Explore Puglia: Your Guide to Monopoli

If you’re dreaming of Puglia and craving the sea, this guide to Monopoli has everything you’ll want!

Monopoli travel guide Puglia cover

Everything here is my own opinion and I received no compensation for this post. It also contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you have any questions about this, just click here! All content copyright Teaspoon of Nose 2012-2024.

If you’re thinking of a road trip through Puglia (and I highly recommend it!) and want to prioritize time by the water, Monopoli is the perfect place to base your trip!

Monopoli streets

Why Choose Monopoli?

Bottom line: Monopoli offers much the same experience with fewer visitors! 

Pogliano a Mare is right there, and it’s truly beautiful too. But it’s arguably popular with foreign tourists, making it less appealing, especially for a multi-day home base as you explore the region. Who wants to come back from a day at the beach to hoardes of people at every restaurant and aperitivo bar?

Both are beautiful and worth a visit. You won’t be disappointed by a trip to either. I chose Monopoli and loved it, so here are my favorite parts of the city!  

Coastal Puglia Monopoli

Guide to Monopoli: What to See

One of the best parts about Puglia as a whole is that each city or town isn’t massive. The point of visiting is to soak up the place, slowly, the way Italians do. Meander the streets, find the hidden corners, and linger over your morning cappuccino. 

That being said, here are the best parts of Monopoli:

The Centro Storico – historic city center – is gorgeous in just about any town, but Monopoli’s is especially quaint. The white buildings, the hanging laundry, the houseplants and pops of color make every corner feel like something out of a painting. 

The beautiful white houses of Monopoli, Puglia

Porto Antico (Ancient Port) is a quaint marina. Nowadays it’s filled with small fishing boats, each one painted a personalized version of the classic blue and white. Even the entry gate is beautiful! 

Keep walking along the marina and you’ll come to a fortress, Castello Carlo V. It dates back to when southern Italy was part of the Holy Roman Empire, ruled by the Hapsburgs. Like many of these ancient buildings, it’s gone from fortress to prison to event space! While it’s not open to the public anymore, it’s a cool landmark with an ancient gate worth seeing. 

The lungomare, or boardwalk, that starts after the fortress is another great passagiata. The waves hit the rocks, so climb on them at your own risk! Ask me how I know 😉 But don’t worry, you’re safe from getting wet on the boardwalk itself. 

Ancient port of Monopoli, Puglia

The main piazza in town is Largo Giuseppe Garibaldi. You’ll find plenty of places to get breakfast or an aperitivo here! It’s not crazy picturesque, but you’ll pass through here a few times for meals. 

Basilica Cattedrale Maria Santissima della Madia is the main cathedral. The story is that Madonna della Madia arrived by sea in the 12 century with enough wooden beams that allowed the city to finish building the church, so they dedicated it to her! The current church isn’t the wooden one, but it shares the location and name. 

Beautiful architecture of Monopoli, Puglia

Monopoli Beaches

The boardwalk connects you to the beach areas. Cala Porta Vecchia sits right at the end of the lungomare, and it’s free! You can also lounge right on the massive slabs if you’d rather. 

The next one down is Cala Cozze, a few small sections of pebble beach. It’s a beautiful area to check out with its shallow water and rocky outcroppings. Not your typical beach experience: it’s best for exploring, not swimming.

Walk along the Monopoli boardwalk

Cala Porto Rosso is probably the best one walking distance from Monopoli! It’s about 15 minutes away and has plenty of sand. There aren’t lidos (beach clubs) here, but there are shops across the street from the beach.

Calamarena is a favorite with locals! It also has chairs for rent and a bar on the beach, so spending the whole day here is easy! 

Shopping in Monopoli

If I’m buying a souvenir, I want it to be something both beautiful and useful. In Puglia, you’re spoiled for choice! Puglia is known for its ceramics, so you’ll definitely want to pick up a few things. 

I loved La Contessa right along one of the main streets. Everything was so gorgeous; it was hard to limit myself to what fit in the suitcase! They sell home goods as well as ceramics, so it’s a good first stop to see what kinds of gifts or keepsakes you want to take home. 

Monopoli's ancient port

Monopoli Hotels

I highly recommend staying in the historic center. It’s so nice to be in the middle of things, especially in a city that’s not too loud at night. 

That being said, if you prefer a traditional hotel option over a B&B or apartment-style accommodation, your best bet is the modern part of the city. You’re still only a few minutes’ walk from the center, so it’s not a sacrifice! 

Monopoli travel guide, Puglia, Italy

Day trips

No self-respecting guide to Monopoli wouldn’t include day trips!

Alberobello is the classic day trip option: a historic center full of trulli, the iconic Pugliese buildings. Check my guide to Alberobello to see if it’s worth braving the crowds, and my main tip for getting around them!

Lecce is probably my favorite place in Puglia and one of the most beautiful cities in Italy! It’s full of great food, ornate architecture, and a few unique churches. It’s worth a day trip, but even more so for a night or two in the city.

Explore Monopoli, Puglia

Known as the White City, Ostuni sits on a hill a few miles from the coast. It looks over the surrounding fields, creating this epic scene. It’s small enough to explore in one afternoon and have an aperitivo as the sun sets over the water!

If water is your priority, an afternoon on a boat is perfection. This one from GetYourGuide offers an afternoon on a catamaran, swimming, and the chance to see the most beautiful part of Pogliano a Mare, all followed up with an aperitivo and appetizer. I always book with GetYourGuide for their reliability and flexibility – it’s my go-to!

Exploring the gorgeous streets of Monopoli, Puglia

Want more for your trip to Monopoli? Grab my restaurant blog post, or get everything in one map in my Thatch guide!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.