Gargano Peninsula – one of the most beautiful and most visited areas of Italy

Gargano Peninsula jutting out into the Adriatic Sea, in the region of Puglia is among the most beautiful and most visited areas of Italy. The area is featured with crystal-clear sea, bays with beautiful beaches, limestone cliffs, pine groves and ancient villages with a unique atmosphere.

Gargano Peninsula is situated within the province of Foggia, which is part of the historical administrative region of Apulia at the southeastern tip of the Apennine Peninsula. Gargano Peninsula covers an area of ​​2000 km2 and its surface is made up of mostly highlands of Gargano Promontory. Mountains act as if straight from the sea and thus give Gargano unmistakable character.

Gargano Coastline around Vieste, Puglia, Italy
Gargano Coastline around Vieste, Puglia, Italy by pizzodisevo

Local mountainous landscape contrasts with the forests and rugged coastline, which is formed by steep rocks, cave systems and great beaches. The coast is dotted with small fishing villages, as well as famous holiday resorts.

Unlike northern parts of Italy, Gargano can be regarded as a quiet area. The entire peninsula is now a protected nature reserve with the prohibition of the construction of new buildings and therefore is almost distortion due over-technical civilization. And even though Gargano is becoming a very popular tourist attraction and the number of visitors constantly increasing, it is still possible to enjoy the typical southern Italian way of life and visit stone villages hidden high in the mountains, which has retained its medieval appearance.

As in all coastal areas of Gargano people lived mainly from fishing. Picturesque fishermen’s houses called “Trabucchi” are the main attractions that resemble this period. They are typical wooden structures scattered around the rocks above the sea level that were used for fishing. Some of them are still fully functional.

An ancient Trabocco, Italy
An ancient Trabocco, Italy by Gabriele Marcelli

The climate on the peninsula is Mediterranean with relatively high rainfall from autumn to spring. Summer is really long and sunny with high temperatures. The pleasant Mediterranean climate is ideal for taking trips around the area, sunbathing in crystal clear sea and relaxing on numerous sandy beaches. Due to its location, Gargano is very suitable for lovers of water sports, especially surfing.

Vieste, Gargano, Apulia, Italy
Vieste, Gargano, Apulia, Italy by Alessio Milan

Perhaps the most beautiful town on the Gargano is Vieste built on a rocky peninsula with typical stone white houses and narrow streets. From the fortress of Vieste, which was built by Frederick II., you can experience magnificent views of the coast. There is about 10 km long beach which is also a place of a local landmark – white, 25 m high limestone monolith called “Pizzomunno – Top of the World”. Vieste is a home to Museum of Shells, where you can see an impressive collection of shells from different seas of the world.

Pizzomunno, Vieste, Gargano, Apulia, Italy
Pizzomunno, Vieste, Gargano, Apulia, Italy by pizzodisevo

Then you should not miss Peschici, one of the smallest but also the most beautiful villages in the area. It is said that Peschici is a real pearl of the Gargano peninsula. It is mainly thanks to its marvellous location on a rocky cliff, which is located below sea caves. Here you will see white stone houses and typical winding streets. The village was founded in the Middle Ages. While walking through the old town you will certainly fall in love with distinctive shops and artisan workshops of all kinds.

West of Peschici you can find tourist resort Rodi Garganico, originally a Greek colony and also one of the four historic towns of Gargano. This charming town will enchant you with its historical centre, which is surrounded by a rocky massif. The Rodi Garganico boasts a beautiful wide sandy beach. In the north, near the town, there are two large lagoons – Lesina and Varano. There is also one of the ports from where you can get to pristine Tremiti Islands, which are a paradise for divers.

Tremiti islands, Gargano, Apulia, Italy
Tremiti islands, Gargano, Apulia, Italy by Roby Ferrari

Tremiti Islands (Isole Tremiti) lie off the coast to the north. It is a group of attractive, but so far rarely visited islands, which were declared a protected underwater reserve in 1989. Tremiti are the only islands in the Adriatic Sea belonging to Italy. The archipelago is made up of three small islands – San Nicola, San Domino and Capraia and a rock, called the Cretaccio.

Centuries ago these islands served as a last home to prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment, but also for political prisoners during Benito Mussolini’s reign during and before World War II. The islands are now renowned for their beauty and crystal clear water around. This provides a first-class opportunities for swimming, diving and other water sports. Directly on the island of San Nicola you can visit the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria al Mare. You can get there by ferry from any of ports in Termoli, Foggia, Vieste, Rodi Garganico and Capoiale.

When visiting Gargano you should not miss the inland town of San Giovanni Rotondo hidden by a mountain of Monte Calvo reaching a height of 1,056 meters above sea level. The city is a major pilgrimage site, where crowds of believers are seeking healing there. At the western end of the city stands the modern church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Nearby is the Capuchin monastery.

Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Siponto, Manfredonia, Italy
Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Siponto, Manfredonia, Italy by Leron Vandilcolindion

At the very south part of the Gargano you can then find a port town of Manfredonia, which was founded in the 13th century. The city was built by King Manfred, son of Frederick II. on the site of the city of Siponto which was destroyed in 1223 by an earthquake. The most important sights include the cathedral and the fortress of 13th century and the Archeological Museum.

Furthermore, inside the Gargano area you can visit Foresta Umbra, which is an ancient forest spread on ​​11,000 hectares. It boasts a completely unique vegetation and deep forest made up of beech, yew, lime trees, pines, oaks, chestnuts and other trees. At the heart of this forest you can find Corpo Forestale information centre where you can get detailed information on hiking trails leading through this area.

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