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Polignano a Mare

In 2018 I visited Polignano a Mare again.

Again, it was for a brief “passing through” visit, but I knew then that I must come back for a longer stay.

This year it happened: a month— in perhaps what is one of  the most beautiful and evocative cities in Puglia.

Indeed, Polignano has a magical quality—it calls you back. The sweetness of the Sirens’ songs rising from its crystal clear sea and steep cliffs along the entire coast, draws you back having cast its spell much like it did to Ulysses and his sailors.

I am enchanted by this small town just south of Bari. It sits on the Adriatic and faces the morning sun that bathes the entire white town with dazzling sunlight.

Sunlight heals the soul, casts away the gloom of long winters and shelters us from the unpleasantness of life.

I was ready for some bewitchment; for the allure and charm of Polignano. And so, early last February, I booked us a little place somewhere in the historical centre of the town.

We arrived one mid August day, in the early evening, having driven directly from the Rome airport. Our hosts had impressed upon us that we were not allowed to drive into the old town and directed us to a public parking spot just outside the historical centre. It would only be an 11 minute walk to our apartment, we were told. Enough to burn some calories.

It was a relief to find that our host had arranged for a golf cart to transport us and our luggage to the centre. As usual I had overpacked and had to squeeze in the back sharing my tiny allowed space with 3 suitcases.

It was hot. Unbearably so. But as we neared the old town centre, a gentle breeze made itself felt, fanning our overheated bodies. It would be so, for the entire duration of our stay; the sea breeze tempered the daily unnatural,  oppressive heat.

The golf cart carrying us squeaked into the small historic centre by passing under the Arco di Marchesale. What we found here was the rest of the world; masses of tourists, like us, sniffing out salty-aired escapes from the human stew of big cities like Milan, Munich, Paris, Brussels and London.

Had I made a mistake in coming at the busiest time of the year? I normally avoid the month of August but the desire to enjoy an Italian summer by the sea had made the decision for me, notwithstanding the fact that Puglia in 2023 had been hailed as the number one travel destination.

We soon arrived at the beautiful Piazza of San Benedetto. I’ve always loved this little square. Built on the site of the ancient Benedictine monastery, demolished in 1932, the piazza today is surrounded by cafes but still resembles a old Roman amphitheatre with seating steps around three sides. It’s an ideal location for cultural events and concerts during the summer season, as we soon found out.

Much to our pleasure the golf cart stopped here and our driver indicated the steps leading up to our apartment.

Steps weathered by time led us to Amin Holiday Home. https://www.aminholidayhome.it/en/rooms/aminholidayhome/

What a wonderful surprise it was! Spacious, modern, elegant and well appointed, with a little balcony and window looking down on the Piazza San Benedetto, this place would be, I knew, the perfect holiday place for us.

A welcoming bottle of wine sat on the counter. The larder was filled with coffee pods, sugar and taralli pugliesi.

My first instinct was to open the cupboards where I found everything I would need to prepare a cosy dinner at home. Many, in fact, we were to discover, were the evenings we preferred staying in, enjoying a simple meal with the windows open and music from the square below wafting up to entertain us.

We had been travelling for some 15 hours so when the pealing church bells announced evening prayers we dropped on the bed and fell into a deep restorative slumber.

Right from the moment we booked we enjoyed the  wonderful assistance of Nicola with whom we communicated for our every need; meeting our host Roberto was an immeasurable pleasure. He showed up on our doorstep that first evening with a large welcoming jar of homemade jam. To say he is a master of fruit preserves, is saying little. The concoctions he makes of clingstone peaches are delectable jams that contain the smells and tastes of summer!

And if this weren’t enough, he proved himself a grand source of information; what to visit, where to eat, history of the town and surrounding areas. He supplied us with ample reading material and after sharing a glass of wine with us, we knew  we had made a new friend. Thank you Roberto.

Amin house is as central as you can get. Just beyond the grand Hotel Palazzese, to our east, lies the wondrous Adriatic that provided the gentle cooling breezes in this most infernal of summers. The AC was seldom necessary.

To the north and west and south, the city, its piazzas, small shops and a multitude of restaurants were within a few minutes’ reach.

Below our vicolo (alleyway) we were surrounded by quaint cafes where on that first morning we enjoyed—be still my heart—- our first cornetto (so much tastier than the French croissant) and cappuccino. I learned, with time, to enjoy the typical Pugliese pasticciotto, a heavenly lemon custard-filled small pie best enjoyed straight out of the oven, while still warm. I know this is not for us an acceptable breakfast, but I had no scruples in relishing a sweet pastry with my coffee to start the day while here in Italy. The walk to the car park would forgive my peccadillo.

In the following days we were to discover that Polignano was in a constant flurry of activity: People jostling through the thick tourist crowds with towels slung over their shoulder, in a rush to get to the beach for a much desired front-line position; people relaxing with their drink at the cafes; kids running and laughing, playing tag through the narrow alleyways; merchants hollering an invitation to sample at their long tables laden with all varieties of taralli, nuts and dried fruit.

Perhaps the best surprise in living briefly in Polignano were the evenings. Strolling through its streets, it’s easy to be shamelessly beckoned to sit at one of its many bar/cafes for an aperitivo. We regularly found ourselves falling into the routine of the before-dinner drink, when most Italians congregate to chat, people watch, and enjoy the sunset.

It was during one of our first evenings there that our aimless wandering through the town centre took us just around the corner from Casa Amin to Via Roma. And there, above the many restaurants, cafes, art galleries, and gift shops—above the chattering crowds of visitors—- suspended above the streets in mid-air hang the lyrics in lights, of ‘Volare’, Domenico Modugno’s, —native son of Polignano a Mare,—immortal song.

Penso che un sogno cosi` non ritorni mai piu`,

mi dipingevo le mani e la faccia di blu.

Poi d’improvviso venivo dal vento rapito,

e incominciavo a volare nel cielo infinito.

Volare, oh oh,

cantare, oh oh oh oh.

Nel blu dipinto di blu,

felice di stare lassu`.

How simply appropriate these words felt to me that evening: “I do not believe this will ever happen again, as I am swept by the wind into a wondrous dream!

NOTES:

Casa Amin is centrally located, fully equipped and a super comfortable and elegant apartment. I highly recommend it.

Call directly for booking. Tell Roberto you read about it on my blog.

+39 393 962 4326.

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Comments:

  • Mario Laraia

    November 24, 2023

    Wow, Tonia. Great as ever, and great pic’s. The one I like the best is you with the ice-cream–almost threw me off my chair–saw your mom–I had to look twice (it’s a compliment!!). Thanks for sharing.
    Mario.

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