A few miles from Manfredonia, along the road that leads to Foggia, there is the Abbey of San Leonardo di Siponto, an enchanting place for its history and unique in the world for its astronomical phenomena.
Bovino, one of the most beautiful villages of Italy
An enchanting village of the Daunia Mountains, officially elected as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy”, is Bovino. Founded by the Dauni population in 323 B.C., it was destroyed during the Samnite wars started in 343 BC and rebuilt by the Romans under the name of Vibinum.
Gargano, also known as the spur of the Italian boot, is a promontory (it’s actually called the Gargano Promontory) that extends into the eastern part of Puglia and is surrounded by the Adriatic Sea. It is part of the province of Foggia and is almost entirely occupied by the Gargano National Park
Daunia Mountains, on the footsteps of the Romans
The Sub-Apennine Dauno, also known as Daunia Mountains, is a mountain chain located in the North West part of the Capitanata, so called the Province of Foggia, and derives its names from the ancient Italic population of Dauni, who lived in the area during the first and second millennium B.C.
The Daunia Mountains include 30 charming villages and the area is well known for being the green heart of Puglia. Rich in lush forests and valleys, the Daunia Mountains offer their visitors astonishing views of landscapes, medieval castles and architectural beauties. Its economy is based on natural and agricultural resources, that is why this area is rich in food productions, such as olive oil, wines, cheese, sausages and oven products. Daunia Mountains villages take particular care of their products to ensure they keep intact their characteristics coming from an ancient culture. Daunia Mountains is certainly a perfect destination for those who wish to immerse their selves into nature and outdoor activities, but also relax and enjoy some tasting of local wine and traditional food.
The best period to visit the Daunia Mountains is from June to August, when most of the religious and cultural events take place. To know more about activities and calendar of events we invite you to visit the official page of Daunia Mountains.
How to Get to Daunia Mountains
All the villages of Daunia Mountains are connected with the main train station of Foggia and its airport “Gino Lisa”. Alternative connections are the international airports of “Karol Wojtyła” in Bari and “Capodichino” in Naples.
Daily buses run from Foggia to the 30 villages. To know more about routes and timetables you can refer to the following bus company’s websites: Ferrovie del Gargano, Sitabus, Acapt e Clp Bus.
If you are travelling by car from the North, you can take the Autostrada A14 (Bologna-Taranto) and get the way out at Foggia. From there, you can continue on:
- the Strada Statale S.S. 90 to Benevento or
- the Strada Statale S.S. 655 to Candela or
- the Strada Statale S.S. 17 to Campobasso or
- the Strada Statale S.S. 546 to Troia.
To know more on transports visit our section How to Get to Puglia.
The Villages of Daunia Mountains
Find more about Bovino, elected one of the “Most Beautiful Villages of Italy”, with its evocative Svevian atmosphere of the Castello Ducale, the Romanesque-style Cathedral, its historical past and magical landscapes.
More information on the other villages to follow!
We thank Gal Meridaunia for the collaboration.
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.
The 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.
St. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rodi Garganico is small town located along the Northern coastline of the Gargano area. It is perched on a rocky promontory and surrounded on both sides by sandy beaches. Rodi Garganico is known as “Il giardino del Gargano” (Garden of Gargano), the town is in fact surrounded by olives and citrus fruit groves which fill the air with the scent of their intense flowers.
The town has very ancient origins, dating back from the 13th century BC; It was founded by the Cretans and was taken over by Greeks and the Rhodians during the 8th century BC, hence the name Rodi. Later on it was called Uria by the Romans. For many centuries Rodi was a fishing village and a trading port.
The old town recalls the same architecture of most of the coastal towns in Puglia, with little whitewashed and pastel-colored houses near the old fishing port which overlook the sea, narrow and steep lanes, stairs and huge fortified walls originally built to protect the town from maritime attacks (remains of the walls are still well preserved).
As well as the fortified walls, other ancient buildings are well kept in the old town: the stunning Church of Saint Peter and the Sanctuary of the Madonna Libera; the Church of Saint Nicola di Mira with the Byzantine-style bell tower and the medieval Church of Saint Barbara; the ruins of the Aragonese Castle.
Rodi has changed quite a lot in the last few years and today it appears like a modern seaside resort and one of the main destinations in the Gargano area, getting very busy especially in summer; it is literally inundated by tourists during summer months particularly in the Lido del Sole beach (Sunny beach).
It is worth a full day visit, and its port is often used as departure gate for the Tremiti Island. Few destinations are easily reachable from Rodi Garganico such as the Foresta Umbra in the heart of the Gargano National Park and the two lakes of Lesina and Varano: a narrow sand strip separates the lakes from the Adriatic Sea, this is a place for nature lovers and birds birdwatchers as many different species will choose this area during the nesting on their migratory route towards Africa.
If you are around Rodi in May, pop into the town and visit the sagra delle arance, orange fair, a celebration of oranges and all citrus fruit, the town is decorated with colored stands where you will be able to taste and buy local specialties.
Peschici is a small village in the province of Foggia, its territory is part of the Gargano National Park. It is a popular seaside resort with a marina and is one of the finest tourist destinations in Puglia. It has, very often, been awarded with the blue flag, by Foundation for Environmental Education, for the beauty of its coasts. The village is perched on a rocky promontory above the sea and the ancient area still retains original features of the medieval village.
At the top of the rocky promontory there is the medieval castle and all around the village there are several remains of the ancient fortification walls and towers. Very characteristic are its small houses, white washed and covered with domed roofs which allow the village to preserve its oriental style. It has the typical structure of the small ancient medieval villages with a narrow undulating streets, little steps and steep alleys, chimney-tops and little balconies, outside steps, vaults and arches Nowadays lots of its small houses in the old town are being renovated and turned into souvenirs shops or charming hotels.
Main monuments in Peschici are: the Parish Church (which houses paintings of Pacecco De Rosa, an Italian Baroque Era Painter), the Santa Maria di Calena Church and several defensive towers scattered along the coast, among these the Monte Pucci tower which offers a great view of the harbor.
The coastline is characterized by the presence of several caves, of particular interest are St. Nicholas and Manacore caves. Underwater fishing is also widely practiced in its deep blue sea.
With its wonderful panoramic location overlooking the sea, Peschici is among the most enchanting and visited villages in the Gargano area. In recent years it has developed many touristic facilities and definitely become one of the main tourist destination in Puglia.
Photos by Elia de Nittis
Monte Sant’Angelo is a small town in the province of Foggia and it is part of the Gargano National Park. It is located in the hills on the Gargano promontory, the spur of Italy, from where it overlooks the splendid gulf of Manfredonia. Monte Sant’Angelo has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since June 2011.
Photo Credits: Flick-pierluigi maria broccoli
The town is situated on a limestone rock, full of caverns and caves; it was founded in the 5th century AC and links its name to the apparition of the Archangel St. Michael on the 8th of May 490 in one of the many caves which surround the whole area. The Archangel reappeared again in 492 and 493 and made this a place of devotion and a pilgrimage meta. Monte Sant’Angelo is still one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Italy and it is worth a visit whether you are a pilgrim or not.
At the time of the apparition, Puglia was ruled by the Lombards which made Monte Sant’Angelo and the cave their national shrine. The town and the holy cave, which was sacked by the Saracens in 871, became very soon a religious meta for pilgrims coming from all over, as Puglia was of passage for pilgrims and crusaders on their way to the holy land. Kings, emperors, popes and Saint Francis of Assisi made their pilgrimage here asking for St. Michael’s protection.
Photo Credits: Flick-Andrea Presciuttini
The town developed around the shrine of Archangel St. Michael which was built on top the grotto where the apparition took place. The little medieval town is rich in historical monuments of great architectural importance. Very characteristic is the quarter of Rione Junno with its terraced houses. The Sanctuary of St.Michael was built between 5th and 11th century, inside are well preserved a carved bishop’s chair (dates from the 11th century) and a statue in alabaster representing the saint. An octagonal 13th century campanile stands outside the sanctuary.
The imposing castle dating from the 9th century, is a testimony of an incredible past era and dominates the entire town from its highest point. It was destroyed and rebuilt numerous times under the Norman, Swabian and Aragonese domains. The Torre dei Giganti (Giants’ Tower) is also part of the castle, so called as it is made of huge boulders. The Tomb of Rotari is an imposing domed tower. The Tomba is traditionally believed to be the tomb of Rothari, a 7th-century Lombard chieftain who converted to Christianity, but it is probably a 12th-century Romanesque baptistery dedicated to Saint John. Near the Tomb are the ruins of the Saint Peter Church. Nearby is the Santa Maria Maggiore Church which preserves beautiful internal frescoes including one of the Archangel.
Photo Credits: Flick-Gianni Mello
Just 9Km from the town, it is worth a visit to the Santa Maria di Pulsano Abbey, built on the edge of the Valley of Pulsano overlooking the flat tableland of the Tavoliere delle Puglie and Gulf of Manfredonia. The Abbey was originally built in 591, destroyed in 952 by the Saracens and rebuilt again in 1129 by the Benedictines.