The Gargano is a mountainous promontory in the northernmost part of Puglia. Due to its geographical location, bathed on 3 sides by the Adriatic Sea, it is also called "the spur of Italy". While maintaining many of the characteristics of the Apulian landscapes, the Gargano territory is very different from the Valle d'Itria and Salento: you will find wooded areas with lush pine forests, mountainous landscapes, forests, a spectacular coast full of white limestone cliffs, sea caves, long beaches sandy beaches and villages overlooking the sea.
The variety of the landscape is one of the salient features of this territory.
The Gargano is the most varied mountain imaginable
The territory of this promontory, rich in important prehistoric settlements such as the Paglicci cave and the Defensola mine, falls almost entirely within the Gargano National Park.
Gargano, villages, history and religion
The Gargano villages retain the ancient medieval characteristics for many stretches, of the agricultural villages in the more inland areas and of the seaside villages along the coast.
They are all charming in a different way: we pass by the coastal villages of Vieste, Peschici e Rhodes Garganico to the mountain ones of Vico del Gargano, Monte Sant'Angelo and San Giovanni Rotondo.
The coastal villages overlook the sea and the intricate maze of white alleyways often leads to belvedere squares with a magnificent view of the Mediterranean.
Equally suggestive are the villages of Vico del Gargano, to be visited above all on the occasion of San Valentino, protector of the city, Monte Sant'Angelo with its mystical sanctuary dedicated to San Michele Arcangelo and that of San Giovanni Rotondo, whose link to the cult of Padre Pio is now indissoluble.
Rich in cultural beauties is also the largest town of the Gargano, Manfredonia, founded in 1256 not far from the ancient Siponto, an important Dauna city, where now stands an archaeological park with the basilica and the work of art of Tresoldi with the reconstruction of the ancient early Christian basilica in wire mesh.
The dualism between land and sea is also reflected in table: products related to agriculture and sheep farming "vye" for the place on the table with fish. Omnipresent though is theextra virgin olive oil, which is particularly good on the Gargano, with the prized "ogliarola Garganica" cultivar.
The beaches and the coast of the Gargano
If the Gargano has become one of the most loved areas by Italian tourists and not only it is above all for its coastline. From Mattinata to Vieste there are many cliffs overlooking the sea, fjords and heavenly beaches: Zagare Bay, Vignanotica, Cala della Pergola, Pugnochiuso e Campi Bay these are just some of the countless beaches and coves that you can visit during a holiday on the Gargano.
The geological characteristics of the Gargano coast, especially in the area between Vieste and Mattinata, are able to give us unique shows, such as the sea caves,natural arch of San Felice and the stacks of Pizzomunno and Baia delle Zagare. The karst rock, sculpted by the wind and the sea, is able to give us unique scenarios.
To visit the Gargano coast from the sea, it is possible to take part in organized tours that depart from the ports of Vieste, Peschici and Rodi Garganico, or take a boat for hire.
From Vieste onwards the coast gradually becomes more gentle, with very long sandy beaches interspersed with rocky ridges covered with Mediterranean scrub, with the ever-present coastal towers and trebuchets testifying to the special relationship that this land has with the sea.
These beaches on the north-eastern side of the Gargano coast are frequented in the summer especially by families, who appreciate the shallow water, which is safe for the little ones.
A separate discussion they deserve the Tremiti islands, a paradisiacal archipelago 12 nautical miles from the coast of the Gargano. A visit is a must.
The Nature of the Gargano
Among the symbolic places of the Gargano there is certainly the Umbra Forest, the green lung of southern Italy, about 10.000 hectares of beech, oak and unspoiled nature. The forest extends between the municipalities of Vieste, Peschici, Vico del Gargano, Carpino and Monte Sant'Angelo, it is also rich in fauna: here we can in fact find native roe deer, foxes, dormice, badgers, wild boars, owls (including the ), owls, barn owls and an infinite number of other species.
This vast nature reserve is in the innermost part of the Gargano, just 30 minutes by car from Vieste, but as it has an altitude of about 800 meters you will find an ideal temperature for trekking even in summer.
The beech woods of the Umbra forest are protected by Unesco.
We recommend arriving by car in the central area, near the artificial lake where there is also the bar/shelter and the area reserved for fallow deer.
The Gargano represents a veritable paradise of biodiversity also for the presence of over 80 wild orchid species, some of which are endemic, and for the macrosomatism phenomena of some plant species.
Another peculiarity of the area are the lagoons of the Gargano: for Bird Watching lovers in the northern part we find the lakes of Lesina and Varano, south the salt lake, near Manfredonia.
Due to its variety of landscapes, the Gargano is to be considered a small paradise of biodiversity: many plant and animal species in the area have unique characteristics, such as the spontaneous orchids of the Gargano.
You just have to set off to discover this wonderful land, between sea, nature and culture!
Cover photo taken on 10 May 2011 by Paolo Nespoli from the International Space Station.