21st June 2015
More about Monopoli and beyond
Like the charms on a bracelet small coves snuggle into the rugged coastline that stretches out south of the old town of Monopoli in Puglia a region of Italy. They are all accessible on foot or by bicycle from the lungomare (promenade) that hugs the seaside or by the road that runs parallel to it. Public buses only operate along the sea front during the school holidays (June, July and August). I was happy to walk and at the first cove I came to, Cala Porto Vecchio, I stopped to enjoy the lovely views of the old town behind me and the coastline stretching for miles in front of me.
Cyclists whizzed past me making me wish I had hired a bike rather than walking but then I would not have been able to meander across the expanses of flat rock to better enjoy the natural landscape and the beaches below me including the popular Cala Cozza.
A frenzy of wild flowers carpeted the rocks above Cala Porto Rosso one of four consecutive coves that have been named after a colour.
I moved on to Cala Porto Verde which was very sparsely populated – the further away I got from the town the fewer people I found.
During my stay in Monopoli I had become curious about a structure unique to the area, the masseria – a combination of a castle for defence and a farm for sustenance. Many of these buildings have been restored and converted into restaurants and hotels. I was thinking about walking to the nearest one eight kilometres away when my mobile leapt into life – it was my friend Giacomo who had persuaded me I should visit his home town. Half an hour later we were heading for the beautiful Hotel Masseria Donnaloia which has been lovingly restored to its original state. Many of these buildings are now used as hotels and restaurants.
We moved on to Savelletri a small fishing port with a population of around seven hundred which must be double that on a sunny day as it is very popular with local visitors and after strolling around the pretty harbour I could understand why.
Close to Savelletri is the archaeological site at Egnazia and we stopped to admire the extensive ruins surrounded by a sea of wild flowers but chose to concentrate on the present rather than the past.
It is hard to ignore the past here as reminders, such as an abandoned watch tower, a memorial to the vulnerability of this coastline in bygone days, are everywhere.
I was delighted to discover two complete but deserted trulli nestling amongst some trees.
By the time I got back to the old town the evening visitors were gathering on the lungomare (promenade) so I decided to walk through the old town which I knew would be quieter. But I could not penetrate the old city walls so I had to go round the long way
This was not a hardship but an opportunity to re-visit the Porto Vecchio where the fading light glanced off the buildings and danced on the water.
I skirted the old town and walked round the new harbour and entered the new town through the public gardens which are always known as the Villa Comunale in Italy.
I made my way to the main square, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, continually leaping out of the way of frantic drivers circling the city looking for a place to park. The square was throbbing with music from two illuminated roundabouts and whole families on wheels threaded their way through strolling crowds. Fortunately the road around the piazza had been closed to traffic so I could enjoy the Italian phenomena of evening promenading from a distance. The transformation from peaceful small town to evening hotspot was astonishing.
Queues outside the gelateria stretched along the road so I abandoned any thoughts of ending my lovely day with an ice-cream and strolled back to my flat in the old town which was now deserted. The only sign of life was the distant murmur of music from the new town.
British Airways operates flights from London Gatwick to Bari and there are trains and buses from the airport to Bari Central railway station. From Bari Central there are regular trains to Monopoli I found my accommodation through www.booking.com Local buses only run along the coastline during the school holidays (June to end of September) so the only way to get around is on bicycles or by car.