Discovering the Watery Hideaways of Polignano

Christine Smallwood Stories


Polignano a Mare is an almost obligatory destination for Puglia’s visitors. But rather than predictably heading to the bars, gelaterie and restaurants, take a boat trip to the hidden grottoes beneath the steep cliffs.

I’ve been visiting Polignano a Mare for over a decade now. My very first meal in Puglia was a lunch of raw fish – pesce crudo Barese – in the town’s best restaurant. Those happy hours with a group of animated, enthusiastic locals still ranks as one of my favourite meals and sowed a fertile seed for my love of the region.

Over the years, I’ve seen the town change considerably. You now can’t move for visitors and holiday makers outside buzzing bars and restaurants on a hot summer’s night. The choice was far more limited ten years ago, which is why I was taken to Da Tuccino. Despite all the nearby changes and development in recent years this restaurant on the waterfront is still thriving, and continues to serve excellent raw, as well as cooked fish to large groups of friends and multi-generational families. And it does have an enviable position overlooking the new, and rather swanky private marina.

It was here that our boat trip along the coast of Polignano and into the hidden grottoes started. Few things are more enjoyable than being out on the water under a bright sun and a blue sky. Antonio our captain was fun and entertainingly informative about the cliffs, grottoes and beaches of his hometown. He’s lived here all his life so it was impossible for us to pass another leisure boat without being greeted by his friends. Smiling, laughing and waving in the sunshine – all very Puglia.

I’ve walked through Polignano on more occasions than I can count, looking down on the beach and the sea from the numerous viewing balconies and vantage points. I never knew there were so many accessible grottoes beneath the cliffs and had never looked up at them from the water. It gives a new understanding to the town and I wish I’d done it sooner.