Isola dei Conigli Puglia (Rabbits Island)

About 1 km from the coastal village of Porto Cesareo there is the charming Rabbits Isle (Isola dei Conigli), a must-see if you’re in the area! The island runs parallel to the coast, it is about 2,5 km long and just over 400m wide.

Porto CesareoPhoto Credits Fran Flickr

Origin of its name!

Also known on the sailing maps with the name of Isola Grande, it was renamed Rabbit Island due to a herd of cattle that was started on the island for the local population, particularly rabbits.

The stretch of sea that separates the island from the coast reaches a maximum height of 40 feet, which is why a lot of people swim to the island or walk for short excursions or perhaps to spend the entire day.
Alternatively, the island can be reached by boat from the nearby harbor and, for a few euros, you can indeed get a ride from the local fishermen who can also come and pick you up at an agreed hour; alternatively you can hire the typical Italian “pedalò”.

DSC_0020Photo Credits Frank Flickr

It is important to note that the island is completely uninhabited and without accommodations, bars or any recreational structures. Essentially it is a true natural oasis.
The island is mostly covered by pine trees, Aleppo and Acacias trees, and typical Mediterranean vegetation, which cover most of the dunes and beaches of Salento Peninsula.
It is part of the Marine Protected Area of Porto Cesareo and is surrounded by beautiful seabed, perfect for diving lovers!

Isola dei conigliPhoto Credits Simone Flickr

Tremiti Islands

Tremiti Islands is an archipelago composed of five small islands and is located just 20 km from the Northern coast of Gargano. The five islands are: St. Nicholas (San Nicola), St. Domino, Capraia, Cretaccio and the farthest out, Pianosa; from an administrative point of view they belong to the Foggia Province and are also part of the Gargano National Park.

The archipelago was originally named Insulae Diomedae in honor of Greek hero Diomede, which as the story goes, founded the archipelago and was buried on one of the islands. Tremiti Islands are accessible by boat from Rodi Garganico, Peschici, Vieste, Manfredonia and by helicopter from Foggia. Most boats arrive at St. Domino and small boats regularly make the brief crossing to St. Nicola.

tremiti islandsThe archipelago is a jewel, literally a pearl in the Adriatic Sea, and makes for a splendid trip. The hour-long boat ride takes you to a world of raggedy cliffs, sandy coves and thick pine woods, surrounded by the cobalt-blue sea. Pretty deserted during winter months they become very crowded in summer when some 100,000 tourists descend on the archipelago. This is due mainly to its natural beauty, history, nature, sunshine and sparkling blue waters, all within a national marine park. The crystalline waters and the splendid backdrops recall many tourists, attracted by the possibility of diving and underwater fishing where permitted. This is a wonderful destination for a day trip, or even better a relaxing extended holiday.

TremitiSt. Nicholas is the second largest inhabited island, it is also the heart of the archipelago. In fact it has always been the historical, religious and administrative center of the entire archipelago. Inhabited by monks since ancient times, it was a refuge for hermits and was also a penal colony. In the past it has also been used as the main defence against intruders, with its high walls and fortifications perched at the top of the island. From a historical point of view there are large tracks of the past, among these we recall the castle like cluster of medieval buildings which rises up from the rocks, churches and fortifications walls. The Santa Maria a Mare Abbey which was founded in 1045. It guards a wooden cross (the only Greek Byzantine found in Italy) and its floor is made of a huge mosaic dating from the eleventh century. Its rocky coastline is dotted with dramatic caves and beaches, some of which can be reached by steep paths and others only by boat.

Isole-Tremiti

St. Domino island is the largest and most beautiful from a scenic point of view. Its coastline is characterized by the presence of several caves: Bue Marino cave, Murene cave, Viole cave, Sale cave. Not to be missed is a boat trip to the Rondinelle and Coccodrillo caves. Entirely covered with the beautiful coastal pines, thanks to its breathtaking seabed, the waters clear, cliffs and beaches this island is the main tourist destination in the archipelago as it is the most equipped in terms of tourism facilities. It offers a port, heliport, and a large number of hotels, restaurants, holiday villages, camp-sites and diving centers.

Capraia is the second island in order of extension and is absolutely wild and uninhabited. This island is a favourite destination for scuba diving, among other excursions you can visit the wreck of the Roman ship Three Senghe dating back to the second century BC. The extraordinary clarity and color of its waters allow visitors to admire through the depths some of the most colorful sponges, annelids, curly fans and marine stars.

Pianosa is a deserted island and is barely more than an out-cropping of rocks but has extraordinary environmental importance and is one of the most protected under the Marine Reserve established in 1989 to preserve the exceptional variety of underwater plant life. Bathing, boating, and fishing are virtually impossible here. In addition to being abundant with sea-life, the waters around the island also gives up fragments of ceramics and Roman amphorae, resulting from the Roman ships that sailed its seas.

Cretaccio is simply a large rock and is uninhabited, according to legend it is populated by ghosts. As the legend goes, a prisoner was executed on this island, and his ghost still now lives there, holding his head in his hands. To enrich the”thrill” contributes to the nearby rock La Vecchia, a dark black, owned by an old witch.

Otranto

Otranto is a town in the province of Lecce and is part the Salento area. It is located in a harbor along the east coast on the Adriatic Sea and is the easternmost town in Italy. Its small seaport is mostly used for fishing activity and tourism, especially for the ferry services to Greece. The city also gave its name to the Strait of Otranto, which separates Italy from Albania.
The old town of Otranto has been declared by UNESCO as “Heritage witness to a culture of peace”.

otranto_beautifulpuglia

Otranto is strategically located along the coast and is therefore always been considered a natural bridge between East and West. Especially during the Roman Empire when the town became one of the most important maritime centers of Italy and the natural point of trade with Greece.

Today Otranto is a quiet town and a popular tourist destination. Its historical center has been included in the list of the most beautiful towns in Italy, from “I borghi piu’ belli d’Italia”, and the town attracts each year thousands of tourists especially during summer months. The town still retains its characteristic appearance of the ancient market towns that are washed by the Mediterranean. While walking around the town, the ancient walls and the Aragonese Castle can be admired. The castle is a massive building which is part of the tough defenses of Otranto. It was built in the 15th century on one of Frederick II’s earlier fortresses ruins. It is open to the public and sometimes houses temporary exhibitions.

otranto_beautifulpuglia

Another masterpiece of Baroque architecture is the Cathedral of S. Maria Assunta, consecrated in 1088, it has a huge rose window. The interior, has columns said to come from a temple of Minerva and a fine mosaic pavement of 1166, it is one of the largest mosaics in the world and depicts the “tree of life” with interesting representations of the months and Old Testament subjects. The Cathedral has a crypt supported by 42 marble columns. It holds the bones of 800 martyrs (later proclaimed saints ) who were killed by the Turks in 1480 in an attempt to conquer the town. Bones are kept on massive shelves inside the cathedral.

otranto_beautifulpuglia

Despite the different destruction suffered throughout the time, Otranto retains a very well defined old town, with the typical aspect of the southern Italian houses painted in bright colors which make it very picturesque. The old town is still enclosed within its defensive walls; the small streets are full of bars, restaurants and small souvenirs shops. On summer nights Otranto has a lovely holiday scene and usually street artists fill up the city center with their shows. Tourism is in constant expansion thanks to the beautiful beaches and landscape that this town can offer, and the warm hospitality of the locals.

otranto_beautifulpuglia

Zinzulusa Cave

Just a couple of miles north of Castro, there is the phenomenal Zinzulusa Grotto, the most famous Karst cave along the Puglian coastline and considered to be one of the most important examples of this geologic phenomenon in Italy. The name comes from the word zinzuli, meaning rags. In fact the extensive collection of stalactites and stalagmites that fill this cave look like rags hanging from the ceiling.

grotta_zinzulusa_beautifulpuglia

The cave was discovered in 1793 but has only been explored and open to the public for about 50 years. During its exploration, many vases and votive axes dating back 5,000 years were discovered. The excavated part is huge but only a small portion is open to the public and it can only be visited on a guided tour. The entrance to the cave faces the sea, the access consists of a long set of purpose-built steps followed by a walk along the cliff side. If there is high tide the steps are covered and the cave becomes inaccessible.

The cave consists of three different areas:

The entrance leads to the Corridoio delle Meraviglie (Corridor of Marvels) which preserves the best rock formations. In this area there is also a small lake, called Trabocchetto, of crystalline water mixed with fresh sea infiltration. It also houses a number of endemic species of aquatic life, among these there is a rare species of shrimp, with no eyes.

grotta_zinzulusa_beautifulpuglia

The corridor leads to a crypt area, also called Duomo (Cathedral) where smooth walls soar 25 meters above the floor level, creating a rather enormous room. The Crypt used to be inhabited by bats which had covered the floor with their guano for 5-7 meters. The guano, solid and on which it was possible to walk, was lifted in 1940 by workers who also created the interior walkways, today used for sightseeing. All bats have since left for less crowded areas, leaving the room open for tourists to enjoy.

The final section of the cave is called Cocito, it reaches up to 160 meters beyond the entrance, and houses the small enclosed basin on Cocito. Its waters are characterized by a stratification: in the lower part they are warm and brackish, on the surface they are sweet and cold.

The Zinzulusa cave gets very busy in summer. During the summer season many fishing boats are also available just outside the cave’s entrance for tours at the water level: experienced guides will guide you along the cliffs overlooking the sea to discover many coves and small caves.

grotta_zinzulusa_beautifulpuglia

Vieste

Vieste is a town in the province of Foggia, it is part of the Gargano National Park and it has been, more than once, awarded the Blue Flag by the Foundation for Environmental Education for the quality of its coastline and bathing water.

vieste_beautifulpuglia

It is located on a small rocky peninsula and has a characteristic shape with three large bays divided by two points:

San Francesco Point: facing East it is the higher and mostly rocky point. The medieval town is located in this area; it is full of narrow streets, stairways and arches, which surround the most prestigious and historical buildings (St. Francis Church and the Cathedral). Santa Croce Point: facing North it is lower. In this area, mostly flat, the new town has extended. It’s also in this area where Vieste’s port is located, still important for fisheries activities and sea transport to Tremiti Islands and Croatia.

The origins of Vieste date back to the 10th century BC. The city has been invaded several times over the past and it has been ruled by different populations such as the Byzantines, Lombards, Romans and Greeks.

vieste_beautifulpuglia

It was during the Norman and Swabian reigns that the city had its peak in the urban development. Evidence of achievements and glories of the past is the Cathedral in Romanesque style and the Castle, a massive building which was built by the Swabians and which dominates the city skyline with its stately figure.

South of San Francesco Point is the beach known as the Castle, where a 25m high monolith called Pizzomunno is located. It is also the symbol of the town. As the story goes, in the days when Vieste was still a fishing village a boy named Pizzomunno and his beloved named Cristalda lived in the village. The young couple loved each other and nothing could break their love. The man faced the sea every day with his boat and the mermaids used to emerge from the sea and sang in honor of the fisherman. They had also offered immortality but he had always refused it because he loved his beloved. One night, while the two lovers were on the beach, the mermaids attacked Cristalda and dragged her into the sea. Pizzomunno followed her in vain. The young man was found the next day by other fishermen, he was petrified by the pain in the white rock that still bears his name. According to legend, every hundred years Cristalda comes back from the depths of the sea to reach her young lover for one night and relive their old love.

vieste_beautifulpuglia

Definitely one of the main tourist destinations in Puglia, Vieste is surrounded by several tourist attractions of natural and historical interest, among the others we remind: Tremiti Islands archipelago: located just off the North coast this archipelago is easily accessible from Vieste. Foresta Umbra: one of the most important natural resources for Southern Italy it is part of the Gargano National Park. The early Christian necropolis La Salata, located East the town, is one of the oldest and most characteristic of the Mediterranean basin. Several caves are also located along its coast, they are the result of karst phenomena, but also the corrosive action of sea water and wind and are characterized by various and bizarre shapes. Daily tours with local fishermen are available to explore them. Among the others: the two Eyes (due occhi), the Round cave (grotta rotonda), the Bat (dei pipistrelli), Snake (del serpente), Viola, the Emerald (Smeralda)and the Architiello.

Trani

Trani, with Andria and Barletta, is the capital of the Province Barletta-Andria-Trani (BAT). The city is an historic fishing port on the Adriatic coast and is located in a small natural bay. It is an ideal destination for a daily trip as it is easily reachable and is a lovely place to explore, wander and relax.

trani_beautifulpuglia

Its name comes from Tirenum as according to legend it was founded by Tirreno, son of Diomedes.

The city is well known for the beauty of its port and an immense historical architectonic patrimony, reminiscent of a glorious past. The origin of the city dates back the prehistoric age but the first historical artifacts that have been found date back the period of the Roman Empire. After the fall of the Empire the city was conquered by the Byzantine Empire and later on in medieval times it had an important economic and cultural development, thanks to its port the city was in fact a crossroads between East and West.

trani_beautifulpuglia

It was during this time that Frederick II ordered the construction of the Swabian Castle (1233) that signed the economic peak for the city. The castle, which dominates the sea, was used as a prison but today it’s open to the public and houses exhibitions and events.

The Cathedral of San Nicola Pellegrino is the most important building in town and is the most famous example of Romanesque style in Puglia. The magnificent church was founded in 1097 (on the ruins of the church dedicated to Santa Maria della Scala) but was only completed in 1197 ; it is built on the water’s edge and it overlooks the sea from its spectacular position. The big facade has a rose window and beside the the church is the bell tower. The original bronze door has been removed and is displayed inside.

trani_beautifulpuglia

The Church of Ognissanti, built by the Knights Templar, it was used as shelter and hospital by pilgrims and crusaders on their route to the Holy Land.

The traveler will also enjoy a walk around the harbor with a great view of the Cathedral. Also not be missed is the Villa Comunale, a charming garden by the sea, definitely one of the best spots in the city.

trani_beautifulpuglia

Photo Credits ProLoco Trani 

Torre Guaceto

Located about 10 miles Northwest of Brindisi is the WWF Natural Reserve of Torre Guaceto, its name comes from the Arab Gawsit meaning “land of fresh water”. Since 1975 it has been declared a wetland of international interest and in 1991 a protected marine area has also been constituted. The reserve covers an area of nearly 22 km2 and 8 Km of coastline spread around the ancient fortified tower and is one of the best preserved stretches of coast along the Adriatic coast.

Torre GuacetoPhoto Credits: Flickr-NEVILLE ROSSI
The whole area is characterized by the different environments that include wetlands, marshes and dunes that rise up to 10 meters, the Mediterranean maquis and agricultural land. Its protected oasis represents the perfect habitat for many animal species: it attracts many species of migrating birds and turtles and reeds are also present inland.

The agricultural area is characterized mostly by large olive trees groves bordered by the typical dry stone low walls. The wetland is probably the most characteristic of the entire area. It is fed by underground spring water and covered with thick reeds grove. However the water is brackish as the whole area is located along the coast.

... un Salento da scoprirePhoto Credits: Flickr-FranK
The Mediterranean maquis, mainly covering the northern part of the reserve, is an ecosystem typical of the whole region: it consists mainly of shrubs and small trees but other species such as juniper, myrtle, thyme and oak can also be found here.

Lots of activities are available in the reserve to better discover this amazing place and enjoy your stay in the area: walks, cycling tours and snorkelling in the marine reserve are organized (bicycles and snorkelling outfit can be rent onsite).

For further information please visit the website: www.riservaditorreguaceto.it