bulk of the crowds.
...OR YOU CAN JUST FLOAT ABOUT IN THIS NATURAL POOL.
This natural pool, which is carved into a lengthy patch of rock formations, is around a five minute walk on from Cala Porto. Far more secluded than the surrounding beaches and it's so shallow that there's no need to expend any unnecessary energy treading water.
LET US NOT FORGET THAT THERE IS A RESTAURANT LOCATED IN A CAVE
The caves here were historically used by feudal lords as caverns, and by the late 18th Century they acted as established function rooms for local dignitaries. Of these caverns only Grotto Palazzese remains - an upscale summer restaurant and bar, which Forbes Magazine voted as 'one of the most romantic places in the world'. *Note, a good place to propose to someone if you are contemplating marriage.
AS WELL AS NUMEROUS OTHER EXCITING RESTAURANTS SERVING TRADITIONAL PUGLIESE FARE
Polignano has a wealth of sea-food restaurants, as well as a few pescatoria willing prepare some antipasti crudo (raw) for you to take to the beach. We stopped at Ristorante Il Grottone for an exceptional sea-food antipasti, packed full of sardines, mussels and calamari, as well as something which can only be described as an entire grilled Octopus arm. It might not be carved into a cave but it offers an incredible view of the coast.
PAY HOMAGE TO THE MAN WHO GAVE US 'VOLARE'
They're not modest about their claim to Domenico Modugno here. His face is plastered on the wall of most restaurants and shops and they've even erected a larger than life iron statue of the singer, lest we forget he was born here.
You just have to embrace it.
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