Monòpoli’s Centro Storico is an amazing place. It is picturesque, clean, safe and fun to explore. There are 19 medieval churches in the Old Town and countless cobblestone alleys.
Let’s start our tour form Piazza Manzoni. Via Cathedrale brings you to the small square. Here you will find wonderful Cathedrale Maria della Madia, the construction of which was begun in the Golden age of the Apulian-Romanesque churches (1107) and ending only around 1770, thus acquiring all the characteristics of the purest Baroque. It is one of the most remarkable examples of Baroque in Puglia (open daily, 8 – 12, 16 – 19, Free). I would recommend to visit the cathedral around 6 – 7 PM. The Museo Dicesano (across the street from the cathedral) exhibits objects of early religious art and Romanesque stone carving from the earlier church on the site. The Byzantine portrait of the Madonna della Media (around 1280) which, according to a legend, arrived in Monòpoli on a raft from east, kept there.
In the nearby Bishop's palace there are paintings by P. Veronese, Palma the younger, Palma the elder, belonging to the Venetian school, and the paintings by the artists of the Neapolitan school, such as Micca, Spadaro and de Mura.
From the cathedral, follow down the Via Padro Nikodeme. On your left, on the corner of Via Purgatoro, is grotesque Del Purgatorio – the Church of Purgatory (a must to see).
Continue Via Padro Nikodeme to the small bay Cala Port Vechia. Here the ancient wall with massive guns separates you from the sea. Sounds of the waves crashing into the wall, seagulls and guns make long lasting impression. These Aragonese fortifications protected old Monopoli from the enemy sea-raids.
Follow picturesque Via Papacenera , it brings you to the small church San Vito. Shortly afterwards, the street turns left and becomes a seaside boulevard Mura Santa Maria (Church Santa Maria Zaffira stands here).
While in Italy, we visited a Zoosafari in Fasano, just a few kilometers from our temporary home in Capitolo. Like other zoos in the world, it has bears, lions, zebras, giraffes, kangaroos and various other animals from over the world. Unlike other zoos I have visited, the Fasano Zoosafari allows you to drive through the cages (hence the name safari). As you drive through the park, the keepers open the doors of the various cages and you drive right next to the animals! Nothing but the car doors separates you from the lions bears and other dangerous creatures. Throughout the park you can also feed the goats, deer, ostriches, zebras and even the camels with peanuts.
Next to the cathedral there is a church called Del Purgatorio e.g. Purgatory – with images of skeletons on its doors. It is open for mass only 6 – 7PM and I strongly recommend to visit it during the time. Inside you will find familiar Baroque interior(still under restoration) but on the adjusting chapel you will find mummies of some local citizens (some are 300 years old).
Those mummies hanging on the walls wearing the dresses of the time, create very unusual atmosphere – how often did you see a mummy in a Christian church?
If the church is closed (what happens most of the time) then you can watch some of the mummies through the street window.
Long stretches of sandy beaches, interspersed with rocky cliffs and outcroppings describes the coast around Capitolo. Most of the beaches are topless, so wear suntan oil on your sensitive spots!
There are several big popular beaches, but also numerous tiny, secluded little spots hidden among the rocky shoreline.
Egnazia, just a few short miles south of Capitolo is home to an ancient & impressive excavated city. Though the remains of the buildings and other structures dates from before 100 AD, there is evidence of civilization here 1200 to 1300 years before Christ! The city was built along the water as a port and was surrounded by a stone wall carved from the volcanic rock along the beach. The stone near the water still bears obvious marks of the cutting of square pieces for construction. In the 5th century, huge walls were constructed to protect the port from the Greeks -- these massive walls still stand tall and strong.
These ruins are still being discovered and preserved today. There does not seem to be much tourist traffic, so it is a good, quiet spot to reflect on the history of the world.
While in the area, I loved to walk and jog along the beaches with my camera. I really liked the beauty of the coastal mansions. Many had their own private beaches or inlets with a few small boats. Here are just a few photos of the beautiful seaside houses.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alberobello boasts numerous unique "Trulli" style stone huts. With its origins in prehistoric times, trulli huts have survived to be functional buildings of modern times. Not only is this area a World Heritage Site, it is also a significant tourist attraction of southeastern Italy. Some claim the stone houses originated from the time when permanent dwellings were taxed.... as stone huts with no mortar, these Trulli could easily be torn down and rebuilt.
Mura Santa Maria brings you to the Castello Carlo V with mighty walls and impressive towers. Construction of the castle begun in 1552, it was completed around 1660. The fortress incorporated, during Aragonese times, in its imposing polygonal shape, some of the oldest preexistence. Inside the castle there is a small museum.
Next to the Castello you see another bay and place of the ancient port – Porto Antico. Nearby there is the Romanesque church of Santa Maria degli Amalfitani, which dates back to the 12th century. Area is full of small shops and restaurants. A good seafood store is here as well offering the locals and visitors alike catch of the day.
Now turn around and go inside the labyrinth of the narrow medieval streets. Via San Teresa leads you to the Piazza Palmieri - central square of the Centro Storico. Here stands the magnificent San Teresa Church. First church on the spot, SS. Pietro e Paolo was build in 229AD.
Next to the San Teresa church there is an interesting Baroque palace – Palazzo Palmieri (18th century). Leaving the old town, do not miss romantic San Domenico Church.