Puglia Town Installs Turnstiles and Charges €5 to Visit

white clifftop houses in Polignano a Mare Puglia

The Puglia town of Polignano a Mare is famous for its stunning clifftop homes and whitewashed walls against an impossibly blue ocean backdrop – but it is now becoming even more famous for a scheme to charge tourists €5 to visit the historic center at Christmastime. (Article in Italian)

The famous beach in Polginano a Mare and these views will only be available to tourist who pay an admission fee

During the offseason, Polignano a Mare looks a little bit like the shot above – empty.

During the summer, the winding streets are full of visitors soaking up the southern Italian sun and the views from the seaside terraces for which the town is famous. Those visitors and that tourism are what keep the town going.

White washed piazza with plants in Polignano a Mare Puglia

So though the empty squares and free tables give everyone a lot more space to breathe, the town of Polignano a Mare needed to look for another way to make money.

The solution has been to install turnstiles at the entrance to the historic center and charge all tourists a €5 entrance fee.

terrace of Polignano a Mare with two people in the background looking out at the sea

The pay-to-visit plan will be in place through the Epiphany, Italy’s January 6th holiday.

Town officials say that it is a way to raise needed funds when visitors come to admire Polignano a Mare’s Christmas light display.

The light display, known as Meraviglioso Natale, is inspired by the famous display in the town of Salernoempty old town street of Polignano a Mare

If tourists want to step foot into the old town, they will need to purchase a card for €5.

(Residents of Polignano a Mare will have their own, different, cards in order to swipe in and walk through the turnstiles to get home).

It all sounds… pretty crazy to me. This scheme treats a beautiful, real-life Italian town like Disneyland, charging admission to even see the area.

I am all for capitalizing on tourism, but installing turnstiles and charging to walk into a town seems crazy. Go ahead and charge for parking, then have a city tax for overnight guests. But turnstiles in town? I hate the precedent it sets.

the main square in the historic center of the Puglia Italy town Polignano a Mare

Proponents say that it is a bit like the fee charged by Civita di Bagnoregio, an abandoned town near Orvieto that is only accessible via a long pedestrian bridge, and which costs €5 to visit.

The mayor of Polignano also argues that the €5 admission includes access to see the lights, as well as things like free cotton candy for kids, but that simply makes it sound more like an amusement park for me.

I would love to see someone come up with an idea that raises money while supporting traditions rather than commercializing the beautiful streets and oceanside views that make the town so special.

What do you think? Would you pay to visit Polignano a Mare?

Blue water in Polignano a Mare


14 thoughts on “Puglia Town Installs Turnstiles and Charges €5 to Visit

  1. fabio says:

    Hi completely agree with you. It’s very sad for me to charge money to enter an old town so beautiful like Polignano. It seems that public space is not public anymore. I am in Lecce and can’t image to pay to visit the old town!

    • Natalie says:

      Ciao Fabio! Yes, it is this idea of public space that makes this feel so strange. I heard that FAI is thinking of challenging it in court!

    • Manej says:

      I was there when they started to instal the fences. It was weird. They ask every visitor to leave the old town by 3pm and go buy the ticket. I was lucky to come before, not only because of the fee, but because of the crowds. I could not go to the other side of the cliffs as it was full every single where. I agree with you about the disneylandisation. Paying strangely make people come more. It is not the best solution but locals are fed up.4 months a year, it is not their city anymore.

  2. Anna says:

    Puglia has made the most of a big investment to encourage tourism. In just a few years it has gone from “Where is Puglia?” to an upmarket tourist mecca.

    Polignano promotes chic hotels and excellent restaurants and so this move to charge €5 is simply tacky.
    Go elsewhere in Puglia for free in winter and ignore Polignano sul Mare would be my advice.

    • Natalie says:

      Yes, I agree. That’s what it is – it feels tacky. It seems like there would be other ways to harness tourist dollars

    • Natalie says:

      Yeah! I kind of understand charging for a holiday event, but not when that event is outside in public space. I think the turnstiles will totally kill the mood

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.