The Gargano Park, the triumph of biodiversity
It’s heaven for the bio-diversities with 120.000 hectares spread with plenty of different habitats. Surprises are endless in the Gargano National Park where a number of protected areas among which the Marine Reserve of Tremiti Islands are set while the last edge of the Umbrian Forest lays in the sun in the hinterland. There are many tiny villages in this park in Puglia and there is also 35% of the whole botanical species that are present in Italy thanks to the different habitats that make it a unique place to be explored throughout the year. You can go deep into the colours and the scents of nature and enjoy good food or you can walk along the different paths and the unusual tracks of the pilgrims. The white rocks plunge into the deep blue Adriatic Sea while your glance gets lost towards the hinterland that is featured by the lush forests, the castles, the monasteries, the crypts, the cathedrals and the rural churches.
Walking, horse-riding or going on two wheels
The Gargano National Park, “the spur of Italy” is a park to be lived, to be slowly sipped along every single path and track where you can go cycling, horse-riding and take your time to be amazed by the beauty of nature and the surrounding architectural jewels. The network of paths is endless: there are more than 350 kilometres that suit every skills and every preference, you can use your bicycle, you can go horse-riding along the 50 kilometres of horse-tracks and along the eight kilometres that connect the rural landscape featured by the ”tratturi” and the drywalls and San Simeone and Monte Sant’Angelo. There’s an amazing view of the coastline and the hinterland from there. From San Giovanni Rotondo, famous all around the world as the home of Padre Pio, you can leave on the Great Crossing of the Gargano Area along a route of two-hundred kilometres that reaches many villages and different area like the Fratta Valley, the Spinapulci forest where the hawthorns blossom and the Carbonara Valley where the coal holes, the farmhouses and the farms stand out.
Land of love and religion
Several Saints crossed these lands, Padre Pio wasn’t the last one. One of them is celebrated all around the world by everyone even by the ones who have never set foot in a church: Saint Valentine, the patron saint of Vico del Gargano, also known as the “village of love”. Every year on February the 14th this village dominated by the castle of Frederick II of Sweden dresses up for a great party and wears beautiful wreaths of oranges that have been produced in this Area for a thousand years (the oranges from Gargano are an IGP product) while the statue of Saint Valentine is kept in the Matrice church and it is taken in procession along the village’s streets. The most famous street is “Vicolo del Bacio” (the street of kisses),it is so narrow that hugs can’t be ignored and there are also lots of street markets all around where the typical products are sold. According to the local legends, the juices that you drink on the 14th February that are made from the holy fruits of the Saint are a real love potion.
The villages among the lakes, the lagoons and the sea
The villages look out on the Adriatic Sea along the coastline: the sea is clear and the trebuchets, the ancient wooden constructions once used for the fishing recall a distant past. In Vieste the long golden beaches are followed by the beautiful reefs, the marine caves and the rocky archways like the one of San Felice. The white beaches, the white lime houses outline Peschici, a tiny village along the coastline that is dominated by the so-called Rocca Imperiale that was built as an outpost to check the arrival of the Saracens. Apoiale and its lagoon and sea views near lake Varanois is a charming place too. Torre Mileto deserves a visit, it is the bathing side of San Nicandro Garganico and the Varano island and its maritime pine forests where the hoopoes and the herons find their shelters is a nice place to go. You can reach the Varano island through the bridges that connect it with the mainland.
Between sacred and profane
Food is the protagonist in this area because of a number of very old traditions to be discovered that bring the memory back to the villages where the time has stopped. In Monte Sant’Angelo, a religious centre that developed around the sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo which is one of the most ancient of the Christian Age (Unesco heritage since 2011), the bread and the “ostie ripiene” (filled wafers) are made, they are crunchy sweets made of fruit, almonds and honey. The village of Carpino gave its name to a bean that has been acknowledged by the slow food organization while in the Lesina lagoons the eels are bred and the “paposce” are baked, they are a sort of bread rolls made with the pizza dough and filled with the pecorino cheese, vegetables and seasoned with the oil produced from the old olive trees of this area. In the Umbrian Forest the truffles won’t be missing as well as the mushrooms, the spontaneous herbs and the magliatello (goat meat) and a glass of good Macchiatello from Gargano or San Severo Doc from Apricena will conquer your taste.
Sleeping, tasting, buying
It’s the green lung of Puglia and it’s surrounded by the sea. The National Park of Gargano is one of the most beautiful areas of the Adriatic coastline. It’s a highly requested tourist destination, it offers a wide range of hotels and restaurants by the sea and in the hinterland. The hotel Piccolo Paradiso is surrounded by a beautiful green area, it has 30 rooms including two rooms for disabled people and a restaurant that is specialized on meat and fish. The Hotel Riviera has a private beach and it’s 400 metres from the historical centre of Rodi Garganico. It has the standard room, the comfort room with a sea view, the family room with two adjoining rooms and the Suite with the hydromassage bathtub and the terrace with a sea view. The Palace Hotel is an elegant four-stars hotel in the centre of the main town of Gargano; it’s an historical building in the Liberty style dating back to the XVth century that offers standard double, triple and quadruple rooms, a junior suite and the suite. Tastes are a landmark of this area where you can enjoy the traditional dishes and a good glass of wine. The restaurant La Taverna of Peschici used to be the shelter of pirates and seamen in the past, it’s a combination of tradition and charming atmosphere where they serve the sea appetizers of the pirates, the spaghetti with the sea urchins, the orecchiette (a type of pasta) with the porcini mushrooms, the clams and cuttlefish with potatoes cooked in the oven. The venison, the barbecue and the salami are some specialties from the wine bar Sapor Di Vino of Ischitella where wine is the main protagonist while at the restaurant Il Trabucco of Peschici the first drink is directly served on the trabucco, among the main specialties there are the seafood cocktails, the grilled fish, spaghetti with the seafood and fried fish. For your shopping you can visit La Massaia, a cheese shop in Vieste where you can also buy the olive oil, the caciocavallo cheese, the cacioricotta cheese, the pecorino cheese and the mulled wine then you can go to the oil mill La Collina del Sole, in Vieste to buy the very good olive oil from the Gargano area.
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