Like to be beside the seaside
The main attraction as far as beaches here go is the one cradled by the town itself. This is a beach peppered with natural reefs, yet boasts pale golden sand that stretches in unspoilt swathes both left and right as you step down onto the sand. Rocks dotted across the coast give a rugged and unspoilt feel. Waterfront bars and diners are keen to make sure you’re topped up with food and drink between bouts of sunbathing.
However, you’ll find that beyond Santa Maria al Bagno, Puglia has plenty of other shorelines to savour. Many of these are within 10 minutes’ drive or 30 minutes’ walk of the town. Santa Caterina is close by for those holidaymakers looking for smaller beaches with the added mystery of natural cave networks to explore. Meanwhile, untamed frontiers of beach and pine trees can be found alongside nature reserves around Porto Selvaggio.
Santa Maria al Bagno offers several attractions beyond the beach. While there are the usual and most welcome cafes and sidestreet bakeries that Italy does so well, there are also plenty of more thought-provoking places to visit.
The town features a museum to the Second World War’s displaced people, offering insight into the role Santa Maria al Bagno played in ages past. You can also glimpse even further back in time at the Tower of the Galatena River, a beautiful example of local architecture from the medieval era. Its four big stone columns make it particularly beloved among the old sites dotted around Puglia.
Sample some fantastic food
Italian cuisine is among the best in the world, and while there are gifted chefs in any part of Italy you care to mention, the culinary talent in Santa Maria al Bagno is definitely worth your time. While we’ve already covered the cakes, pastries and sweet treats so easily found in the various cafes and bakeries around town, restaurants in this community offer delicious dining opportunities.
Trattoria Al Riccio is the place to choose if you want pristine surroundings with a modern edge, yet favour Italy’s most authentic flavours. Bolognese with rich sauces, light pastas and gently spiced risottos all feature here, alongside some of the region’s finest wines. Meanwhile, a more relaxed and upbeat meal can be had at Jazzy, where presentation is playful and the seafood is so fresh it’s like it popped out of the Ionian right onto your plate.
Pizza is always a fantastic choice hereabouts too, and the locals can’t stop raving about Camera Cafe 2. The wood-fired handmade pizzas here are generous in both portion sizes and toppings, so come here hungry and prepare to be bowled over by the choice of flavours. There’s beer on draught here too, making it a good way to start an evening out in Santa Maria al Bagno.
This town is relaxed yet joyful after dark, with a good selection of cosy little wine bars and corner pubs to poke your head into. One piece of advice is to follow the music, as there are often live bands playing ballads that float out into the evening air.