Guide to Monopoli, Puglia
The town of Monopoli lies in the Puglia region of Italy. It is known for its many churches, one of the most famous being the Chiesa di Santa Maria del Suffragio delta del Purgatori, which houses an archaeological crypt. The seaside town is a great day trip for those visiting Puglia, with a harbour and beach to explore and relax.
The World Heritage Site of Alberobello is filled with streets of white trulli, the town is a short drive from Monopoli. Read more about its history here – Guide To Alberobello, Puglia!
A short history of Monopoli
Monopoli’s name translates to ‘only city’, after inhabitants of Gnathia fled here in AD 545, when Ostrogoth King Total destroyed their city. The town now has a population of c. 50,000 inhabitants and functions as an agricultural, industrial and tourist spot.
Things to see in Monopoli
Visiting the town on a slow Sunday restricted most of our visit to wandering the quiet streets and taking in the beauty of the buildings. White washed buildings line the streets, with beautiful blooms of flowers framing doorways and filling window boxes, while potted cacti stand tall against the buildings.
The Churches of Monopoli
Wandering around the town, I lost track counting how many churches we passed – in fact, the old town of Monopoli is home to no less than 19 Medieval churches and cathedrals. Each church exceeds the last in decor, with uniquely beautiful designs carved into the stone.
Chiesa di Santa Maria
One of the churches that immediately caught my attention was Chiesa di Santa Maria del Suffragio delta del Purgatorio, which dominates the street aptly named Via Purgatorio. The outside is decorated with carved skulls and skeletons – an unusual form of decoration for a church, and something I haven’t seen outside of graveyards and cemeteries. The history of the church is extremely interesting, as it is a church of Purgatory. The church was built in the 17th Century, after the Protestant Reformation argued ideas such as Purgatory. As a result, Catholics constructed purgatory churches, as a form of reaffirmation of the idea. The church is dedicated to the passage of life to death, and is a place where people could pray for those who were in limbo. Symbols of death decorate the church, in order to remind those who sin of the suffering of purgatory. Near the entrance of the church, and visible through the doorway, are mummies dating to the 18th and 19th century, who were founding members of the church, local administrators and the mummy of a child. The mummies are dressed in robes and displayed in cabinets.
The Harbour and beaches
As well as churches, Monopoli is also home to a beautiful harbour, filled with fishing boats, and a seafront promenade, where tourists were spending their Sunday lounging on towels and soaking in the sun. Along the alleyways beside the old harbour were cute boutiques and souvenir shops, filled with seaside themed trinkets made from shells or capturing the beauty of the area.
Of course, being in a seaside town it was only right to give some of their seafood a try, and we stopped for lunch at Piazza Palmieri, a seafood restaurant. I had my favourite dish – seafood linguine – which had a delicious mix of local seafood.
I would recommend Monopoli to anyone looking for a base to explore the Puglia region, as the town has a perfect mix of things to explore while still having a slow and relaxing atmosphere. Let me know if you’ve been, or are planning to visit!
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