Shortly before the Itria Valley and Salento is where the territories of the 'heel' of Italy begin, Monopolibeing one. Stretching over the plain known as the 'marina', it owes the historical succession of cultures and peoples to its strategic position on the Adriatic. A trading hub, a bridge between West and East, over the centuries it has seen the passage of Cretans, Byzantines, Normans, Spaniards, Venetians and managed to compete with the maritime republics. The harbour, which penetrates into the historic centre and on whose quays buildings have been standing since the Middle Ages, is quite astonishing. The opening to the sea, however, subjected Monopoli to incursions for which defensive works were needed: the most obvious being the massive castle on the Punta Penna headland. In the 18th century, the wealth gained from trade allowed for the rebuilding of many pre-existing churches, as was also the case for the Cathedral, of mediaeval origin but transformed into one of the best examples of Baroque in the Land of Bari. The low, rugged coastline is dotted with hidden coves and wide stretches of sand. In the surrounding area, an agricultural landscape dotted with ancient masserie and the cultivation of olive, almond, fruit and vegetable trees.