If you have been planning to impress your artsy mate with an extravagant proposal in the grandest backdrop ever, and have already suffered elimination of more places than manage any selection, due to her hateful intolerance towards everything clichéd, then “The Pearl of the Adriatic Sea”, a little medieval town on rocky cliffs of Polignano a Mare, Italy, is YOUR place!
So, add on to your Italian itinerary, the town of Polignano a Mare which is situated in the southern Italy (province of Bari, Apulia). 30 km south of Bari, Apulia, unrolling along a craggy coastline, the cliff top fishing town is characterized by low scrubby bushes and evergreen trees ,the azure flags fluttering in the gay breeze spread across the precious strips of pristine beaches overlooking the sapphire seas with their crashing waves against the partially drowned sea caves.
Some historians believe, that in the 5th century B.C., this was an ancient marine colony called Neapolis, which with time became Polignano, the pearl village on rocks! The picturesque setting of the town, with its white-washed buildings blending with the cerulean hues of the sea against the golden sands and rugged grey rocks surrounded by the clear cyanic sky,establishes it as the arcady of Italy.
As the place is basically built on limestone caves,some of them go deep enough to reach the very centre of the town and there rests beneath the city,an underground cavern sparkling with cystal clear waters and sapphiric-blue stalactites and stalagmaites.Among these,the Grotto Nera’s rock formations,that look like time-frozen,structures of dripping mud and water, and the Cavernone dei Monumenti,filled with pillars emerging from the ground,formed of rocks that are brown,white,green and orange in colour, are very popular among tourists.however,one place that you ought not miss on your trip to Polignanao,is the La Grave which is but a wondrous hole in the ceiling of a grotto,through which the silvery sunlight streams,contrasting against the green and black rocks turning them golden in the halo of sun.Some other famous caves are the Cave of the Seal (Grotta della Foca) and the Stalactite Cave (Grotta Stalattitica).
As the legend has it that Queen Johanna I of Naples captivated by the unfurling spectacle of shimmering lights and colours of this place, had been overwhelmed with desire and with her private servant ventured into a romantic elopement, this place truly stands out as one of the most romantic getaways! But, amongst an array of unconventionally romantic caves, there lies at the heart of the city, the most terrific quintessential setting ever, for anything romantic, from proposals to weddings and to honeymoons too, The Grotta Palazzese. An enchanting dining experience cradled on pleasantly warm summer nights, at the Ristorante Grotta Palazzese, is what you would need to THE perfect plan. A place that refuses to be confined within the stereotyped four-walled structure has more to surprise you with its bewitching and unique ‘Grotta’ – Italian for ‘cave’ which is a stony restaurant, built centuries ago, inside a vaulted limestone cave, overlooking the jutting shoreline of Adriatic. Open during the summer months (May to October), the restaurant is an exceptional structure protruding out 74 feet above the sea level, granting the diners an opportunity to witness the harmonical performance of the waves crashing against the rocks just beneath them while they sit sipping along indulgent quantities of wine and satisfy their gastronomic desires with an assortment of luscious Italian delicacies.
Known to have been organizing, the best weddings and grandest banquets ever, as far back as the 1700s, you would know it by now, that no other place could do the magic for you on your most special day!
Never To Miss!
All foodies, cave dwellers, scuba diving and snorkelling lovers, trekking enthusiasts, artists, architects, and of course love-birds, would find this place to be fulfilling! So, before you gear up for a feast at Grotta Palazzese, lets chalk out some adventures you could venture into!
- If love walking and trekking or if you’re the health conscious kind, and would wish to shed some calories before being a part of the grand indulgence, meandering through the narrow streets of the medieval town scattered with white buildings, and then trekking up the rugged cliffs adorned with its natural caves, would be the best idea, even to work up the appetite before THE meal!
- Unique for most water lovers, this place also caters to your diving and snorkelling fantasies by providing an untouched sea bed at the edge of the cliffs, extending before the town. Diving tours are offered for both beginners and professionals, where you can explore the shipwreck and marine-life found in Polignano’s unique coastline. For the licensed scuba divers, an assortment of experiences are laid down, from sea wreaks, and grottoes, to shallows. Other options include, the Torre Incine,which marks the inception of Polignano territory and is a typical fisherman’s creek. Towards its exit, at the depth of about 14 metres there lies a statue of Madonna, placed there by a club of diving devotees. Then, comes the Grotta dei Colombi(Pigeons Grotto),a naturally arched area, where you can possibly speleo-scuba dive! Isolotto S. Paolo also known as “Scoglio dell’Eremita” (“Hermit’s Rock”), bearing the ruins of a chapel dedicated to S. Antonio Abbate atop its head, is another awesome diving location. Polignano also hosts a submarine passage experience near Bastione S. Stefano (S. Stefano Bastion) which ends at Lama Monachile, where an ancient port Cala Porto exists.
- A delight for the kids, the city also hosts an annual Kite festival in May, transforming the azure skies into a prismatic ballet of air-borne banners. Moreover, the also hosts some amazing events and merriment opportunities and some of them are: The Festival of the Madonna del Carmelo celebrated from the 15th to 17th July, the Festival of Santi Cosma and Davide that is held 13th August and the Festival of Christ held on 17th September, during which the Holy Cross is carried in procession by the people of the town. And then in August, maritime traditions come alive with the Fish Festival, a feast for all sea-foodies!
- Step on to the enriched orchard of art and history, the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, which is at the centre of the old district, an open-air dwelling space encaved within the honeycombed white-washed buildings and spotted with potted palms. It is also known as the clock square as it boasts the communal clock which is still said to take tolls out of time! A place where any art enthusiast can get lost is that gallery of art works by Vivarini and Stefano da Putignano, at the Ex-Cathedral.And, above the sea lies an outstanding Abbey of San Vito, which is dedicated to the town’s patron saint and is popular for its wide terrace and an arcade overlooking the seas.
- And, after all the excavation, the best place to recline is no other but Ristorante Grotto Palazzese, the so-called “palatial cave”, which is one of the largest caves in Apulia, now transformed into an unbelievably spectacular hotel cum restaurant. This is the paradise of any foodie, as the menu here is strongly connected to the town’s culinary glorious past and what can be better than Italian food and wine, that too inside a cave! However, the ambience and the experience of dining inside the grotto far exceeds the standards of the moreish Italian delicacies.
Polignano a Mare, an epitome of overwhelming beauty, is but fit to call a place which blends reality with fantasy. Being an important port of trade and commerce for centuries, it breeds a crossword of multiculturalism. Though an abode nourished by Greek roots and influences on one hand and on the other, wrapped up in traditional and architectural panache of the Arab, Spanish and Byzantine worlds, it still stands out with its striking individuality which breathes into every traveller who journeys here, the spirit to be free with the gushing wind and fly in the endless sky!