To enter the ‘old town’ of Polignano you pass through a deep stone arch, set in the remaining part of the original fortified town wall and, emerging the other side, you do feel like you have entered another world. The new town, outside the walls, is busy with traffic, a mix of modern and older buildings and thronging with people. There are good clothes and shoe shops, elegant sea food restaurants and even some sophisticated night life but it is much like any other town.
The old town has a completely different feel. In the winter it becomes almost a ghost town – numerous bars, restaurants and boutiques close down altogether, but on a summer evening it is magical. An impossibly romantic place, it seems to offer everyone’s idea of what a summer evening in Italy ought to be… People watch, or eat a pizza, sitting at a table in the picture perfect main square, where there are often live concerts, or wander through the narrow streets that invariably end up at one of the ‘balconate’ -terraces looking straight out to sea. It is easy to spend longer than you intended just listening to the waves and watching the twinkling lights that spread along the coastline and, above these, the stars. If you can tear yourself away, the same view can be enjoyed from a couple of good, but relatively expensive (for Puglia); fish restaurants perched on the cliffs.
The deep caverns and grottoes in Polignano’s cliff face were inhabited as early as prehistoric times. Now, one of them even hosts a miraculously placed restaurant! If a meal eaten in a grotto halfway down a cliff is not for you, it is possible to explore them by pedalo, on a small boat tour, or even on a private yacht…Charter one for the day or, once the new marina is completed, bring your own!
Enough remains of the architecture of the old, fortified town ‘Castello Polignano’ as it was called, to make a daytime visit worthwhile as well… the old town is relatively untouched by time and there are a couple of beautiful churches. Outside the entrance arch there is an award winning ‘gelateria’. Buy your ice cream first and then explore while you eat it! If this doesn’t keep you cool enough there is a town beach, a deep cove with the cliffs rising up around it. The white shingle shelves steeply to deep clear turquoise water but the beach is very crowded in summer, making it better for a quick dip than a protracted sunbathing session.
For holiday villas, apartments or hotel accommodation in or near Polignano, or tailormade trips see www.personalpuglia.com