Volare! 24 Hours In Polignano A Mare: The Guide To Puglia’s Coastline Gem

Volare! 24 Hours In Polignano A Mare: The Guide To Puglia’s Coastline Gem

Featured On

Kien Instagram
Ultimate Bucket List


Where and Wander uses affiliate links on this page. When you purchase or book something using my links, I might earn a small commission and it costs you nothing.

Raise your hand if scrolling through your social media feed has you yearning for a beach escape to the crystal clear waters of Italy’s coastline. Polignano a Mare, the coastal jewel of the Puglia region, is a destination that actually lives up to the hype – where history and natural beauty come together like Cacio e Pepe. It’s hard to not to be awed by the tucked away beach cove framed by the towering limestone cliffs and the clear azure blue waters of the Adriatic Sea.

While the sun-chasing masses flock to hot spots like the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre, I much prefer heading to Sardinia and Puglia. Especially with the latter where you’ll find a more authentic Italian beach experience. And while Polignano A Mare is the most popular beach in the region, it’s certainly still worth the visit.

I stopped in for 24 hours during Puglia coastal trip and I found that the town had so much more to offer than just the famous Lama Monachile beach that everyone sees on social media.

Why Visit? Everything You Need To Do Polignano A Mare

Instead of giving you a boring list of landmarks and church bell towers to visit, I always try to give my curated list of the experiences and things you should do that will give you the full experience of this breathtaking town with just a day or two on your hands.

1. Join The Crowd At Lama Monachile Beach

The famous beach is why you’re here, but be forewarned, it can get really crowded in the summer. Don’t be afraid to take any unoccupied spot large enough for your towel. If you want to avoid the crowd, start visit early in the morning. All other times, you’ll find yourself almost shoulder to shoulder and head to toe with many strangers. But that’s exactly the charm and part of the authentic Italian summer experience.

This is a pebble-stone beach, so don’t expect the soft sands of the tropic. Like much of the coastline, Italians are used to sunbathing on rocky beaches and sharps cliffs.

To get the famous view and photograph of the beach and grotto, walk through the beautiful old town to the Belvedere Su Lama Monachile. Combine the visit with the next to-do highlight on the list.

Another great spot for photos is from the Ponte Borbonico, an iconic and beautiful Roman bridge in the middle of the town that overlooks the beach. You can’t miss it, although you may not even realize you’re standing on it at first.

2. Go Poetry Hunting

One of the lovely finds was all the random lines of poetry painted on the doors, metal coverings, and walls of the cute houses in the old part of town. You’ll have to keep your eyes peeled wandering around for these little works of art, but they are pretty easy to spot.

There’s one with a line from Torquato Tasso that I really liked.

“Perduto è tutto il tempo che in amar non si spende,” which translates to “Lost is all the time you don’t spend in love.”

3. Get Lost In The Old Town

It’s so easy to just wander and get lost in the old town. I recommend giving yourself a couple of hours to do have this experience for yourself. Besides the “poetry” on the wall, you’ll come across random artistic things like a little community book exchange built into a wall or a bohemian garden with an eclectic collection of potted pants. Around every corner, you’ll find some something quaint and charming that no photographer can resist.

The white walls of the buildings create a canvas for the accented colors of shutters and doors, each popping from the muted background. I love the earth tones balancing with the vibrant colors of the sea.

When you need a little break,  pop in Piazza Vittorio Emamuele II for a drink and some people-watching.

4. Stuff Yourself With Puglia Cuisine

Puglian cuisine, distinct from other Italian regions, is known for its simplicity, a reliance on fresh, local ingredients, especially vegetables and seafood to reflect the region’s agricultural heritage and coastal proximity. Unlike the richer, creamier dishes of northern Italy, Puglian cuisine focuses on olive oil, vegetables, legumes, and seafood.

You can’t come to Puglia and not try the “orecchiette con cime di rapa.” Translated as “little ears”, the similarly shaped pasta is paired with broccoli rabe, sautéed garlic, anchovies and chili flakes.

“Fave e cicoria” is a rustic puree of fava beans served with sautéed chicory and “polpo alla pignata” is an octopus stew slow-cooked in a terracotta pot with tomatoes and herbs. The “pane di Altamira” is a local sourdough bread to pair with the local olive oil, considered to be one of the best in the world. See below for my list of food finds and recommendations for Polignano A Mare.

5. Explore The Cliffside And Grottos

In the mornings and around sunset, there’s no better way to send it than to walk along the cliffside visiting the many different grottos that dot the coastline. Right in town, you’ll find the expansive and open Pietra Piatta.

Don’t be surprised if you see someone randomly jumping side of the cliff and disappear into the crashing waves below. Further along, you’ll find spots where the locals go to swim and hang out, like the Lido Cala Paura. If you want an escape for the crowd, this is where I recommend you going.

6. Go Cliff Jumping

For over a decade, Polignano A Mare has been home to one of the famous Red Bull’s Cliff Diving World Series events. You might have even seen videos of the daredevils flying out of a sea-facing balcony that’s been transformed into a diving platform. These expert divers jump from a height of 26-28 meters (85-92 feet).

That may not be for everyone, but if you’re feeling adventures, you can still jump off several different points along the cliffs that are from much more manageable heights.

7. Pay Homage To The Birthplace of Volare!

Before you make your way down to the Pietra Piatta, you’ll find a statue of Domenico Modugno, an Italian singer known for the catchy 1958 hit, “Volare / Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu”. Born in Polignano A Mare in 1928, he went on to win 3rd place at the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest with the song. Although, it didn’t win, “Nel Blue Dipinto Di Blu” became the first song from the contest to gain world hit fame.

Over the long running history of the Eurovision Song Contest, “Waterloo” would eventually launch ABBA, Poupée De Cire, Poupée De Son introduced the world to France Gall, and “Ne Partez Pas San Moi” was just the start of Celine Dion’s storied career – but “Volare” might just be it’s most recognizable song.  You’ll find the crooner immortalized with his arms wide open and back to the sea. Do your best impression and take a photo.

8. Enjoy An Afternoon “Caffè Speciale” And Gelato

The “special coffee” is a local concoction of black coffee with amaretto foam and lemon zest from Super Mago del Gelo Mario Campanella. It’s a nice afternoon pick-me-up from the lull of sunbathing to prepare you for the evening. The gelato here is famous as well, so why not double down and treat yourself.

9. Treat Yourself To Dinner In Italy’s Most Famous Cave

On the note of treating yourself, there is no grander or more unique dining experience in Polignano A Mare than a table and seafood dinner at the Grotto Palazzese cliffside cave restaurant. Advanced reservations are definitely recommended if you want to secure one of the coveted tables overlooking the water. There are four set menus to choose from that start at €195 for a 4-course meal with an optional wine pairing. If you’re feeling extra luxurious, go for the €200 caviar pairing experience.

You can even spend the night here. See below for my hotel recommendations.


Where To Eat In Polignano A Mare

I came for the famous beach, but what I remember most about Polignano A Mare was all the amazing things I ate during my 24 hours there. I’ve linked to the Google Maps location, so you can save it for later, and a menu if it’s available online.

1. La Rotellina

If you’re looking for a quick snack, you can’t do better than a piping-hot stuffed panzerotto. It’s sort of like a pizza that’s been rolled up into an empanada and deep-fried. There were so many amazing combinations that I couldn’t hard choose one. And they’re only €5 each. So I had two, saving room for the other meals on this list. The next day, I picked up one of their fritella sandwiches with freshly grilled and marinated octopus.

2. La Focaccia Delle Noci Marco

This popular spot is a local favorite for their constantly churned out focaccia bread with different toppings. I was drawn in by the smell, but had just downed two panzerotti, so I reluctantly had to pass.

3. Pescaria

I loved this lively seafood eatery and raw bar. You can grab at a seat at one of the tables or take it away and enjoy on the beach. They are known for their panini sandwiches, but I recommend ordering from the Raw Bar, Tartare and Spaghetti selection. Trust me. You can check out their menu ahead of time while you’re waiting in the queue. The lines can get really long at lunch and dinner time, so I recommend eating in between.

4. Antiche Mura

Come here for an authentic Puglian meal. Like anywhere in Puglia, The ‘antipasti’ is a little tasting menu of starters that you can’t pass up. Order their Antipasto Antiche Mura or the Fruit Di Mare Crudi and thank me later. What I love is that you won’t find the boring and repetitive pasta dishes are served to tourists in Rome and Florence.

I recommend the “Torchietti Con Gamberi Rossi E Fiori Di Zucchina (a twisty-shaped pasta with red prawns and zucchini flowers)” or the “Troccoli Con Cozze E Cime Di Rape (a thick spaghetti pasta with mussels and broccoli rabe).” There was also a tasting-menu that I was tempted by.

5. Il Libro Possibile Cafè

This cafe/bookstore was a cute find on the way from the train station to the beach. I was tempted to go back to Pescaria for breakfast, but I’m glad I remembered this calm and inviting place. The coffee was amazing and paired perfectly with the little croissants for the most Italian breakfast you can have.

6. Grotto Palazzese

This fine-dining restaurant built into a cave is a bucket list culinary experience for visitors to Polignano A Mare. It’s definitely a splurge meal, but there’s very few places in the world quite like it. Maybe next time for me, if I can decide which of their set menus to choose from.

Where To Stay In Polignano A Mare

For the full experience Polignano A Mare experience, I recommend staying in the old town areas. If you want something more quiet, head further east towards the local part of town. For the a splurge experience, get something seaside. Below are all the places that made my short list and where the quaint place where I ended up staying.

Old Town

1. Dimora Anderi. I ended up staying at the white bed and breakfast right in the center of the old town. The room had a minimalist decor that fit in perfectly with the outside. You really feel like you are living in the town when you walk out the door. I also enjoyed my morning relaxing on the terrace before heading out for breakfast.

2. Apulian Escapes – Suite Il Fico. I liked that the apartments are renovated in a modern way while retaining the stone foundations of the old building. There’s a jacuzzi spa in the room, so this one was the highest on my list, but it was unavailable for the day I was there.

3. A Casa Di Elena. This cute guesthouse has simple and clean white rooms, some with balconies. There’s a rooftop terrace that overlooks the sea.

4. Sei Stelle Mama. If you want to be right in the heart of the old town, this is a great option with a terrace that looks right into main square below.

5. Leavì. This cozy house has everything you’d need to spend the night in Polignano without breaking the bank. There’s two bedrooms in the guesthouse.


1. San Michele Suite. This is probably one of the nicest option you can get right in the old town overlooking the waters. The luxurious suites are incredible as is the rooftop lounge. They offer massages, a solarium, and yoga classes here as well.

2. Hotel Grotta Palazzeses. If you’re going to splurge on the best seaside room you can find, it’s definitely here. This is where the famous cave restaurant’s located and the modern hotel is perched right above it looking right towards the sea.

3. B&B Relais Del Senatore. For something more historic, check out this guesthouse built in an 18th century watchtowers. Some of the rooms have Seaview and is one of the best value options for something seaside.

4. Amoredimare Casa Vacanze. If you’re looking for more of an apartment for a family or a group, this spot overlooks the ocean and has a huge terrace in the roof.

5. L’arco Antico. One of the more economical options with a terrace that overlooks the ocean. Some rooms have views of the sea, but it’s not fully seaside.

Local Area

1. Antiche Volte. This was one of the options that I really considered, despite it being outside the old town. I passed by the area from the train station and it was nice and quiet. It felt very real and the locals hung out by the park in the afternoon and evenings.

2. Il Sogno di Mimi. This stylish loft also caught my eye with its room and price. It was located near the Parco Pinocchio as well and was in a more local area of Polignano just a few minutes walk from the train station in one direction and the beach in the other.

3. Signora Angelina. This apartment is located just a couple minutes away from the main part of town and the beach. Great location and the room looked perfect for the price.

How To Get To Polignano A Mare

By Plane

The closest airport to Polignano A Mare is Bari (BRI) located about 50 km (40 minutes drive) north of the town. Brindisi Airport (BDS) is the next closest airport 80 km (52 minutes drive) south of Polignano A Mare.

If you are traveling without a car, from Bari Airport, take a quick train (FM2/FR2 line), about 17 minutes (€5.10), to Bari Centrale and transfer to a train headed towards Fasano or Lecce (€3).

If you are traveling without a car, from Brindisi Airport, take the STP Brindisi bus to Brindisi Centrale, about 10-15 minutes (€1.10) and transfer to a train headed towards Bari (€7). There’s also a direct train between Brindisi Airport and Polignano A Mare, but it runs very infrequently.

By Train

There’s a direct Trenitalia line that runs along the Puglian coastline between Bari and Fasano and Bari and Lecce.

From Bari Centrale, it takes about 23-30 minutes (€3) to Polignano A Mare. The station is about a 7 minute walk (550m) to the main part of town.

From Monopoli, it takes about 12 minutes (€1) to Polignano A Mare.

Last Thoughts On Polignano A Mare

I think it’s worth spending a night in Polignano A Mare, but people often prefer to base themselves in Bari or Monopoli and driving or taking the quick direct train to visit Polignano A Mare.

It makes sense to visit Polignano as part of a bigger Puglia coastal trip. Between Bari and Monopoli, I would prefer to stay in Monopoli for their beaches, but Bari is a central base for traveling north to Trans, south to Polignano A Mare and Monopoli, and also southwest to Matera.

I hope this has helped. Polignano A Mare has long been on my list of places to visit and I’m glad it lived up to the hype. If you’re looking for more travel inspirations, scroll through some of the 450+ experiences on my bucket list. Maybe you’ll find your next adventure on there.

How You Can Help

When you make a purchase using these links, you’ll help support this site at no cost to you.

 Booking.com  Agoda.com
 Amazon.com  Klook.com
 Viator.com  GetYourGuide.com


Updated on July 4, 2024


Leave a Comment

Leave A Comment Your email address will not be published

Featured On