The old name of the town, Polisnea, clearly indicates its Greek origins. It stands overlooking the sea on a steep, rocky cliff cut by a deep gorge. Because of the karst nature of this cliff a number of caves have been formed, particurlarly in the sea. Some of the these where inhabited by prehistoric man. Polignano a Mare was a fortified town in the Middle Ages, and in the XVI century it was politically affiliated to Venice.
The well-preserved old town s criss-crossed by a network of alleyways, winding among little whitewashed houses and the courtyards, and leading to terraces with breathtaking views on the Adriatic Sea. Marine caves include the "Grotta Palazzese", where the water tkes on an incredible blue-green colour.
The gates of the old town lead into a lovely square whose Mother Church, consecrated in 1295, boasts a massive, square bell-tower. Inside, the Reinassance style dominates. There is a fine 1470 polyptych by Bartolomeo Vivarini in the sacristy, and the presbytery is Baroque.
Some remains of the Roman Trajan Way can still be seen as one descends the stairway next to the bridge. Continuing on the path, you reach a small stoney beach, the ancient port, from which you can see the extraordinary skill with with the inhabitants built their town overlooking the sea.
Lovely beaches, such as those of San Giovanni and San Vito, occupy the one-time estuaries of streams which used to run down through gorges to the sea. San Vito is overlooked by a Benedectine Abbey, protected like a fort, which ones had great influence over the sorrounding territory. The exterior of the Abbey is enhanced by a beautiful XVI century loggia, while in the church the original three-naved plan of the interior is still visible, the central nave surmounted by cupolas built on an axis.