Last updated on June 8th, 2023
You’ve likely seen a photo of Lama Monachile and wondered, where is that gorgeous beach? It’s in Polignano a Mare in Puglia, and the town is worth a stop for the day.
I first visited in 2004, and the town has grown so much in the last couple of decades, but in a way that’s kept it as a beautiful place that’s not totally overrun with postcard and trinket shops (but there are still a few).
Polignano has its dramatic and photo-friendly Lama Monachile, other amazing viewpoints, delicious seafood, and other landmarks like the Volare statue and beautiful piazzas.
Here’s a realistic itinerary for a day in Polignano a Mare – it’s just not possible to do everything on a day trip. Enjoy your giornata (day) in town!
If you’re visiting with your family, be sure to check out our guide to Visiting Polignano a Mare with Kids!
Where is Polignano a Mare?
Polignano a Mare is a large town / small city on the Adriatic Sea coast in Puglia, in Southern Italy. It’s on the coastal edge of the Valle d’Itria (Itria Valley), a compact area full of whitewashed villages, beautiful beaches, and interesting sites – and our favorite area in Puglia to visit on vacation.
How to Pronounce Polignano a Mare
Polignano a Mare is pronounced poh-lee-NYAH-noh ah MAH-reh.
Listen to the pronunciation of Polignano a Mare, as spoken by a local:
When to Visit Polignano a Mare
Our favorite time to visit Polignano a Mare (and Puglia in general), is in the late spring (April or May) or early fall (September or October). In these periods, you’ll miss the summer crowds and heat.
If you’d like to see the Festa di San Vito, make sure you’re in town from June 14-16 (and if you’re not set on seeing it, avoid Polignano a Mare on these days).
Realistic One Day Itinerary for Polignano a Mare
Arrive and Park in Parcheggio San Francesco
Drive into Polignano and park in the large pay and display lot, Parcheggio San Francesco e Sant’Oronzo. From the parking lot, it’s just a 10-minute walk to the centro storico (historic center).
Helpful Tip: Use the EasyPark app. You can add credit to your parking remotely and if you leave early your account is credited for the next time you park.
Good To Know: From June through early September, some of the main roads of Polignano a Mare are part of a ZTL (in addition to the historic center, which always is). Pay attention to the large signs as you’re coming into town.
Check Out Lama Monachile
First stop is the Instagram-famous Lama Monachile. It is a gorgeous spot, and even more so if you can beat some of the crowd to see it. First, check out the view from bridge (Ponte Borbonico), and then turn around, cross the street, and walk down the stairs to the Ponte Romano, just below. Keep walking down the stairs to get to the paved path that leads to the stony beach.
If it’s too chilly to dip in the sea, you can hang out and relax (with a book or a snack) and enjoy the view of the sea and the town hanging dramatically on the cliffs.
You can also come back later in the day, but at least you’ve seen it before it’s packed!
Good To Know: The Porta Romana view of Lama Monachile is also beautiful and photo-worthy, especially looking through the arches of the Ponte Borbonico.
Helpful Tip: Be careful walking down the steps and the path. They can be slippery when they’re coated with sand and water.
Have a Snack
Make your way back up the path and steps and head to the prime gelateria in Polignano a Mare for your cool sweet tooth fix. Il Super Mago del Gelo is on the main road just across the street from the Porta Vecchia entrance to the old town. You can also ask for the ‘caffè speciale’ (special coffee), which is coffee and panna, amaretto, and lemon peel.
If you’re craving something savory instead, walk across the street to the small stand under the trees and buy some taralli or olives from Katia and Francesco. There are so many varieties of taralli (with turmeric, with peperoncino, etc) and olives (get the bella di Cerignola – so good!).
Walk a Loop of Polignano a Mare’s Old Town
Walk across the street and enter Polignano’s historic center for a stroll. I like to enter on Via Roma (check out the song lyrics above the street) and walk to Via Anemone, turn left, walk through Piazza San Benedetto, and continue to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II with its Palazzo dell’Orologio (clock tower) and Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo (Duomo).
Helpful Tip: Before leaving Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, make a detour to the terrace that overlooks the Lama Monachile (it’s nicknamed the balconata sul mare or the terrazza con vista mare).
Have Lunch at Pescaria
Sample the area’s seafood in a casual setting at Pescaria. It’s a well-known sandwich shop that also offers other delicious seafood options. You can eat on site or get take out. I recently ordered it with my son and we both loved our sandwiches (I highly recommend the tuna tartare).
Good To Know: Expect to wait around 30 minutes for your order. You can order online or send someone from your group ahead to order. Or, order and hang out in the piazza out front with a cold drink!
If you’re in the mood for a sit-down lunch, I recommend L’Osteria di Chichibio. It’s a Michelin-star restaurant, but it’s in no way stuffy or overly formal. I love the décor and seafood dishes – and I’ve even enjoyed eating here with kids (not always easy!).
Walk to Largo Ardito
You may have noticed that Polignano a Mare is full of great views. This is one of our favorites, because you get to see the Grotta Palazzese (the famous restaurant in a seaside cave), the numerous caves under Polignano a Mare, and San Vito in the distance. In the other direction, you can see the Hermit’s Island (Scoglio dell’Eremita),
From here, you can also go for a little passeggiata (stroll) along the lungomare (the path along the sea).
Walk to the Domenico Modugno Statue
While you may not know the name Domenico Modugno, you likely recognize the tune and words to his song, Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu (more commonly known as Volare), famously sung by Dean Martin:
Volare, oh oh
E cantare, oh oh oh oh…
The statue of Modugno with his arms open wide is in a gorgeous setting in an open piazza with the sea as a backdrop.
After you’ve said hello and taken a photo, walk behind his statue and down the scalinata, the staircase that leads to the rocky area (pietra piatta) overlooking the water.
Good To Know: The dramatic cliffs drop steeply into the sea and there are no fancy handrails or warning signs. Be careful when walking around the area!
Have Aperitivo in Polignano a Mare
Take time for aperitivo, preferably with a view of the sea or a lively piazza.
La Casa del Mojito serves… mojitos, which are perfect if you need a little break from the classic Aperol spritz. Be sure to get a spot on the balcony!
Or, if you’d like to stick with a spritz, head back to Piazza Aldo Moro (where you had lunch at Pescaria earlier) for aperitivo at Spritz e Polpette (Spritz and Meatballs). Sit at one of the outdoor tables, on the benches in the piazza, or stroll with your spritz (they come in to-go cups).
Decide to Stay or Go
If you need to get back to your hotel, walk back to Parcheggio San Francesco and say arrivederci to Polignano a Mare.
Otherwise, enjoy dinner in Polignano. There are plenty of choices in Polignano, including:
- L’Osteria di Chichibio – if you didn’t eat at Chichibio for lunch (see above), have a leisurely seafood dinner
- Il Quadrifoglio – make reservations here for excellent pizza on Via Roma; try to snag an outdoor table for prime people-watching
More Things to Do in Polignano a Mare
Depending on how long you linger in some of these places (relaxing at Lama Monachile, checking out the shops in town, sipping one (or three) mojitos), you may have some extra time to:
Go on an Ape Tour – Don’t dismiss these as silly – they’re actually fun and a great way to learn about Polignano a Mare from a local. My son and I recently took a 40-ish minute long tour with Francesco and even though I’ve been visiting town since 2004, I still learned a ton!
Head to San Vito – Yes, you’ll need to drive a few minutes north up the coast to San Vito, but it’s a nice change of pace if Polignano feels too busy or crowded. Take in the view of the San Vito Abbey, small fishing harbor, and have a snack at Da Giselda.
Take a Boat Tour of the Grotte – While you were checking out the views at Largo Ardito, did you notice all of the caves at the bottom of the cliffs of Polignano a Mare? There are 72 of them! Outside of winter (and if the sea is calm), you can take a boat tour and visit some of them. The boats leave from San Vito.
Watch the Festa di San Vito – San Vito, the patron saint of Polignano, is honored every June 14, 15, and 16 with a water procession in the Adriatic Sea (beginning in San Vito and finishing in Polignano a Mare). There’s also a procession in the streets of Polignano a Mare, and celebrations that include fireworks, concerts, and the traditional luminarie lights.
Cheer for the Cliff Divers – Check the calendar and see if your visit lines up with the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series (it’s July 2 in 2023 but changes annually). Watch the expert divers from around the world launch themselves from the limestone cliff on the right side of Lama Monachile.
Good To Know: Don’t try to watch from the crowded Lama Monachile beach. Instead, sit on the flat, rocky area (the pietra piatta)at the bottom of the Scalinata Volare (the steps behind the Volare statue).
Things to Do After Visiting Polignano a Mare
One of the best things about this area of Puglia (the Valle d’Itria, or Itria Valley), is that there are a lot of places worth visiting in a small area. Nearby, you may want to check out:
Grotte di Castellana – Amazing cave network with organized tours. Read our guide to Visiting the Grotte di Castellana in the town of Castellana Grotte.
Monopoli – Lively, beautiful small city that makes a great base for exploring the area. Read our Guide to Visiting Monopoli.
Beaches Near Capitolo – If you’re looking for sandy beaches and beach clubs (with umbrellas and chairs), this area south of Polignano a Mare and Monopoli is for you. We always spend time here.
Costa dei Trulli Ripagnola – Stretch of road along the coast between Bari and Polignano a Mare with old, ruined trulli. Dramatic scenery, especially at sunset.
Alberobello – UNESCO World Heritage site and home of the trulli.
You may also want to read about
Driving in Puglia
Polignano a Mare FAQ
The restaurant at Grotta Palazzese is truly unique – it’s in a cave! And it always tops lists of ‘must-visit’ places in the world. If you’d like to check it off your list, you should go – you’re here! But, remember that if you decide to eat at Grotta Palazzese, you’re paying for the experience of eating in a cave (not the food), and it’s a pricey one.
Domenico Modugno, the singer and writer of the song ‘Volare,’ is from Polignano a Mare. He’s a local legend!
There aren’t any major museums in Polignano a Mare, but contemporary art lovers may want to walk along the lungomare from the Largo Ardito viewpoint to the Pino Pascali Contemporary Art Museum.
No, Polignano is not a small, quiet village. It’s not even a small town. I’d call it a large town or a small city. It’s definitely not quiet outside of the winter months (and people do visit over the Christmas holidays).
The Bari Airport (BRI) is just 50 kilometers (40-minute drive) from Polignano a Mare, while the Brindisi Airport (BDS) is only 75 kilometers (50-minute drive) away.
Local Guido il Flâneur (Guido, ‘Il Flâneur) is responsible for most of the poems you’ll see around Polignano a Mare, in the streets, on the stairs (on the Vicolo della Poesia), and on walls. He’s not the author of the poems, but he’s painted and written them creatively around town.