An ancient fortified port in Puglia at the top of the heel of Italy’s boot, Monopoli has a reputation for being less touristy than many of the picturesque towns in the region. We hopped a train there from Lecce in mid-November, way past high season, and almost had the place to ourselves. Even the locals were sparse. Which meant the old town center was perfect for us to wander freely among its plazas and narrow streets.
The custodien closing the heavy wooden doors of the Baroque cathedral at noon kindly allowed us to do a whiplash tour just as the church bell was ringing its 12 dongs. The basilica dedicated to Madonna della Madia was constructed in the mid-1700s on the site of an earlier church.
Construction of the first church began in 1107 but was halted due to a lack of building materials for the roof. But, lo and behold, a miracle occurred in 1117. A raft formed from enormous beams tied together (a madia) floated into the harbor bearing an Byzantine image of the Virgin Mary. The revered icon is centered above the altar, and a piece of one of the original beams which allowed the completion of the roof is preserved as a holy relic atop a gold pedestal.
As someone who devoted part of her youth to buying, selling, trading and mortgaging real estate during marathon Monopoly matches, how could I not be drawn to a city bearing the name of the game.
Before hopping the train back to Lecce, the next post will take you to one more spot in Monopoli.