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  • Writer's picturePeter Antonucci

Monopoli, Italy

Tuesday | June 9, 2015

This morning, shortly before 7:30 AM, land appeared off the port side of the ship as we arrived in Monopoli.

Monopoli derives its name from the Greek “Citta sola” or “only city” because ancient mariners, coming from Siracusa, were surprised to find it is the only single seaport between Siponto and Brindisi.

My daughter and I began the day in the gym – she with an hour of cardio and I with an hour of stretch class. After exercising, we all mustered in 907 and ordered breakfast, which we ate alfresco. My aunt was already seated and waiting for us.


The salmon eggs benedict were especially wonderful today


And then – it was off to explore Monopoli.

Monopoli is one of Puglia’s little known treasures. It is a charming Adriatic port where visitors are still far more likely to find working fishing boats then flashy yachts tied up beneath its Aragonese walls.


It is replete with century old churches and gorgeous stone edifices just awaiting exploration.

We were fortunate in that the tender took us to a cute little cove at the base of Centro Storico (or Old Town).

Old Town features Porta Vecchia, a vibrant pedestrian area. We walked through the center of town and along the fortification walls of the city. Monopoli has historically been under the rule of the Norman, Byzantine, Swabian, Venetian, Spanish, Austrian, and Napolitano before joining the Kingdom of Italy.

One of the first sites we wanted to see was the Castle of Charles V, which was completed in 1535.


It is a pentagonal form originally separated from the medieval city by issued walls. Restorations in the 17th century enlarged the structure and from the early 1800s until 1969, the Castle was still in use as a jail. Because there were a great deal of steps to climb, my aunt sat on the steps at the entrance of the castle while my duaghter and I ran up all the steps and took in the extraordinary views of Monopoli.


We then set off for a lovely, albeit lengthy, walk through the narrow streets and alleys of Monopoli.

We passed or visited the Church of San Domenico, Church of St. Francesco D’Assisi, Sta Maria del Sufragio, Piazza Garibaldi, Piazza Settembre, Piazza Palmieri, and so much more. Our goal was to find the Basilica Cattedrale Monopoli – and we are glad we did. It is absolutely breathtaking to see and understand that this huge monolith was erected in such a small town in a hinterland region of southern Italy.

This gorgeous basilica was originally built in 1107 on the grounds of a pre-Romanesque church. It is now recognized as one of the most beautiful baroque churches in all of Puglia. We were truly taken aback by its beauty, the gold, marble, and size. Like all Italian churches, the kneelers were made of wood with no padding, but that did not deter me from kneeling to say a few prayers of thanks. It was an especially warm feeling to have my daughter and aunt sitting next to me in this amazing place.


I almost went into this confessional.  But, because I haven’t been in a few years, I was afraid the priest would keep me there until after the ship left port, so I decided to go some other time.


Then, it was time to eat. We had been given a recommendation and we were on a mission to find a tiny restaurant, Osteria Perricci.

We continued to walk down a maze of small streets stopped only because Granny found fresh garlic and a store that sold fresh figs and other fruit.

At last, with some assistance from Google Maps, we found the restaurant and the pasta was beyond belief. I enjoyed a wonderful cavatelli that was in a seafood sauce with lots of mussels and clams.

Finally, satiated from our food, exhausted from walking almost three miles, and drained from the unrelenting southern Italian sun, we made our way back to the tender dock where we sat and enjoyed some fresh raspberry ice tea while we waited for the tender.

Once back on board, I accompanied Nicole down to the Plaza where she met with our restaurant manager to explore vegetarian options for our formal dinner on June 11. As we repeatedly tell her “this is The World – you can have anything you want, and are limited only by your imagination.”

We all got together at 7:00 PM for a glass of wine on the terrace as we looked out on the old city of Monopoli.


Then, we went up to East for an Asian-themed dinner. I gorged myself on the Peking Duck, while Nicole had an Asian vegetarian dish. Our favorite sommelier suggested a wonderful Bordeaux Pinot Noir which paired perfectly with our food. He also told us about a vodka that was even better than the one we had seen in the wine cellar yesterday. This was a Swedish vodka called Purity, that is distilled 38 times. We each had a shot of it before dinner.

After dinner, we went to Regatta to listen to some music. And once again, we each had a shot of the Purity vodka. I hope it served as a sleeping aid for all – I know it did for me!


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