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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Valenti

Gargano: not the same old Puglia



If you are thinking about the holidays for this summer, and you chose Italy as your destination, here you will find a great option! Gargano is a fantastic destination, not too obvious and that will surely surprise you!


Tramonto nel Centro Storico di Vieste, Gargano, Puglia

Gargano, also nicknamed the "spur of Italy", was our destination for the end of summer, with the usual last-minute organization, since we travelled during the Covid pandemic there was a lot of uncertainty about what could or could not be done. Honestly? No, we were not at all convinced about our choice, but we threw ourselves into the discovery of this area in which we had already been as children, and we definitely changed our mind! The area is full of beautiful villages: from the coastal ones overlooking the sea, with a maze of white alleys that will remind you of Santorini, such as Vieste and Peschici, to the mountain ones of Vico del Gargano, Monte Sant'Angelo and San Giovanni Rotondo, which we were unable to visit. Gargano is a very varied area and ideal for those who do not like the classic days of sunbathing on the beach, you can choose from many different activities: from Mattinata to Vieste there are many cliffs overlooking the sea, fjords and wonderful beaches: Vignanotica, Cala della Pergola, Pugnochiuso and Baia di Campi are just some of the bays and coves that you can visit, not to mention the sea caves, the natural arch of San Felice and the stacks of Pizzomunno and Baia delle Zagare. From Vieste onwards the coast becomes gentler, with long sandy beaches interspersed with rocky ridges, with the inevitable coastal towers and trebuchets where you absolutely cannot fail to go.


ITINERARY

Let's start from the overview of our trip, to understand how we moved in the area and how we organized our time in the Gargano!

  • Monday 31.08: arrival, nice walk in Vieste city centre and dinner at Osteria al Duomo.

  • Tuesday 1.09: beach day at Pizzomunno, horse riding on the cost, happy hour at sunset time at Carpenter Wine Bar and dinner at Grottino.

  • Wednesday 02.09: Baia delle Zagare and its Faraglioni (stacks) canoing; happy hour at Vignanotica's kiosk and tent night on the beach.

  • Thursday 03.09: went back to the hotel stopping by Arco di San Felice; afternoon exploring Manfredonia and visiting the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore di Siponte; ahappy hour at Brezza in Vieste and dinner at cena Trabucco da Mimì.

  • Friday 04.09: visit at Vieste local market; left from Cala della Sanguinara canoing and visited Grotta Sfondata and Grotta dei due Occhi, than went back to Baia dei Campi; dinner at Camavité and had a nice walk in Peschici city centre.

  • Saturday 05.09: beach day at Cala della Pergola and dinner at Kraken.

  • Sunday 06.09: beach day at Colombi Beach and dinner on the way bak at Caruso, in Abruzzo.

But let's see everything in detail!


Where to stay

For the hotel we made a reservation on Booking.com

649€ in total for a room for 3 people, with breakfast included

Really wonderful eighteenth-century building in the historic center of Vieste, very convenient location: you can reach anything on foot, the area is quiet, super cute and characteristic. Recommended by the hotel staff, we always left the car in a guarded parking lot just after the Marina Piccola, which we always reached with a 10-minute stroll, spending 50€ for the whole week. The room was nice big, spotless, very nice and with air conditioning, the bathroom was also spacious and well stocked. Breakfast included in the price, buffet style with a wide choice of both sweet and savory products.



Vieste:

  • Pizzomunno

Pizzomunno is the famous limestone monolith 25 meters high located at the beginning of the beach just outside the center of Vieste, called "del Castello" (because it is dominated by the Castello Svevo) or "Pizzomunno" beach. It has become the symbol of the Gargano town thanks also to the legends that are linked to it. Getting there is very simple, we walked from the center heading south, in about fifteen minutes you will find it in all its immensity at the beginning of the Mattei waterfront. The beach itself is not that great, honestly, but it is certainly worth a stop for the majesty of Pizzomunno. The water is not splendid, being so close to the city and even the sand is often sprinkled with algae. For those wishing to admire it from above, you can do it in the area of ​​the historic center that goes from the Swabian Castle to Piazzetta Petrone, I happened to be there one morning while I was jogging, I don't have more precise directions, but sure you can get there!


  • The Staircase of Love

La Scala dell'Amore, Vieste, Gargano, Puglia

It was created on the occasion of the 1st Vieste in Love in the historic center by painting one of the stairs that connect the upper door of the old city with Corso Fazzini, right near the town hall of the Municipality of Vieste. On the steps is the text of the song "The Legend of Pizzomunno and Cristalda" by Max Gazzè, which talks about the legend of Pizzomunno. It's said that walking along it with your loved one will remain united forever. PS: obviously Enrico was forced to do it!


  • Marina Piccola and Vieste Lighthouse

Alba al Faro di Vieste, Marina Piccola, Gargano, Puglia

Marina Piccola is a bay in the center, bordered by Punta San Francesco and the medieval old town on one side, by Punta Santa Croce and the nineteenth-century village on the other, while the islet of Santa Eufemia, with its lighthouse, partially closes the bay. A walk along Marina Piccola is not to be missed, to admire the lighthouse and the splendid view that can be enjoyed at sunset, perhaps sipping a drink during happy hour at the Brezza, a kiosk that you will find right in the center. I ran there almost every morning, reaching the port and I enjoyed the spectacular sunrises overlooking the lighthouse! I recommend trying it at least once, it will definitely be worth it to get up early!

Alba al Faro di Vieste, Marina Piccola, Gargano, Puglia
  • Historic City Center

Centro Storico di Vieste, Gargano, Puglia

Also called "Old Vieste", it's where we stayed and where we spent most of our evenings: we literally fell in love with it. It stands on a rock overlooking the sea that extends from the beach of the castle to that of the "Marina Piccola", crossing the thin strip of land of "Punta San Francesco". The village is ancient, of medieval origin and has kept its original characters almost intact, with its characteristic irregular alleys and squares / belvedere (with a suggestive view of the sea, not to be missed at sunset!). Unmissable a drink at happy hour on the walls overlooking the sea, a tour of the typical shops among the white streets and excellent dinners based on local products in the countless restaurants that you will find at every corner!

  • Local Market

Mercato Locale di Vieste, Gargano, Puglia

We spent the morning there before going back home, to stock up on typical products. A few steps from the center, in piazzale Jenner, it offers local products at km0, with a choice between fresh and canned: fruit and vegetables but also oil, cheeses, liqueurs, spices. A visit is worth even if you have no intention of buying anything, only for the colors and kindness of the merchants, who will offer you a thousand delicious tastes!



Peschici

At 90 meters above the sea level, it's located about 20 km north of Vieste, continuing on the coast road, between a crystalline sea and green pine forests. It's often nicknamed the Italian Santorini, but personally I have found much more Greece in Vieste, which I definitely prefer between the two. Wonderful alleys perfumed with geraniums and basil, with smells of oven, olive oil, between arches, small arches, sudden squares and old doors. It's worth taking a tour in the evening, tasting a pasticciotto, getting lost in the cafes and admiring the sea view.


Manfredonia

The largest city in Gargano: we visited it a little quickly in an afternoon, walking along the seafront and passing in front of the Fortress, the statue of Manfredi, then towards the center in the colorful alleys that characterize the place. It's worth visiting the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Siponte, you can get there by car, just 3km from Manfredonia. Access is free and will take you just over half an hour away but given the particularity of the site, if you are in the area, don't miss it. To the left of the church, excavations have revealed the remains of an early Christian basilica, with three naves with a semicircular apse and a mosaic floor. In fact, in 2016 the artist Edoardo Tresoldi created a spectacular fourteen meter high wire mesh installation that reconstructs the ancient basilica in 3D exactly above its remains.




Zagare's Bay and Vignanotica beach - canoing to the stacks and tent night on the beach

Baia delle Zagare, Gargano, Puglia

Baia delle Zagare is one of the symbolic beaches of Gargano, thanks to the presence of the high white cliffs and two beautiful limestone stacks sculpted by the wind and the white pebble beach. It's located in the territory of Mattinata, almost 30 km from Vieste. There are actually two beaches, separated by a cliff: Baia delle Zagare and Baia dei Faraglioni.

Baia dei Faraglioni, Gargano, Puglia

The bay can be reached by sea, or through old paths accessible from the main road. We went there by canoe, which we had brought from home, but it's possible to rent it on the spot in Vignanotica. It's a splendid beach of sand mixed with gravel and pebbles, about 500 meters long, characterized by the presence of multiple caves dug by the sea and from the high and white limestone cliff behind it, or book a guided boat excursion. Once we drove to Vignanotica beach, we left the car in a guarded parking lot until the next day for 10€. Inside the parking lot you will find public toilets with showers too, in front of which a somewhat improvised shuttle service departs that will take you regularly all day to the beach. If you want to stay on the beach, there are two or three equipped bathrooms, with a restaurant and the possibility of renting sunbeds, umbrellas and canoes.

Baia delle Zagare e dei Faraglion, Gargano, Puglia

From here we left by canoe towards Baia delle Zagare and the Stacks, entering the caves and stopping in a small bay where we enjoyed a sunny day in absolute solitude. A true paradise! In the late afternoon we went back to Vignanotica beach, settled in the parking lot bathrooms, left the canoe and took the backpacks with the necessary equipment for the night in a tent on the beach.

Aperitivo a Baia delle Zagare, Gargano, Puglia

In fact, in Vignanotica it is '' allowed '' to camp on the beach: at night it's very common to see the tents set up inside the recesses in the limestone cliff behind the beach, to shelter from the wind. We then ate something in the kiosk to the right of the beach, got our supplies for the evening and, once the crowds were gone, we set up camp.

We were the only ones on the whole beach, it was a wonderful experience super recommended and easy given the shuttle services and public toilets in the parking lot!

Cala della Pergola, Baia di Campi, Colombi Beach

Cala della Pergola, Gargano, Puglia

Gargano is full of coves with crystal clear waters, you will be spoiled for choice! I propose three of them, all personally tested by us on our journey.

  • Cala della Pergola: very small inlet between the cliff rocks, very clear blue water, possibility of diving from the rocks. Easy to reach by car, the parking is immediately above the beach but there are few places; for this reason, as well as for the fact that it is a really small cove, I strongly recommend arriving early in the morning in order to easily find parking and win a nice space in front of the sea.

  • Baia di Campi: we stopped reaching it by canoe after visiting also Grotta Sfondata and Grotta due Occhi by sea. Nothing special, in my opinion, but a good post-canoe support point. In front of it there is an islet that can be easily reached by swimming, from which many take dives. P.s: we arrived there by sea, and I confess that we were not able to leave by land. Or rather, we did it but we quietly crossed the campsite!

  • Colombi Beach: it's located between Vieste and Peschici, compared to the previous two which you will find south of Vieste, in the Mattinata area. Very pretty, separated in two by the rocks, and with some very suggestive recesses, to reach it a short walk awaits you in a path that is not well marked but if you ask for directions you will find it without problems.

Spiaggia del Pizzomunno, Vieste, Gargano, Puglia



All these beaches are not equipped, we had brought from home a beach tent taken from Decathlon, very comfortable, which I recommend for this area.




Grotta Sfondata and Grotta dei due Occhi

This area is very famous for the coast characterized by stacks, caves and rocks overlooking the sea, all reachable by sea thanks to organized boat excursions or by canoe by renting it in any bathroom on the beach.

Cala della Sanguinara, Gargano, Puglia

These are perhaps the two most famous and most beautiful caves, which are absolutely not to be missed. We reached them both by canoe, which as already mentioned we had brought from home, starting from Cala della Sanguinaria, a small inlet that is not practical for a day on the beach, but excellent as a departure for this type of outing, and in any case very suggestive.


From here we paddled up to the two caves, a short distance from each other (also feasible for those who are not used to canoeing and are not too trained, like me!). The caves are splendid, in both there is the possibility to descend into a small strip of land, take pictures and stop for a while.


Take into account the times to return and the weather and sea conditions.


Horse riding - Vieste

Very recommended experience if you want to do something different! The horse riding school is easily accessible by car, just a few minutes from Vieste. We booked by phone, chose a time and based on availability they satisfied us. The walk takes about an hour, and from the horse riding school, located a few hundred meters from the coast, we reached the beach and the cliffs, enjoying a breathtaking view. The owners are super nice, very good with animals and experts, I had never been on a horse and I always felt safe and comfortable. The animals are magnificent and super trained, making the outing suitable for children as well.


What and where to eat in Gargano

To deepen our culinary journey in the Gargano, to discover the typical dishes of this land and the best restaurants in the area, click here for an entire post dedicated to food!

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