From Rome to Puglia: Beach Town of Polignano a Mare

Polignano a Mare and beach, puglia Italy
From Bari, it's just a 20-minute train ride to Polignano a Mare (and a whopping €2.30). And so if Bari, despite its charms, sounds like it's just too much of a city for you, there's no reason not to switch trains and head on to Polignano right then.

With about 20,000 inhabitants, Polignano a Mare feels like a small resort town. Its lovely, whitewashed centro storico perches on cliffs, overlooking the sparkling Adriatic. The town beach (above) is beautiful, the water super-clear, the people friendly.

Of course, you won't be the first person to "discover" Polignano. Crowds of tourists arrive in the summer, particularly August. But it's still rare to hear much English spoken, prices remain relatively low, locals gather on the central piazza at night, and souvenir shops are vastly outnumbered by butcher's and grocer's stores. In other words: While a resort town, Polignano a Mare is a far, far cry from Sorrento, Capri, or Vernazza.

Did I mention it's lovely? 

Street in Polignano a Mare, Puglia, Italy

Sunset in Polignano a Mare, Puglia

Thankfully, since we were staying in Polignano a Mare for two nights, my father and I made one of our best accommodation choices, ever: the Casa Dorsi. In the heart of the centro storico, a stone's throw from the water, this was an entire building… to ourselves. There were two floors, including a kitchen, two bathrooms, and three bedrooms. For €80 total. Breakfast included.

Oh, and there was a private rooftop terrace.

Rooftop terrace at Casa Dorsi in Polignano a Mare
The one downside was the lack of Wi-Fi inside the thick-walled palazzo (the owner said that it works for some people, doesn't for others). But we couldn't complain too much.

We spent a full day exploring Polignano. Since the historic center is pretty small, and museums and other "must-see" cultural sites seemed nil, that meant a lot of time just relaxing. Including on the beach, a short walk down from the town itself.

Beach of Polignano a Mare
In late June, the beach was definitely lively, but not jam-packed. In August, I'm betting it's beach-blanket-to-beach-blanket.

Local kids, meanwhile, were jumping off the tower built on top of the cliff.

Cliff-jumpers in Polignano a Mare, Puglia
A relaxing resort town, without the ridiculous prices: Polignano a Mare's one I'm adding to my list of places to go back to.

Also: should you visit Naples?, the most beautiful beach near Rome and what to know about Polignano a Mare's neighbor Monopoli.

Heading to Rome? Check out The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon, below, or through my site here!

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Rome’s Most Convenient Beach (And It’s Pretty)

Beach near Rome of Santa Marinella

Romans often say that the beaches near Rome just aren’t that nice. Maybe it’s the New Englander in me, but after visiting Santa Marinella, I beg to differ.

The beach at Santa Marinella, a seaside comune just outside the city, has a couple of things going for it. First off, it’s free. Although that might sound odd if you haven’t sunbathed in Italy before, most other beaches cost you. Stretches of sand are covered in cabanas and chairs, the use of which costs some €10 to €15 for the day — and no, you can’t just park yourself on a towel nearby the chairs and hope nobody will notice. (Che brutta figura!).

Secondly, Santa Marinella’s beach is convenient. Really convenient. You don’t need a car to get there, or to take a train and then a bus, like you do to get to the (admittedly prettier) beach of Sperlonga. Instead, you just hop on the train in Rome from Termini, Ostiense, Trastevere, or San Pietro; 45 minutes and €3.60 land you in Santa Marinella. From there, you can follow the crowds on the 5-minute walk to the beach.

Beach of Santa Marinella, Rome Italy

All that could mean that Santa Marinella, like other city beaches, would be grungy. And it may have been, once. But now, the beach is all soft sand and clear Mediterranean water. And, aside from the odd water bottle left behind after the hordes had departed last Sunday evening, it seemed pretty clean to me.

Just keep in mind that, since the beach is so convenient to Rome, lots of locals go here. So if secluded sunbathing is what you’re after, forget about it, at least on the weekend. And bring your cutest suit — if you live in Rome, it’s all but inevitable that you’ll run into someone you know.

L'Acqua Marina, a seafood restaurant in Santa Marinella, Italy If you’re making a day of it, don’t miss lunch at one of Santa Marinella’s best seafood restaurants: L’Acqua Marina (above). A 10-minute walk from the beach at Piazza Trieste 8, the restaurant is elegant and lovely, the kind of place you could see Ingrid Bergman, who bought a house in town, going for lunch. It’s got plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. Sit on the patio for the view over the blue, blue Mediterranean.

While one of the seemingly-pricier eateries in town, costing about 50 euros for lunch for two (including a half-bottle of wine, the shared seafood antipasto, two primi of pasta, and water), it was worth it. And definitely cheaper than a seafood place of the same quality would be back in Rome.

Also, it was just darn good.

Seafood at L'Acqua Marina, a restaurant in Santa Marinella, Italy

Pasta with seafood at L'Acqua Marina restaurant near Rome

Santa Marinella: Weekend crowds, yes… but also seafood, sun, and sand. What more could you want within 45 minutes of Rome?

Want more local secrets on Rome’s best food, sights, and more? Check out The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, now available for purchase on Amazon, below, or through my site here!

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