Best Things to do in Monopoli

Porto Antico Di Monopoli​

In the Apulia region of Italy, there are lots of pretty coastal towns and cities along the cliffs that go southeast from the main city called Bari.

One of the coolest places that we visited during our 3-week road trip in Italy was Monopoli. Even though it sounds like the board game Monopoly, it’s not related to it at all.

This small town is about 47 minutes away from Bari, and it’s known for its beautiful white houses that look awesome against the bright blue sea crashing on the shore.

There are also plenty of things to do in Monopoli, which makes it a hit with both tourists and locals.

How to get to Monopoli

Getting to Monopoli is easiest from Bari, the main city in Puglia. Bari has an airport and good connections to the rest of Italy.

Monopoli is located about 47 kilometers southeast of Bari, and there are a few easy and quick ways to reach the city.

Monopoli By train

You can catch trains directly from Bari Centrale to Monopoli quite often, and they’re pretty cheap, starting at just €3.20.

The trip can take anywhere from 25 to 55 minutes, depending on the type of train you choose, but the ticket price stays the same no matter which one you pick.

Here’s a bit of a weird thing: between roughly 10 AM and 12 PM, there’s a big gap of about an hour and a half between trains, so make sure to plan your trip around that time.

Monopoli By car

If you’re renting a car while you’re here, Monopoli is just a 47-minute drive from Bari. Start by getting on the SS16 road and head towards Brindisi/Lecce.

When you see the exit for Monopoli North, take it and then follow the signs or use your GPS to find your hotel.

While you’re on the road, enjoy the amazing views because the road runs right along the coast. And if you have some extra time, there are lots of lovely little towns to visit along the way, like Polignano a Mare.

REnting a car in Monopoli

One of the best ways to explore the most important places in Puglia is by renting a car. There are a lot of international companies that operate in the country and a lot of different options that match your needs.

1. Monopoli Cathedral

Monopoli Cathedral

Right in the middle of Monopoli, there’s this big Catholic church called the Basilica of the Madonna della Madia. They began building it way back in the 12th century, but they had to stop because they didn’t have enough wooden beams to hold up the roof.

This place, known as the Cattedrale Maria Santissima della Madia, is one of the must-see spots in Monopoli. It’s been around since the 12th century and was built near an old Roman temple. But here’s the interesting part: it took them more than 300 years to finish it because they didn’t have enough wood to complete the roof.

Then, in 1117, something really cool happened. A raft drifted into the harbor, and people thought it was a miracle because it had an image of the Virgin Mary on it. They used the wood from that raft to finally finish the church’s roof.

2. Explore the Monopoli Old Town

Whenever we walk into an ‘old town’ in Italy, we can’t help but say, “This is the most charming place we’ve ever seen!” It’s like a reflex.

Monopoli’s Old Town is just as amazing. We love strolling through its cute, narrow streets and uncovering the rich history of this gem in Puglia.

It’s just one of those places that make you feel like you’re in a fairy tale. The architecture is a mix of styles from different centuries, with beautiful stone buildings. As you wander around, you’ll come across hidden courtyards, ancient churches, and cozy cafes where you can taste some of the finest Italian coffee.

And if you’re into history, you’re in for a treat. Monopoli’s Old Town has stories to tell from its days as a bustling trading port to its medieval and Renaissance periods. You can explore the defensive walls that once protected the town or visit the impressive Basilica of the Madonna della Madia, which has a fascinating history of its own.

So, take your time, soak in the atmosphere, and let the charm of Monopoli’s Old Town work its magic on you. Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast, a history buff, or just someone who enjoys a stroll through picturesque streets, Monopoli’s Old Town has something special for everyone. Don’t forget to try some local cuisine in the charming restaurants here, too. It’s the perfect way to complete your enchanting visit to this Italian treasure.

3. Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi

Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi is a treasure nestled at the heart of an Italian town. Stepping into this square, you’ll be instantly captivated by its timeless allure. Cobblestone streets, vibrant buildings, and a bustling ambiance combine to create an enchanting atmosphere.

The central fountain is a standout feature, adding an elegant and peaceful touch. It’s the ideal spot to pause, find a bench, and simply soak in the surroundings. The sound of flowing water and the gentle Mediterranean breeze make it a tranquil oasis amidst the lively streets.

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi is a cultural hub. Street musicians often serenade visitors with traditional Italian melodies, local artisans showcase their crafts, and friendly locals strike up conversations. Here, you can fully immerse yourself in authentic Italian life.

If you’re fortunate to visit during a local festival or event, the square transforms into an even more vibrant spectacle. Music, dancing, and delectable cuisine fill the air, allowing you to savor the true essence of Italy and partake in the celebrations like a native.

As you explore the square and its surroundings, charming cafes, family-run trattorias serving mouthwatering pasta dishes, and shops offering unique souvenirs await. Savor authentic Italian gelato, sip cappuccino, and indulge in some quality people-watching.

4. Take A Stroll Along The Lungomare

Before or after the sun gets really high up, we totally suggest taking a leisurely walk along the lungomare. It’s basically a fancy word for a paved path right by the sea that goes around Monopoli’s old town.

This walk is awesome because it gives you a different view of the city, and you get that nice, refreshing sea breeze. Plus, there are some cool historical things to see along the way.

One of them is Il Bastione Santa Maria. It’s not far from the port and across from Chiesa Santa Maria della Zaffara Secolo. You’ll spot an old defensive tower with two cannons that were used back in the day to protect Monopoli when things got a bit crazy. You can even climb up the tower to get a better look at the coastline. Here’s where to find it on Google Maps: Il Bastione Santa Maria.

Another neat spot to check out is the castle. You can find it on Google Maps here: Monopoli Castle. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re into history or just want to explore more of Monopoli’s cool spots.

36 minutes from Bari
5 minutes from Polignano a Mare, 22 minutes on the fastest Trenitalia services from Bari

5. Porto Antico Di Monopoli

Porto Antico Di Monopoli​

In this part of Puglia, they’ve got these classic red and blue boats known as “gozo.” Nowadays, the local fishermen still use these boats in the shallower waters to catch super-fresh octopus and other fish.

If you want to have the best time at Porto Antico in Monopoli, we’d recommend going either in the early morning or during sunset. In the morning, you’ll mostly see local folks around. You can watch the fishermen doing their thing, like mending their nets and all that.

Or, if you prefer a more romantic vibe, take a sunset walk. When the sun is about to set, it bathes the little harbor in this gorgeous golden light that’ll make you feel like you’re in a fairy tale. It’s pretty special, trust us.

6. Visit the Castello Carlo V

Castello Carlo V - Monopoli

This castle is on the list of things to check out in Monopoli, for a good reason. It was built on a piece of land that sticks out into the sea, and it’s been around since the 16th century. Back in the day, it was like a protective fort for Monopoli. But as time went on, they fixed it up, and now it’s a place for weddings, art exhibitions, and conferences. It’s a must-see spot for tourists, and it’s a big part of what makes Monopoli special.

When you’re in Monopoli, you can’t skip a peek at these big castle walls. The Castle of Charles V is a great example of an Italian fortress right by the coast. It sits on this piece of land that juts out into the sea, so you get an awesome view of the water and the little harbor in the city.

Originally, they built this castle to protect Monopoli from pirates and the Spanish army. But later on, the Spanish took control of the castle and the whole town. They made the castle bigger to house their soldiers and families. For a while, it was even used as a prison until the 1990s.

But now, it’s all about fun stuff. If you’re a tourist, you can visit Castello di Carlo and enjoy the amazing views over the old port and out to the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Or if you’re into art, you can check out the cool exhibitions they have there.

You’ll find Castello di Carlo at Largo Castello, Numero 5 in Monopoli. It’s a spot that’s got a lot of history and beauty, so it’s worth a visit when you’re in town.

7. Admire the St. Teresa’s Church

St. Teresa’s Church -Monopoli

Strolling around Chiesa di Santa Teresa is a great way to spend some time in Monopoli.

We found this church while we were exploring the little streets in Monopoli. The Chiesa di Santa Teresa has an interesting story behind it. It was built back in 1735 by the Descalced Carmelite Fathers, who originally came from Mount Carmel in Palestine. They dedicated it to St. John the Baptist and Anne.

The church had its ups and downs over the years. The French closed it down in 1809, but thankfully, it got back up and running in 1883.

When you visit, you’ll get a glimpse of history and a peaceful atmosphere. It’s one of those charming places that make your wanderings in Monopoli even more special. So, make sure to put it on your to-do list when you’re in town!

8. Check out the beaches in Monopoli

Beaches - Monopoli

Monopoli has some fantastic beaches near the city. One fun thing to do is sunbathe right outside the city walls by the historic center. Locals love it too!

No matter the season, grab a coffee and a good book and enjoy the peaceful sea. We remember our last trip to the Amalfi Coast in early summer, where we enjoyed the sea breeze.

Monopoli is blessed with a beautiful coastline, and there are plenty of lovely beaches to choose from. The sea is usually calm, crystal clear, and the sun shines all year round. One of our favorites is Cala Pora Vecchia, nestled in a small bay with stunning views of the city walls and old town.

Other great beaches in Monopoli include Cala di Porto Verde, Porto Rosso, Porto Nero, Porto Bianco, and Cala Cozze. They’re all perfect for swimming and easy to reach from the historic center. So, whether you want to relax by the sea or take a refreshing swim, Monopoli has it all!

9. Take a Boat Trip Along the Coast

The Monopoli coastline is absolutely gorgeous, and if you want to fully enjoy it, going on a boat trip is one of the coolest things you can do around here.

You’ve got a bunch of tour companies to pick from, offering all kinds of trips. Some are quick sightseeing tours, while others last a few days and involve sailing.

We found this awesome Private Catamaran Tour that starts from Polignano a Mare. It’s a great deal, and it gives you a really unique view of the stunning cliffs and beautiful beaches that this place is known for. Plus, you get to take a dip in the Adriatic Sea and enjoy a tasty drink with local snacks.

So, if you’re up for a bit of adventure and want to see the Monopoli coast in a whole new way, consider giving this boat tour a try. We think you’ll love it!

10. Visit Chiesa di San Salvatore

Chiesa di San Salvatore -Monopoli​

One of the must-visit places in Monopoli is the Chiesa di San Salvatore, a charming old church.

We stumbled upon the Chiesa di San Salvatore while wandering around Monopoli’s streets. This church has quite a history—it was built way back when, and it’s been around since the 18th century.

Inside, you’ll find beautiful artwork and a peaceful atmosphere that’s perfect for a moment of reflection or simply taking in history.

No matter what brings you to Monopoli, visiting Chiesa di San Salvatore is a wonderful addition to your itinerary. Whether you’re passionate about history, appreciate art, or simply want to find a peaceful haven, this old church has something special to offer, making it a delightful stop during your exploration of Monopoli.

11. Visit Fondazione Museo Pino Pascali

The Pino Pascali Foundation is conveniently located within walking distance of the Arco Marchesale and occupies a building with stunning views of the sea. What immediately catches your eye is its distinctive building set against a picturesque backdrop.

Born in Bari in 1935, Pino Pascali’s roots trace back to Polignano a Mare, making him one of Puglia’s most esteemed artists. Pascali was famous for his minimalistic style of contemporary art, creating many well-known sculptures and other forms of art, many of which are now on display at the museum.

The museum, founded in 1998, stands as the sole contemporary art museum in Puglia. It houses a permanent collection as well as regularly changing temporary exhibitions. Originally a slaughterhouse, this structure was transformed into a contemporary art gallery in 1998. 


The Fondazione Museo Pino Pascali is open to visitors from Wednesday to Sunday, between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., with an entrance fee of €5.

12. Take a Day Trip to Polignano a Mare

While the views from Ponte Borbonico and Terrazo Santo Stefano, along with the charm of Polignano’s Centro Storico, are truly special, it’s worth setting aside some time to visit the Abbazia di San Vito.

This abbey stands out as it gazes over the quaint fishing village and port, known for those delightful blue boats you’ll often see in Puglia.

The Abbazia di San Vito, also called the Abbey of Saint Vitus, is a Roman Catholic abbey in Polignano a Mare, Bari. It’s dedicated to the martyr Saint Vitus. The current building was initially constructed in the 11th century and later rebuilt and expanded in the 16th century. It’s a large basilica with three aisles and a square layout, surrounded by a cloister.

The Abbey of Saint Vitus is a major attraction for tourists. Its splendid architecture and its location with breathtaking views of the vast ocean make it a popular destination for visitors.

13. Enjoy aperitivo

Aperitivo Monopoli

Like many other Italian towns, it has its own unique traditions and cultural practices, including the tradition of “aperitivo.”

Aperitivo is a beloved Italian custom that involves enjoying a pre-dinner drink and light snacks in the late afternoon or early evening. It serves as a social ritual where friends and family gather to relax and socialize. Aperitivo typically takes place in cafes, bars, or outdoor terraces, with a view of the sea in Monopoli’s case.

During aperitivo, you can expect to find a variety of beverages, including cocktails, wine, and non-alcoholic options, like spritzes, negronis, or local wines. These drinks are often served with a selection of appetizers, such as olives, bruschetta, cheeses, cured meats, and other small bites.

Monopoli’s coastal location adds a special touch to the aperitivo experience. You can enjoy your drinks and snacks while taking in the stunning views of the Adriatic Sea and the town’s charming waterfront. The combination of delicious food, refreshing drinks, and a picturesque setting makes aperitivo in Monopoli a delightful way to unwind and connect with both locals and fellow travelers.

Overall, the “aperitivo” experience in Monopoli is a perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, savor the flavors of Apulia, and appreciate the laid-back and convivial atmosphere of this beautiful coastal town.

Where to stay in Monopoli

Monopoli offers a range of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets. Here are some popular areas to consider when choosing where to stay in Monopoli:

  • Historic City Center (Centro Storico): Staying in the historic city center allows you to be right in the heart of Monopoli. This area is characterized by narrow, winding streets, charming squares, and historic buildings. You’ll find a mix of boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals in this area.
  • Monopoli Beach: Monopoli boasts some lovely beaches, and there are several hotels and resorts along the waterfront that offer stunning sea views. This is an excellent choice if you want to wake up to the sound of the waves and have easy access to the beach.
  • Villages and Countryside: If you prefer a more relaxed and rural setting, consider staying in the surrounding villages or the Apulian countryside. This allows you to experience a more tranquil atmosphere while still being a short drive away from Monopoli.
  • Port Area: The port area of Monopoli is another option for accommodations. It’s typically less crowded than the city center but still offers a range of hotels, particularly if you’re interested in being near the water and the harbor.
  • Trulli Accommodations: Trulli are unique cone-shaped houses that are emblematic of the Apulia region. In nearby towns like Alberobello or Locorotondo, you can find accommodations in trulli houses for a truly unique and rustic experience.

Where to eat in Monopoli

Monopoli, in the Apulia region of Italy, is known for its delicious Mediterranean cuisine, seafood, and regional specialties. When it comes to dining in Monopoli, you have a variety of options, from quaint family-run trattorias to more upscale restaurants. Here are some recommended places to eat in Monopoli:

  • Il Guazzetto: A family-run trattoria offering authentic Apulian dishes with a focus on seafood and locally sourced ingredients. Their signature dish is the “guazzetto,” a flavorful fish stew.
  • Trattoria da Toto: Located in the historic center, this restaurant offers a friendly atmosphere and a variety of seafood and local dishes. It’s a favorite among both locals and tourists.
  • L’Osteria del Porto: Overlooking the Monopoli harbor, this restaurant offers a delightful setting for a meal. They serve a mix of seafood, pasta, and other Italian dishes.
  • Il Guercio di Puglia: Situated in a historic building, this restaurant combines a classic Italian menu with some creative twists. Their terrace offers a pleasant dining experience.
  • Il Turlo: A restaurant with a welcoming atmosphere, known for its seafood and regional cuisine. They also offer a variety of vegetarian options.

Don't forget to try the traditional Focaccia!

When to visit Monopoli

The most ideal period to plan a visit to Monopoli is during the spring, early summer, and autumn seasons. While Monopoli experiences hot temperatures during the high summer months of July and August, with temperatures soaring to the mid 30°Cs inland, it is also the busiest time of the year, resulting in inflated prices due to high demand.

For a more comfortable and enjoyable experience, consider visiting in May, June, or September. During these months, temperatures typically range in the pleasant 20°C, providing a delightful climate for various activities such as walking and cycling. The weather is generally favorable, allowing you to explore the region’s charming towns, countryside, and coastal areas without the sweltering heat and crowds. These shoulder seasons offer a more relaxed and authentic experience, with fewer tourists and a more reasonable pricing structure.

Is Monopoli worth visiting?

We visited Monopoli as part of our 40-day trip including Italy. It was our first stop and visiting the beautiful places we described above was the perfect way to start our road trip. It is a region that offers a compelling blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Here are a few reasons why you should visit Puglia: 

Warm Hospitality

Polignano a Mare is known for its warm and welcoming locals, who take pride in their traditions and culture. You can see and experience the genuine hospitality of the people, either in a family-run trattoria or a local market, or during a traditional festival.

Culinary Delights

Delectable cuisine, is characterized by fresh ingredients, simple yet flavorful dishes, and a strong focus on local produce. Indulge in traditional dishes like orecchiette pasta, burrata cheese, olive oil, and seafood specialties. Don’t forget to pair your meal with a glass of Primitivo or Negroamaro, two of the region’s excellent wines.

Stunning Coastline

Crystal-clear waters and sandy beaches.  There are countless spots to enjoy the sun, sea, and stunning views.

Where is Monopoli?

Monopoli is a charming coastal town located in the Apulia (Puglia) region of southern Italy. It is situated on the Adriatic Sea, in the southeastern part of the Italian peninsula. Monopoli is part of the province of Bari, which is one of the provinces within the Apulia region. It is known for its beautiful coastline, historic architecture, and role as a popular tourist destination in the Apulia region. Monopoli is easily accessible by road and is approximately 40 kilometers southeast of the city of Bari, the capital of the Apulia region.

How many days in Monopoli?

We explored Monopoli in a single day, and we believe that it was enough to get the vibe and the culture of this place, but the number of days you should spend in Monopoli depends on your travel preferences, the activities you want to do, and how leisurely you want your visit to be. Here are some of our recommendations:

      1. Day Trip: If you’re short on time, you can do a day trip to Monopoli. This allows you to explore the town’s historical center, enjoy a meal at a local restaurant, and perhaps spend some time at the beach. A day trip can provide a taste of Monopoli’s beauty and culture.

      2. Weekend Getaway: Spending a weekend (2-3 days) in Monopoli will allow you to delve deeper into the town’s attractions. You can explore the historic center, visit local churches and museums, dine at several restaurants, and relax by the sea. This is a good option if you’re looking for a brief escape.

      3. Four to Five Days: For a more comprehensive experience, consider staying for four to five days. This duration allows you to explore Monopoli at a relaxed pace. You can venture out to nearby towns like Alberobello and Polignano a Mare, spend more time at the beach, and savor a wider variety of local cuisine.

      4. A Week or Longer: If you have more time, spending a week or longer in Monopoli provides the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the local culture, take day trips to various attractions in the Apulia region, and unwind at your own leisure. This extended stay is perfect for a deep exploration of the area and a more relaxed vacation.

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