Part 2 – Puglia Road Trip Only Gets Better
The second part of the Puglia road trip is broken down into two 2-night stays in Monopoli and Trani. Both of these harbour towns are beautiful and are the perfect Puglia destinations for dining and strolling around at night. You just need to glance at some of the photographs to see why we chose to base ourselves there.
Bear in mind, we are only touching the surface with our highlights; there are many Puglia Italy points of interests to discover. Many of the sights are close by to your accommodation however you may like to visit these places in a different order than they have been written.
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Where to stay In Puglia?
Booking.com has a large selection of accommodation styles to suit every budget. We chose an apartment ‘Appartamento Antonacci’ for our 2-night stay in Monopoli, mainly because we needed a washing machine and a car to park. Appartamento Antonacci is about a 10-minute walk from the old town with free car parking on the street. The apartment was on ground level (3 steps), large, comfortable and well-equipped.
Monopoli by the Sea
The quaint Italian Apulia town of Monopoli has approximately 50,000 inhabitants. The nearest main city is Bari which is about 45k away. Monopoli overlooks the Adriatic Sea with high medieval stone walls and long cobblestone walkways along the waterfront. In the evenings the fleets of fishing boats return to the small port and it is here you can watch the fishermen repair their nets in the small harbour with crystal clear water. Don’t forget to carry your camera and capture the beautiful sunset views at Faro Monopoli, the small lighthouse located on the sea-side. The gorgeous 15 kilometres stretch of coastline, coves and beaches attracts bathers and sun lovers to Monopoli and the region of Puglia.
Nineteen medieval churches are dotted throughout the ancient town adding to the overall charm and beauty of Monopoli. Monopoli’s baroque style cathedral features a tall bell tower and an archaeological museum is located in the crypt. Evenings in Monopoli are best spent in the lively squares or dining in one of the many traditional Italian restaurants found down one of the many narrow streets.
Polignano a Mare | A Seaside Jewel
Just 10 kilometres from Monopoli, in the heart of old town of Polignano a Mare, you can find a gorgeous cove and Puglia beach. Ponte dei Lapilli (cove) sits at the bottom of soaring 20-metre-high limestone cliffs and below a Roman Bridge. Polignano a Mare Italy is known for its Christmas markets and extravagant illuminations during the festive season. Capturing the stunning views is best from the Roman Bridge that links the two sides of the town together.
Grotte di Castellana | Hell In A Cave
Furthermore, just 16 kilometres from Polignano a Mare and Monopoli, is a magical place at the foot of the Itria Valley. Grotte di Castellana is a labyrinth of underground caves and chasms measuring 3 kilometres long and 70 metres below ground. The grotto can only be entered via a one or two-hour tour. The grotte which began forming about 90 million years ago is said to be the most beautiful speleological complex in Italy. Franco Anelli discovered the grotte in 1938 and opened to the public in the early 1960s.
To reach the caves visitors must climb down a long stairway, visitors exit the cave via an elevator. The first cave named the ‘Grave’ has a giant cyclops stalagmite in the centre and it’s here where special events and performances like ‘Hell in a Cave’ are held throughout the year. Photography and filming are only permitted in the first cave. Castellana Grotte has stunning rock formations and geological features with red draping curtains of alabaster.
Alberobello | Truly Wonderful
Visitors to Puglia must visit the picturesque village of Alberobello.
Alberobello is a UNESCO world heritage site of over 1,400 ‘Trulli’ buildings, located 15 kilometres from Castellana Grotte and 21 kilometres from Monopoli. The ancient whitewashed bases and cone shaped roofs are dry built from overlapping stones without use of mortar or other materials. The roofs are adorned with pinnacles of various Christian, primitive and magic symbols and shapes.
The largest Trulli with two floors and an internal staircase is found on Piazza Sacramento. Wandering the streets of Alberobello is a magical experience and that’s why visitors flock there to see and photograph this unique architecture. Today the majority of Trulli have been converted into luxury accommodation, retail stores, restaurants and souvenir shops.
Ostuni | ‘La Citta Bianca’ | White City
Ostuni is an elegant white town perched at the foot of the Murgia Hills offering outstanding sea and rural views. From the distance, Ostuni looks like solid white rock because all the homes and buildings are whitewashed. The coast of Ostuni offers a number of sandy beaches and unspoiled coves.
Blue Flag Award | Cleanest Beach and Sea in Italy
It is not hard to see why Ostuni has been awarded the ‘Blue Flag’ by the Federation for Environment Education for the last twenty plus years. The Blue Flag is awarded to the cities with the cleanest beaches and seas in Italy.
Where to eat in Puglia Italy? | Fuori dal Comune
Adjacent to the main square, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Fuori dal Comune. The basement restaurant is a few steps down from the casual bar on street level. The owner is very friendly and helpful in explaining the Italian dishes and specials of the day. The changing menu is created around seasonal produce and fresh seafood available which means you are eating fresh ingredients at the height of their flavour. Wine lovers love the Puglia Wine School tours. Spend the morning or afternoon tasting the best Puglia wines or take a Puglia cooking class.
Must See Sights In Ostuni
The historic centre dates back to the middle ages and surrounded by defensive walls that lead on to narrow streets to buzzing restaurants and attractive shops. An impressive 15th century gothic cathedral and Archbishop’s Palace are the towns centrepieces. The Town Hall that was once a convent (St Francis Church) overlooks Piazza della Libertà ‘Freedom Square’, the main square of Ostuni.
Trani Italy | Ancient Harbour Town
Trani is a small and charming old town of medieval buildings that have been converted into elegant shops, restaurants, bars and accommodation. The seaside town is located 95 kilometres north of Monopoli, one hours drive to another gorgeous destination.
Where to Stay? | The Old Town
Often when we have a rental car, we choose to stay out of the old town because the narrow streets and lack of parking can be challenging. There is a lot to be said about travelling in the low season. Although not all things are open, not having to fight the crowds and cope with hot weather are just two of the big pluses.
Accommodation is more affordable which means we can travel for longer. The large apartment in Trani, ‘Le Marinelle B&B’ is right in the middle of the old town with free parking close by. Silvana, the owner, is super helpful in sharing travel tips and cooked us a delicious breakfast both mornings. To secure a room at Le Marinelle B&B, visit booking.com
Where to Eat?
There is a large selection of eating places in the old town and crescent shaped harbour however often the gems are found a little way from the action. La Nicchia, via San Gervasio is a typical local Italian restaurant specialising in fresh and cooked seafood dishes together with excellent customer service.
Places to Visit in Trani
– Castello Svevo is a large Swadian castle built by Frederick II in the 13th century and it one of the most beautiful examples of fortification erected in Puglia.
– The spectacular 13th century Romanesque style Trani Cathedral has a 59-metre high bell tower and is dedicated to Nicholas the Pilgrim (Patron Saint of Trani), a saint from Greece who died in Trani in 1094. Nicholas was canonised 5-years later.
– Palazzo Caccetta was built by Simone Caccetta, a rich Trani man in 1456. The palace is built in the Gothic style and was used by the people of Venice in the early 1500s, when Trani was ruled by Venice.
– Scolanova Synagogue is a medieval synagogue that changed into a church in 1380. At that time, Jews who did not convert to Christianity were sent away from Trani. The church was converted back to a synagogue in 2006.
Matera | From Slum to Hidden Gem
Matera is situated in the region of Basilicata about 80 kilometres (1.20hour) from Trani. It is one of those unique places in the world that you never forget. Up until the last two decades, Matera was relatively unknown to international tourists but since becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, visitor numbers are steadily increasing.
The ancient city is one of the oldest inhabited towns in Italy. Made up of a series of hillside grottoes craved out of limestone cliffs known as ‘sassi’. Sassi di Matera which means stones of Matera is where large families lived in cave dwellings with their livestock, until the government forcefully relocated around 30,000 residents for health reasons in the 1950s. The Matera community was riddled with malaria, starvation, dysentery and severe eye infections. Cave dwellers lived in poverty without electricity, running water or sewage.
The town is divided into two separate areas; the old and the new. The city overlooks a deep canyon surrounded by ancient stone walls. Matera is said to resemble the old Jerusalem, hence why Mel Gibson chose it as one of the film locations for ‘The Passion Of Christ’.
Over the last decade, many of the caves have been transformed into stylish hotels, retail shops, restaurants, bars and souvenir stores. Since the 1990s residents began returning to caves; renovating them and installing the modern amenities we take for granted.
Other attractions are the many cave churches, imposing Matera Cathedral and Casa Grotta Museo which is a typical cave dwelling with furniture and artefacts.
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