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Monopoli, Italy | C.2018

Photo Credit: Ky Allport

The old town of Monopoli is located in the region of Puglia—commonly referred to as the heel of Italy’s boot. It has been inhabited since 500 BC, and takes its name from the early Greek city that was founded here: “Monos Polis,” meaning “the Unique City.” And indeed the city feels rare for Italy, due to its quieter piazzas and less tourist-heavy atmosphere.

There are still plenty of foreigners sitting at outdoor cafes, but there is more space and less bustle for a city of 50,000. It feels lived in, and imperfect, which only adds to its charm.

Monopoli is still very much a port city, fortified by old walls and centered around its harbor, a large expanse around which you can walk, enjoy the simple boats bobbing with the tide, and admire the fast handwork of fishermen repairing nets as they sit along the lungomare (promenade), muttering to themselves or chatting to any willing listener.

The port fortification is largely due to the 16th-century Castle of Charles V, which juts out into the sea. While it is not possible to go inside, the landmark—as well as the scenic old harbor—can be admired from the fortress walls. For an especially magnified view of these wonders and the vast Adriatic sea beyond them, use one of these free panoramic telescopes that line the historic city walls…arguably an eyesore for a medieval village, but somehow as fitting and compelling as the rest of this rugged, imperfectly perfect seaside town.

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