Tourism in Puglia is growing. This sun-kissed swath of southern Italy is attracting more visitors than ever before, thanks—in part—to hamlets like Polignano A Mare, where the Grotta Palazzese Hotel and Restaurant will take your breath away. Considered one of the most picturesque restaurants in the world, Grotta Palazzese begins just where the craggily Italian coastline ends, invoking the sense that one is sitting on the edge of the world, nothing to see before us but an endless sea, highlighted only by the stars and the moonlight.
Caves have been carved beneath the ancient town of Polignano A Mare over millennia, creating a maze of limestone caverns. And guests have dined in the town’s largest cavern—now home to Grotta Palazzese—since the 1700’s, when the local elite would mark special occasions with lavish banquets befitting of such magical setting. Present day brings us a boutique travel experience where history is preserved and modern amenities incorporated. A recent temporary closure of the hotel for updates is nearing completion. The newly renovated space will be reintroduced to the public along with the seasonal opening of the cave restaurant this May. The Cave Restaurant is only open during high season, which lasts from May through October. The entire outdoor setting is warm enough for enjoyment during this period since the natural cave surroundings shield any passing rain. Decor within the restaurant is kept to a minimum: the seascape is the only adornment required for this truly unparalleled setting. Not surprisingly, the menu is seafood-driven with fish coming directly from the Adriatic Sea below.
If you are traveling to Puglia during the fall and winter, you may experience the views and flavors of the Sea Cave in the restaurant located just above, coined The Sea Lounge. Sweeping windows ensure that the views are not compromised despite the drop in temperatures. The hotel also sits above The Cave Restaurant, with guest rooms boasting views of the open sea. Local beaches for lounging as well as a variety of restaurants, pizzerias and bars are within a short distance and easily accessible during your stay. While we are anxious to experience the hotel’s fresh face firsthand when it reopens this spring, it is The Cave Restaurant what is drawing visitors to Grotta Palazzese. It has kept locals and travelers coming back to this surreal enclave. Insiders will tell you to book your table at dusk, so you may catch the light slowly fading over the horizon. The dreamy backdrop turns your meal into an unforgettable, timeless experience. ■