494km (307 miles) SE of Rome, 45km (28 miles) SE of Bari, 70km (44 miles) NW of Brindisi, 60km (37 miles) N of Taranto, 21km (13 miles) E of Alberobello
This small town, with a charming historic core, lies in the province of Bari opening onto the sea. A flourishing seaside town, it was exposed to the raids and attacks of Turkish pirates in the early days because of its location.
Monopoli was originally populated by the ancient settlers known as the Egnazians. Their maritime tradition lives on in the city today. After being under the control of the Venetians, the port later fell to the Spaniards.
The town's Spanish conquerors fortified Monopoli, building defensive walls with seaward bastions and creating a castle, which still stands. Monopoli easily merits an afternoon of your time.
There is no vast array of attractions to see here; just the port, the sea, and the historic core. You can wander around at your leisure, exploring whatever narrow, steep street that catches your fancy. Specific sights to look for are the Museo della Cattedrale, Piazza Cathedrale 1 (tel. 080-742253), open Thursday to Saturday 6 to 9pm, Sunday 10:30am to 1pm and 6 to 9pm, charging an admission of 2€ ($2.90). Inside, you'll find an array of ecclesiastical art, the most notable of which is a Byzantine reliquary from the 10th century.
Another gem to seek out is the chapel of Santa Maria Amalfitana, Largo Plebiscito (tel. 080-9303059), open daily from 8am to 6pm, free admission. It was built in the 12th century by rich merchants sailing here from the Amalfi Coast. The earlier church that stood here is now the crypt.
South of the port lie the ruins of the ancient city of Egnazia (tel. 080-4827895), which can be explored daily in summer from 8:30am to 7pm, or daily in winter 8:30am to 4:30pm, for an admission fee of 3€ ($4.35). A bus runs here from Villa Communale in Monopoli. During the 5th century B.C., Egnazia was a major Messapanic trading center and was fortified against pirates with 2km (1 1/4 miles) of defensive walls. The Greeks and later the Romans arrived to colonize the town. The Romans remained to build a forum, a colonnaded public hall, and an amphitheater.
It is said that Horace arrived one day, seeking out the town's then-famous altar (now long gone). Ancients believed the altar could ignite wood without a match.
The Pro Loco, the local tourist office, is at Via Vacco 2 (tel. 328-3785237), open June to September daily from 10am to 1pm and 6 to 9pm.
There is no train service from Alberobello to Monopoli. Lentini operates a bus departing three times a day from Alberobello at 6:30am, 3:30pm, and 7:30pm, the trip taking 1 hour and costing 2.30€ ($3.35). From Alberobello, buses depart from the Bar Royal at Via Cavour. For information about schedules, call the travel agent, Tourist Intercontinental, Via Pirrelli Capitano 37 in Monopoli (tel. 080-9303096).