Dare Dream Discover

A Taste of Puglia – Monopoli

A Taste of Puglia – Monopoli

monopoli old town beach

Monopoli is situated on the Adriatic Coast between Bari and Brindisi. It is only a short drive or train journey from either. It is often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbours. I completely fell in love with it. With it’s beautiful old town, colourful little harbor and secluded beaches and coves, it is one of my favorite places in Puglia.

old town monopoli

old harbor - monopoli

beach - monopoli

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Things to see and do in Monopoli

Wander around the Old Town

The Centra Storica is very lovely, its whitewashed buildings providing a striking contrast to the deep and vivid blues of the sky and the sea. At the end of every street are stone churches, monasteries and squares. Everywhere there are little nooks and crannies and courtyards with green shuttered houses and beautiful balconies adorned with flowers and plants.

bell tower in monopoli

old street in monopoli

monopoly old town

colourful house monopoli

back street in monopoli

old monastery in monopoli

centra storage - monopoliThe Cathedral

Its full title is the Basilica of the Madonna della Madia and it comes with its own legend of a miracle. Construction of the original church began in 11th century on the site of an old Roman temple. It couldn’t be completed as there were no materials to finish building the roof.

Legend has it that on Dec 16th 1117 a raft drifted into the harbor at Monopoli. On the raft was an icon of the Madonna della Madia. The beams and wood of the raft were perfect for completing the roof of the church.

cathedral in monopoli

inside monopoli cathedral

monopoli cathedral

In 1686 the bell tower collapsed, killing 40 people. In the 18th century it was decided to demolish the old church and build a new one. The inside of the church is full of Baroque beauty and is majestic.

I visited on a Sunday and the church was full of people attending a service, which added to the atmosphere. A display inside tells you about the miracle. The icon of the Madonna is also on display. A feast is held twice a year to re-enact the raft sailing into the harbor. The icon is carried through the streets in a small wooden boat.

service at monopoli cathedral

view of the bell tower

The Old Harbor

An old archway in the old town leads you to Porta Vecchia. You are immediately hit by a blaze of colour, all the small, brightly coloured fishing boats shimmering in the sunshine. These traditional boats are called Gozzi, usually painted blue or red and bearing the names of local fishermen or saints. They are used to catch fish and octopus. You can watch them bring in their catch or see the fishermen mending their nets.

monopoli harbour

arch leading to harbor

fisherman monopoli harbour

reflections monopoli harbour

old harbor monopoli boats

portal vecchia monopoli

It was one of my favorite spots. There is a lovely walk around the harbor. When I was there exhibits from a photography exhibition also lined it walls.

exhibition photograph

photograph outdoor exhibition

On one side this walkway also leads to:

The Castle of Charles V

Charles V built many castles and fortifications in the area. Castello di Carlo V was built in 1525 on a promontory jutting out to sea. Originally used as a defense against pirate attacks, it later became a prison, a function it served until the 1990s. Now it is used for conferences, weddings and exhibitions.

reflection monopoli castle

monopoli castle

selfie by castle

From the castle continue your promenade along the sea wall to come to:

Il Bastione del Molino Ruins

These are the ruins of an old fort which used to protect the town, complete with a couple of old canons. From here there are also fabulous views of the castle.

old fortress monopoli

view from fortress ruins

view of castle monopoli

Continuing your walk will bring you to:

The Church of San Salvatore

Chiesa di San Salvatore is one of the oldest churches in Monopoli and is believed to have been built in the 3rd – 4th century. Legend says it was built by the crew of a pirate ship who survived a shipwreck and that is the reason it is facing the sea. It is a lovely, simple little church with very understated architecture.

church of san salvatore

The next stop will be the 1st of Monopoli’s beaches.

Old Town Beach

Cala Portal Vecchia is in a very picturesque setting below the city walls and whitewashed houses. The water is incredibly clear, there is a small stretch of sand and a selection of rocks on which to sunbathe.

cala porta vecchio monopoli

sunbather old town beach

view of old town beach

clear water monopoli

in the sea - monopoli

swimming in the sea - monopoli

Just opposite the Old Town Beach is a wonderful ice cream shop.

ice-cream - monopoli

Just up from the beach is an outdoor bar with lovely beer and aperol spritz.

outdoor bar in monopoli

Just before the beach is also a little bar that does take away cocktails. The Special Mojito was very nice!

little bar in monopoli

me and a mojito

If you continue the walk along the coast and above the cliffs there are many other secluded beaches and coves as well as wonderful views looking back to the old town. All offer beautiful swimming opportunities.

view of old town monopoli

dog on beach in monopoli

relaxing on monopoli beach

view back to old town

seafront promenade

small beach in monopoli

I chose one of these to while away a couple of hours and have a long, lovely, leisurely swim in the crystal clear waters.

me enjoying the beach

small cover - monopoli

beach at monopoli

secluded beach monopoli

Churches

There are so many beautiful churches in Monopoli. Here a few you may like to visit.

Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Suffragio detta del Purgatoria

I was fascinated by the name and also the wonderful doors. Inside are also fully dressed mummies, all a little macabre.

church door monopoli

carvings on church door

interior of church

Chiesa di San Francesco d’Assisi

It doesn’t have the most impressive of exteriors but it has a beautiful, blue, Baroque interior.

blue baroque church

Chieso dei SS Pietro e Paulo

The Church of Peter and Paul Apostles and Martyrs is an enormous church made of marble and set in a lovely square.

church of peter and paul

church dome monopoli

People Watching in a Piazza

One of the best things is sitting in one of the lovely Piazzas with some lovely seafood or a glass of wine and watch the world go by. The most famous is the Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi and here I sat with some freshly caught fish and half a litre of wine.

fresh fish monopoli

Vegan Food

By chance I found this lovely vegan restaurant, La Cucina Della Capra. Beautifully decorated, with a very friendly owner it serves fresh, organic food.

vegan restaurant monopoli

restaurant monopoli

vegan food monopoli

As I said I fell in love with Monopoli, so much so I made 3 visits. I’m sure you’ll love it too.

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lovely street monopoli

sunbathing old town beach

lady on balcony -monopoli

locals in monopoli

inquisitive cat in monopoli

view to old harbor

exhibition in the sea

old church in monopoli

crystal clear water in monopoli

monopoli old town - water

sunset monopoli old town

small beach view - monopoli

alley in monopoli

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