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  • Contrada Losciale near Fasano
  • Daily 8am to 1hr before sunset
  • €3 including museum
  • w egnaziaonline.it

Some 8km beyond Polignano a Mare lies the commercial port of MONOPOLI, with a nice old town and a charming Duomo, but not much else to see. There’s more interest south, at the site of the ancient city of Egnazia, where an on-site museum (same hours and ticket as above) houses an array of artefacts, including a stunning mosaic of the three Graces, an exquisite white-marble head of the Egyptian fertility god, Attis, and examples of the distinctive earthenware for which the ancient town was prized. Right next to the seafront excavations, the water is tempting and clear, so bring swimming stuff and a picnic.

Brief history

Egnazia (also known as Gnathia) was an important Messapian centre during the fifth century BC, fortified with over 2km of walls, large parts of which still stand in the northern corner of the ruined town – up to 7m high. It was later colonized by the Greeks and then the Romans (in 244 BC), who built a forum, amphitheatre, a colonnaded public hall and temples: one was dedicated to Syria, a popular early Roman goddess, who, according to Lucian, was worshipped by men dressed as women. Horace is known to have dropped by here to see the city’s famous altar, which ignited wood without a flame.

With the collapse of the Roman Empire, the city fell to subsequent barbarian invasions, and was almost completely destroyed by the Gothic king Totila in 545 AD. A community struggled on here, seeking refuge in the Messapian tombs, until the tenth century when the settlement was finally abandoned.

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