Are you looking for the Italian fishing village experience? Giovinazzo in springtime before the tourists make it into a party town might be the ideal destination, my experience suggests.
Each morning, upon rising I walked a short distance to the little fishing port which takes a rectangular divot out of the old town of Giovinazzo. Despite rising early, I couldn't beat the boats just coming in, bobbing in the protected waters, their owners busy with the morning's catch.
Cats prowled the lungomare. Old men gossiped and took note of the fishermen's luck. Older men stood in the old boats, mending nets. At the mouth of the little port, the rhythmic slap of octupus on the rocks began. There would be tender, fresh octupus at the restaurants that evening.
One morning I leaned over and saw a very expensive boat with two sport fishermen with all the latest gear pull alongside one of the scruffy fishing boats. After a short negotiation, a good part of the morning's catch changed boats. What a way to fish!
By the time I'd made my little stroll of the port the sun was begining to warm the air; it was late april and already warm. I peeled off my sweater and sauntered over to the bar for a coffee and pastry. The little bars were plentiful, there was a different one for each day if I'd wanted it.
Yes, come in springtime and Giovinazzo becomes one of those vacation paradises you've read about in very old books. They don't exist any more, of course. But there's always Giovinazzo, which hides its off-season tranquility under a thick blanket of drunken summer partying.
There's a lot to do in little Giovinazzo. Its history starts before the Romans and it was a major location for monasteries. There are no shortage of churches, with their ancient art. But if you run out of things you like to do, you're on the train line that runs along the coast from Bologna. Other compelling towns in Puglia like Trani, Molfetta, and Bari are very short train hops away. Giovinazzo makes a great hub for a vacation in Puglia.
Click or tap the map markers to find out more about these attractions.
The area to the west of the port, Porto di Giovinazzo, is the old town. The dotted lines represent the typical narrow streets residents can drive in.
Outside the map, to the south, is the train station. There's a nice bar across the street from it if you have to wait for a train.
The town "center" is the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, the elongated triangle on the map where the label "Giovinazzo" is (zoom in to lose it). The north side of the square is lined with cafes, and the whole town does their evening walk, the passeggiata, around this square and the interesting fountain in the center of it. It's the place to come in the evenings.
My strong suggestion is the fabulous Saint Martin Hotel Giovinazzo. It's on the waterfront and its roof terrace looks out over the sea and the city. There's even a Roman wall that forms part of the lower terrace outside the bar (see the pictures below). It's filled with artifacts and it's had a very tasteful restoration. If you don't stay there, at least stop in and have a drink at the bar. It's worth it, no matter how much the drink costs, believe me.
If you're really into the off season, Giovinazzo celebrates Il falo di Sant'Antonio by lighting a fire and feasting afterwards. The festival is held in January, around the 17th. In Italy, Saint Antonio is patron saint of butchers, domestic animals, basketmakers,and gravediggers and also known as healer of the plague and the "fuoco di Sant'Antonio" (shingles).
Around Easter there are Settimana Santa events and in summer there are all sorts of events for the tourists.
In December Giovinazzo celebrates the season with displays of home made manger scenes, presepi artiganali.
We had a great dinner our first night in Giovinazzo at Ristorante Pizzaria Al Cantegallo, marked on the map. This is the place where you absolutely must talk to your waiter and tell him you want to try local specialties, and let him recommend a course of action. The restaurant preserves its own vegetables and has good sources of local cheeses. Gluten-free is available, and so are artisinal beers. Closed Wednesday. Telephone: 080 394 1104
The same owner owns Le Sirenuse, right in the port at P. Porto nr. 32 and the place to eat seafood. The owner is passionate about wine, and will recommend a good one to go with the food.
The ambiance of Il Duca in Piazza Benedettine is fabulous, the place is a "risto-pub" where you can go for a light meal with beer or wine or a cocktail (it's also an "american bar") and listen to music on weekends. Tel. 3480321695.
Bari is a wonderful town to visit, and it's just a very short train ride down the Adriatic coast from Giovinazzo. Traini is beautiful, just up the coast. The towns along the Via Traiana, if you prefer small towns like Giovinazzo, would do quite nicely for a little exploration of this part of Puglia. Part of hidden Puglia is Conversano and the towns around it, including Putignano, which has the oldest carnival celebration in europe and some fantastic clay whistles.
Perhaps these pictures will ignite your off-season travel lust. They were taken in late April. Shirt-sleve weather in the day, cool in the evenings.