Giovinazzo, a town 17km northwest of Bari in the Puglia region, isn't a humble fishing village. It's way, way, more. The compact medieval center is packed with ancient churches and monasteries; all the major monastic orders were represented in Giovinazzo at one time, which, in fact, has existed on this coastal spot since prehistoric times. You can stay in a restored monastery, or, better yet, especially if you are a family, you can stay in an apartment in the Palazzo Ducale, the Ducal Palace, as we did.
Where else do you get those choices?
But what did I enjoy first thing in the morning? Strolling the short distance from the Palazzo Ducale to the port to lean on the railing along the Lungomare with the other old geezers to watch the fishing boats bobbing in the water or putting into the port with nets brimming with fish. Just around the corner are guys slapping octopus on the rocks. Here is the good and simple life in Puglia, senza parole, without words.
There is a good passiagiata, especially around the Piazza Vittorio Emanuelle, which is lined with cafes and has a large fountain in the center of its wedge.
A local provided us with some sage advice, "Giovinazzo can be a madhouse in the summer with all the partying tourists staying up half the night." So go in spring or fall, our late April stay featured quite decent weather and the countryside was full of wildflowers (check the Lecce historic climate and weather when you're ready to plan a trip. Lecce is just south of Giovinazzo).
St. Martin Hotel is housed in a restored monastery near the waterfront. If you wish a hotel stay, especially in the off-season, you will want to stay here. The restoration was done with a careful eye to saving the historic details, like saving and incorporating the Roman wall, so you'll really feel that "living history" feeling. Highly recommended.
For a closer look at Giovinazzo, see our Giovinazzo Map and Travel Guide.