The seaside town of Monoploi was founded in the Byzantine era by survivors of the destruction of Egnathia (Ignazia) by the Ostrogoths in 545 AD.
Destroyed again in 1042, the site passed under Norman control and the town was rebuilt along with the Santo Stefano Castle. In the middle ages the harbour was occasionally used as a staging and supply port for the Crusades in the Holy Land.
The siege of 1456 saw the city pass from 14 years of Aragonese rule to the victorious Venetians.
Under Venice, growth as an important trading port prospered and much of its fortifications were built during this period as defence against frequent and bloody attacks by Saracens and Turkish pirate fleets.
The city passed back to the Aragonese in 1530 and was granted Free Port status in 1545 thus fuelling rapid economic growth and further development as an agricultural trading port, with its harbour sustaining a robust fishing industry.
Enduring more sieges and occupations, the town was unified with the rest of Puglia into the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Monopoli endured the distinction of undergoing naval bombardment in both world wars in 1916 and 1940.
Situated less than 40 minutess drive from our holiday Villas, today Monopoli boasts a wealth of attractions for the visiting traveler. Passing along the Medieval stone walls surrounding the port, stroll through the arched gateway to the left of the Castle, and enter the harbour resplendent with brightly coloured fishing boats.
Monopoli’s Old Town is an easy and pleasant pedestrian exploration, make your way around the harbour to climb the narrow inclined streets crammed full of a rich architectural heritage.
Sights to see include the Jerusalem Hospital founded by the Order of the Hospitaller Knights in 1350, and Monopoli’s Romanesque Cathedral built in 1107 and restructured in the 18th century, is one of Puglias most attractive Cathedrals, decorated inside with a staggering range of different marbles.
Inside the Abbey of Santo Stefano are some remains of the Roman settlement of Turris Paola, a landing stage for the now dead city of Ignazia. The Castle of Santo Stefano built 1522 by King Charles V rises from the sea on three of its sides as it stood guard in the harbour entrance.
The Church of the Purgatory with its doors decorated with skeletons, is only open to the public for Mass between 6pm – 7pm. – its Baroque interior houses a chapel containing mummies of long dead citizens. If the Church is closed, the mummies can be viewed from outside through street windows. Attractions too numerous to describe here, make Monopoli an excursion nor to be missed, and well worth a visit.
- La Vecchia Taverna (traditional Italian) – 33, Via Argento (near the Castle, close to the harbour)