With its white beaches, limestone cliffs overlooking the blue sea, clear waters, caves carved by the sea, centuries-old forests, coastal lakes, tourist towns and villages to discover, the Gargano promontory in Apulia, also known as the “Spur of Italy”, will astonish you for the variety of places to visit it offers and for its beauties between land and sea. The clear waters of the Adriatic Sea washes the 140 kilometers of the Gargano coast; its shores, characterized by fine and clear sandy gulfs and bays, and by protected and secluded coves, maybe reachable only by sea, are among the most popular tourist destinations for Italians.
Some of the most beautiful Apulian beaches are located in this northern area of the region, such as Pizzomunno Beach in Vieste, dominated by the imposing tuff monolith over 25 meters high, the sandy beach of Mattinata, the Zagare Bay , which opens on a stretch of coastline jagged by rocky caves and spurs, and the beach of Manacore, near Peschici. In the same area you can find the Gusmay Bay, reachable only by sea, framed by two rocky peaks, which is a place of absolute peace, as well as Zaiana beach or Cala beach, all unique and truly enchanting places.
Those who love the sea should go to the Tremiti Islands at least once in their life. The unique position that distinguishes them enhances their charm. This charm is due to the blue and deep waters of the Adriatic Sea that surrounds them. The beauty and unspoiled nature of the landscapes, combined with the clarity of the waters, have allowed this archipelago to conquer the title of ” Pearl of the Adriatic Sea “.
The Tremiti Islands are about 10 miles from the Gargano Coast and are characterized by contrasting and varied views; these varieties are also rediscovered on the seabed of the underwater landscape. The transparency of the sea exalts and amplifies the multiplicity of colors. There are alternate seabeds and underwater walls waiting to be explored.
Since 1996, the Tremiti Islands have become part of the Gargano National Park as a Marine Nature Reserve .
For their bathing waters quality, the Tremiti Islands have been awarded the Blue Flag many times ; it is a prestigious award from the Foundation for Environmental Education.
The Archipelago includes five islands:
- San Domino , the largest one, covered by an Aleppo pine forest and holm oaks, is certainly the most beautiful from a naturalistic and landscape point of view.
- San Nicola is rich in monuments that bear witness to the history of the islands: towers, imposing fortifications, walls, churches and cloisters of an abbey-fortress, Santa Maria a Mare, which has a significant historical and artistic interest.
- Capraia is empty of trees and buildings, but covered with grass and blazing flowers and it is destination and abode for a huge seagull colony.
- Cretaccio , little more than a cliff, is a natural bridge between San Domino and San Nicola, and for some time it was really the “pillar” of a bridge connecting the two largest islands.
- Pianosa , located about twenty kilometers northeast of Capraia Island, is administratively in the Tremiti Islands. It constitutes an integral reserve of the Marine Park.
THE UMBRA FOREST
The Umbra Forest , the green lung of the Gargano National Park , is an area still unspoiled, wild and beautiful, to be explored on foot or on mountain bikes. The dense and centuries-old vegetation characterizes its surface and protects the local wildlife that lives safely in the thick forest, under the shade of Aleppo pines and oaks. The Gargano promontory in Apulia, with its karst morphology, is also rich in caves and sinkholes, such as the Montenero Cave or the chasm of Campoalto, rare natural beauties worth discovering.
The forest is thousand-year old and has preserved almost all its vegetal mantle.
You can easily imagine how precious the Umbra Forest is for all scholars and lovers of the flora and fauna that inhabit this area. The Forest is also frequently visited by nature photography lovers, which can thus shoot fantastic pictures.
SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO
In the Gargano hinterland it rises the city of San Giovanni Rotondo. It is famous in the world for being the place where Saint Pio of Pietrelcina’s remains are kept. He was a Capuchin friar, who lived in this town for about 50 years.
Surrounded by the green Gargano National Park and set on high hills in the shelter of the Monte Calvo, the city of San Giovanni is situated in the center of a beautiful natural scenery. Going back in time, we have to trace back to the year 1000 in order to discover the origins of this town.
The city suffered a series of vicissitudes until the then very young Padre Pio arrived, in 1916 .
The historical center of San Giovanni is a separate part of the city, for those who are used to visiting its sacred places related to the worship of Padre Pio. The ancient part of the city develops into a network of narrow alleys and suggestive corners that reproduce images of an ancient past.
Monte Sant’Angelo is known around the world for its religious history, becoming a favorite destination for pilgrims. Saints, emperors, popes, kings, or just devoted have come here to kneel before the altar of the Archangel Michael .
The town is the highest one in the Gargano and it is situated in a wonderful panoramic position on a spur to the south of the promontory, with breathtaking views open on the Tavoliere to the west, and on the Gulf of Manfredonia to the south. It is also Gargano National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The town’s life is centered around the Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel , built between the 5th and the 6th century when, according to the tradition, the apparitions of the Archangel would have taken place in a cave.
The Lombards, who in that period ruled in southern Italy, made it their national shrine. Rapidly, it became a renowned center throughout Christianity and an obliged destination, not only for pilgrims from all over Europe, but also for Crusaders departing for Jerusalem.
The inhabited area has an elongated shape around the axis formed by Manfredi Street; the latter is linked, on the western side of the town, to the highway towards San Giovanni Rotondo and, on the east side, to a branch of the Gargano highway.