Updated: Sep 1, 2020
You know those moments when you experience something just incredible and you know you’ll always remember it? Visiting the sea caves of Polignano a Mare in the “heel” of Italy’s boot was one of those moments for me.
I can still feel the sense of world-expanding freedom as the speed of our private boat sends a rush of warm air over my wide-open arms from the very front of the bow. Salty droplets splash up and cool my sun-browned skin. The view approaching the cliff-clung city of Polignano evokes a reaction from deep in my soul that I cannot explain- amazement, magic, pure joy. I am free, whole, and happy.
There’s a certain anticipation that comes when the boat glides from the sunlit sea to the cool darkness of the cave, and I’m temporarily blinded. As my eyes adjust, I marvel at the unique atmosphere created by the cool dampness, the echoey walls, and the bright, aqua water- clear to the bottom and literally glowing.
Our guide is a local from Polignano who grew up jumping in this sea and exploring its sometimes pebbly sometimes sandy shore. He knows the stories behind each cave and happily shares them. Though each cave is unique and beautiful in its own way, I want to share my three favorites with you today!
Without further ado.. the Top 3 Sea Caves to Visit in Apulia:
Grotta Palazzese, Poligano A Mare
Located in the cliff below the town of Polignano A Mare, Grotta Palazzese is the Queen of sea caves in Apulia. In the 1700s, the richest landowner threw parties and elegant balls inside the cave, making it a popular place to boogey down among the elite youth on their Grand Tour. This is where it gets its name, Palazzese, coming from “palazzo” or palace. Today there is a high-end restaurant located in the cave, where visitors sip Prosecco and gaze out over the water and the rocky cliffs below!
Grotta della Poesia, Roca
Ok, so this one is a little less cave and a little more natural pool, but still just as unique and amazing! It’s called Grotta della Poesia, or Cave of Poetry, because a beautiful princess used to swim there, inspiring the poets from miles around who would come watch her and write elegant prose. I’m not so sure about the story myself, but it sounds romantic…or really creepy, I can’t decide!
Grotta Zinzulusa, Castro
This cave is special for a few reasons: 1. Its exceptional biodiversity 2. Its stalactites and stalagmites and 3. The Neolithic, Paleolithic and Roman artifacts that have been found inside. Here, you can actually follow a path on foot into the cave which has several branches. As it gets more and more narrow, I like to imagine the cave men and Romans who were there before!
Visiting sea caves by boat is definitely worth the extra effort of finding a boat to hire (or asking us at Creative Edge Travel to help)! Apulia (or Puglia) is a land and a culture of its own, completely intertwined with the sea. Exploring it by boat gives you a new perspective and appreciation for its culture, natural beauty, and the people who live within it.
Have another favorite sea cave in Southern Italy? Let us know in the comments!