Among my daughters’ favorite beach holidays in Italy was our week-long Polignano a Mare Puglia family holiday in July. We stayed for a Saturday to Saturday week in the charming historical center of this beautiful beach town in a light-filled and absolutely central apartment from HelloApulia. If you prefer a hotel stay, we also recommend the Hotel Cove dei Saraceni.
The previous week, we had been in Tuscany for the Lucca Arte al Sole Italy Kids Program, so to arrive to Puglia, we flew on an inexpensive domestic flight to Bari, rented a car, and drove a very easy 45 minutes along the coastal highway to Polignano a Mare. Our apartment was in the mostly pedestrian center of the town, so arriving into the town in general was fairly easy, but it is not possible to park really close to the apartments in the old center, so be prepared to deal with some parking and luggage logistics on arrival (it’s worth it, as always, pack light). In our case, the owner of the apartment agency, Angelo, greeted us at the suggested parking area and assisted with our luggage.
Family-friendly beaches Polignano a Mare
The beach at the cove in Polignano a Mare is legendary and a great swimming spot, however, the beach is very small and it can get quite crowded. For kids of all ages, the swimming is nice and protected here, and for older kids, there are some caves that you can enter from the beach by foot, and then exit on the other side, jump into the water, and swim back to the beach, which is very fun! For experienced swimmers, there is also a larger cave that can be entered from the water, where you will see swimmers entering and exiting. And then, entertainment for all, from the beach you will see locals scaling the cliffs beneath the ancient fortified down and diving from a high position off of the rocks into the cove below.
While it’s convenient to simply walk from the historical center down to the beach at Polignano a Mare, we did choose to have the car rental for the week so that we could explore some of the other beautiful beaches of the area. Only 15 minutes north of Polignano a Mare you will find the famous beach of Cala San Vito, where locals sunbathe next to the ruins of an ancient Norman tower, and the ruins of the walls of the fortification have created a fun protective swimming area for kids. There is also a lovely little restaurant at San Vito.
The next day, we ventured south to explore the famous beaches south of Monopoli, spending a lazy day at the Coccaro Beach Club. The beaches in Puglia are sand and in some cases rocks. The sandy beaches are definitely friendlier for families traveling with younger kids, but you will find the most crystal clear waters at the beaches with a rocky shore.
We called ahead to book chaises at Masseria Torre Coccaro‘s beach club (also a very family-friendly Puglia resort to consider for your stay). The resort sits along a stretch of beach where you can take lovely long walks, or rent bikes and bike along the beachfront bike path, exploring hidden places. The cafe area is on the sand with refined chaise lounges and hammocks to relax and read a book if a break from the sun is needed, and the locker rooms and showers are luxury as beach clubs go.
Italy in the summer is full of festivals, and we were fortunate to time our visit to Polignano a Mare when the Festa del Madonna del Carmine was being celebrated, with the seafront grand piazza filled with vendors selling sweets such as cannoli, sweet donut fritters, and candied nuts and citrus typical of Southern Italy. The winding medieval streets were glowing with white lights strung throughout, and we were awakened from in the morning with the sound of the brass band progressing through the town.
Polignano a Mare is full of small, family-friendly dining options serving mostly seafood, and many delicious gelaterie. We liked the tiny cafe, Mint, which had an especially fresh menu of daily selections, with a few tables on the piazza where kids can safely play and are likely to find other local children to make friends with. We had to plan for an aperitif one evening at the famous cave restaurant, Ristorante Grotta Palazzazese, part of the hotel of the same name.
We found our visit during mid-July to be a lovely time to be in Puglia, as the summer was heating up but beating the August crowds. We were content to relax with simple day trips to other beaches, really taking the time to get to know the town, but certainly Polignano is also a convenient base for visiting many other sites within about an hour’s drive. If your family enjoys being in a lively town with lots of locals and a bustle of summertime fun activity, a Polignano a Mare Puglia family holiday is a great way to experience the beach in Southern Italy.
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