After that bust we headed for the coast, figuring we might at least be able to walk on a beach and then drive along the coast to our pre-arranged agriturismo (a sort of hotel/restaurant on a farm). I picked a town on the coast (Monopoli), punched it into Google maps and we headed for it. As we exited the freeway we caught a glimpse of a museum and archaeological excavation sign. As we followed the signs it seemed more and more unlikely that we would find anything open and/or that we would find a little ramshackle museum. The area right along the coast seemed completely deserted - probably only really visited in the summer for the beaches.
But...when we pulled up to the museum - The National Archaeological Museum of Egnazia, we could see it was most definitely not ramshackle and it was definitely open. We had found a complete hidden gem along the coast of Puglia.
The museum is located near an ancient town called Egnazia that was occupied from about 500 BC through the Roman era. Much of it has been excavated by archaeologists over the last 100 years and is open for visitors. The museum was really nice and had lots of photos of the excavations over the years. The only downside was there were no signs in English. In some ways it made the visit more enjoyable because we were able to enjoy the photos and artifacts without feeling like we had to over-saturate our brains with all the accompanying text. And usually we could pick up enough of the title to figure out what each display was about.
The area of the town ruins has a trail around it and a fantastic raised viewing platform. Lucky for us, this part had signs in English. There is also a viewing area around the Necropolis, or burial ground. The tombs were chiseled into the limestone bedrock. Because people were usually buried with valuable possessions, almost all of the graves had been looted before professional archaeologists ever worked here. It makes it a little eerie to walk around and see a bunch of empty coffin-shaped holes in the ground. There were also two large tombs with chambers dug into this area that, to our surprise, were open to visitors.
We are so glad we stumbled upon this place! We have also been pleasantly surprised that many museums in Italy are very inexpensive (6 euros for both of us to visit the museum and ruins). Maybe that will change going north, but we're enjoying it for now!
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