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The South of Italy has always spiked my interest. So when I finally had a couple of days off from work I grabbed my best friend and we hopped onto a plane and landed in Bari a few hours later.
During this whirlwind trip we decided to base ourselves in the town of Monopoli. Turns out that was a fabulous decision! The historic centre of Monopoli is located right next to the sea and the perfect place to go for an early morning walk or evening stroll.
It’s also centered pretty much in the middle of all of the other towns that we wanted to visit and the longest drive we ever had to do was a 1,5 hour trip to Matera.
In this guide I will go over all of the best things that you can do in Monopoli, what are the main points of interest in this cute town and explain to you why it’s definitely worth visiting!
The Very Best Things To Do In Monopoli, Italy
Now one thing I do have to say about this region in Italy is that on Social Media you’ll only see it through rose-colored glasses. True, the historic centers are absolutely adorable and you’ll find one cute and quaint corner right next to the other. But that’s also pretty much where it stops.
There’s still a lot of poverty in the South of Italy and it shows. Every single road is full with potholes, there are tons of garbage bags on the side of the roads and highways. And for every beautiful “centro storico” there’s a lot less attractive looking new part of town surrounding it.
I’m not telling you this to stop you from visiting Puglia. But sometimes our expectations get set so damn high because of overly edited photos on Social Media. But keep the above in mind and you won’t be disappointed and have a fabulous time!
But Monopoli was definitely one of the highlights of our Puglia trip. This beautiful town by the sea has the perfect size to stroll around for a couple of hours and has some incredible hidden gems when it comes to restaurants and hotels.
As always in Italy, all you have to do is follow your instinct and in some cases also your nose if you want to find the best local pizza parlor.
The streets are narrow and winding with bright colored shutters, boxy balconies and the occasional festive decoration.
But without further ado I will now tell you all of the very best things to do in Monopoli
1. Wander through the Centro Storico
The historic centre of Monopoli is one of the most beautiful ones in entire Puglia. Pretty much every single corner here is incredibly picturesque so make sure to bring your camera with you when visiting. You pretty much can’t take a bad picture here!
And compared to other towns in Puglia, the fishing town of Monopoli is also refreshingly less touristy. It’s been inhabited since 500BC and takes its name from the early Greek city that was founded here.
“Monos Polis” means singularly unique. And yes, Monopoli still does have that unique and authentic feeling. Something you’ll immediately notice when you’re getting lost in the old town and something that a lot of other Italian towns have sacrificed for tourism.
2. Visit the Cathedral of Monopoli
The Monopoli Cathedral, otherwise known as the Basilica of the Madonna della Madia or Santa Maria della Madia is a Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Taking a peek inside of the Monopoli Cathedral is definitely one of the best things to do since its interior is absolutely divine.
Construction began in 1107 but legend has it that they had to stop building the church after running out of roof beams. “Luckily” a raft carrying an image of the Virgin Mary drifted into the harbor and the boards from the raft were used to finish the roof. But this wooden church was later on replaced by the Baroque cathedral in the very same spot.
Entrance – Free
Opening hours – From 8am until 12pm and from 4pm until 8pm
3. Visit the Porto Antico of Monopoli
The traditional red and blue boats that are used in this part of Puglia are called gozo. These days the boats are still used in the more shallow waters by the local fisherman to catch the freshest octopus and other fish.
The best times of day to visit the Porto Antico in Monopoli is either in the early morning when you’ll only find other locals here. You’ll get to see the fishermen at work and repairing their nets.
Or opt for a sunset stroll when the golden light hits the small harbor in the most beautiful way.
4. Take a stroll along the Lungomare
Want to feel like a real local? Then simply take a stroll along the lungomare in the early morning. Or better yet, go for a run.
This walk along the ancient city wall will leave you absolutely speechless. During your walk you will also come across several historic highlights. You will pass by the Carlo V Castle and the famous Bastione di Santa Maria, both of them important monuments to visit in Monopoli.
5. Enjoy an Aperol Spritz on the Piazza G. Garibaldi
What’s better than sipping from an Aperol Spritz in a typical Italian piazza? Our go to spot every single evening was Vini e Panini. Every day around 6pm we pulled up a chair, sat down on their cozy terrace and enjoyed an Aperol Spritz, or two…
It’s a wonderful place to sit any time of day but it truly comes alive after 5pm and is the ideal location to do some people watching.
6. Indulge in the freshest seafood
If there’s one restaurant in Monopoli that you absolutely can’t miss it’s La Locanda sul Porto. We got the advice from our hotel manager and were very curious. The restaurant has a large outside covered terrace but try to get a table inside.
We were absolutely blown away by the quality of the food and the quantity as well! Prices are the same as anywhere else in Monopoli but it’s honestly one of the best seafood restaurants I have ever been to. 3 days later we were still gushing about this place.
Make sure to order their Locanda Mixed Appetizers!
7. Visit the of Church of Saint Vitus Martyr
You can find one of the most beautiful places in Monopoli right on via San Vito. The church of Saint Vitus Martyr is incredibly small but its picturesque facade more than makes up for that.
8. Admire the S. Teresa’s Church
Wandering around the chiesa di Santa Teresa is one of the best things to do in Monopoli.
We came across the Chiesa di Santa Teresa in Monopoli during our wander of the smaller streets. The Church has a history, being built by the Descalced Carmelite Fathers (originating in Palestine on Mount Carmel) in 1735 and dedicated to St John the Baptist and Anne. It was closed by the French in 1809 and reopened in 1883.
9. Check out the beaches in Monopoli
There are plenty of beaches near Monopoli./ But one of the more fun things to do is simply sunbathing right outside the city walls at the entrance of the centro storico. On a warm morning you’ll see a ton of locals enjoying the sun and taking a dip into the turquoise water.
Other fun beaches nearby are:
- Porto Bianco
- Porto Rosso
- Cala Paradiso
- Tre Buchi: a more local spot that not that many people know of near Monopoli
10. Go on a day trip to one of the nearby towns
There are a ton of gorgeous places to visit and fun things to do around Monopoli.
🚘 If you’ve rented a car like we did from Sunnycars you’ll be able to explore these beautiful places at your own pace.
These were my favorite places to visit on a day trip from Monopoli:
- Martina Franca
Where to stay in Monopoli
We stayed at a unique boutique hotel called Le Contrade di San Salvatore. We loved its location right by the waterfront and that it was situated in the heart of the centro storico and only 5 minutes walking from a public parking.
Other hotels you might like in Monopoli:
- Borgo Albergo 35 Relax & Spa: Built in an ancient building these rooms offer a unique and romantic experience.
- Al Chiasso 12 – Another beautiful gem to stay in the heart of Monopoli.
Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.