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Dovè la primavera?  It was a long, cold winter, with far too much snow.  Now la pioggia has set in.  I am dreaming about il caldo, il sole e la spiaggia-warm weather, sunshine and the beach! I have had the opportunity over the last few years, to spend many weekends at different sites in the Gargano (gar·GAH·noh) with my cugini and their camper.  I would love to be there now!  To get ready for summer and welcome warmer weather, I am sharing my favourite scatti from my Gargano travels.

II Arco San Felice

Il Promontorio del Gargano is the promontory sticking out above ‘il tacco’, the heel of Italia.  You can also think of it as la caviglia-the ankle spur of Italia.  One of the most beautiful areas on earth, Il Gargano has unique flora and fauna.  Biodiversity wise the area is more like an island-an island surrounded on 3 sides by the Adriatico with 1 side attached to Italia.  Most of the promontorio is a protected area and marine reserve, Il Parco Nazionale del Gargano, which includes le Isole Tremiti and the ancient Foresta Umbra. Luckily this has prevented the area from being overdeveloped with large multinational hotels and resorts.

Il Gargano is famous for picchi (woodpeckers) and many other birds, 300 varieties of orchids, almonds and olives.  There are also endless ancient hillside olive groves, pine forests, sea grotte, limestone cliffs, rocky shores, crystalline water and fresh seafood.  The coast between Peschici and Vieste has 13 working trabucchi, fascinating ancient fishing contraptions which I wrote about in this post.

Trabucco Punta Lunga

The winding road around the Gargano, SS 89 from Foggia, has sharp turns and viste mozzafiato (VIS·teh moz·zah·FYAH·toh)-breathtaking views. One of my favourite viewpoints is La Baia delle Zagare. Here you can see the clifftop 4 star resort of the same name, and its private spiaggia.  There is a glass elevator built into the cliff-something I have to see for myself one of these days!

Baia delle Zagare

View of Vieste from the SS89

Il Gargano is full of campsites, inexpensive accommodation and B & B’s.  The campeggi e villaggi turistici -campsites and tourist villages, are ben attrezzati (well-equipped). You can camp with a camper and all the accessories, or just a vehicle and a tent.  There are also villette-little cabins that can be rented, but you have to bring your own sheets and towels, so these are mostly used by locals.  Some campsites even have a small hotel attached. This website (in Italiano) lists Gargano campsites. I have stayed right by the water and in an olive grove near Mattinata, and had a view of the beach near Vieste.

View from the camper, Punta Lunga, Vieste

Our setup is always comfortable and rustic, but some of the things you see at the campeggi are hard to believe. Families set up for the whole summer, with those working joining in on the weekends. I have seen TV with satellite, ceiling fans, generators and portable kitchen tents. Last year at Camping degli Ulivi in Mattinata, the family across from us had brought 5 kinds of brooms!

Ancient olive trees provide an interesting handwashing station, and a place to store 5 different brooms at Camping degli Ulivi

No yucky dehydrated camping food is found here! Fresh seafood is available from the mobile fishmonger il pescivendolo (pesh·ee·ven·DOH·loh) driving around to the different campsites. At Villaggio Camping Punta Lunga, we walked 2 km to Vieste to il pescivendolo along the amazing clifftop trail.

View from the 2km clifftop trail to Vieste

Vignanotica is between Mattinata and Pugnochiuso, closer to Pugnochiuso. It is surrounded by a wall of limestone cliffs and is only accessible by walking down the steep hill. Inaccessibility prevents development on the spiaggia. Parking is available in an olive grove, right under the olive trees for €7 and there is a shuttle down to the beach. Vignanotica can be crowded on Sundays in the summer. There is a small bar on the beach. Vignanotica is in sun until about 2pm, then it is in full shade from the cliffs. Some of the Gargano beaches, including Vignanotica, Mattinata and l’Isole Tremiti are rocky, so water shoes are needed to walk in the water.

Vignanotica. The tiny people walking on the beach provide scale for the limestone cliffs.

Most of the tourists visiting the Gargano area are Italian, especially in the summer.  Many Germans bring their campers too, but you do not meet a lot of North Americans here.  Il Gargano is the place to visit if you want to improve your Italiano.The closest major airport for Il Gargano is Bari. The airport in Foggia sometimes has flights to and from Milano, but usually it just has Alidaunia helicopter service to le Isole Tremiti, San Giovanni Rotondo, Vieste and Peschici. It is difficult to get around the Gargano without a car unless you have lots of time. The SS 89 from Foggia is the major road. On the way, be sure to stop and visit Santa Maria di Siponto near Manfredonia. There is no rail service after Foggia, except a local train from San Severo to Peschici. Ferrovie del Gargano buses outside the Foggia stazione leave for towns in the Gargano, but they are not frequent . Parkinbici is a bikesharing service between Gargano towns. For visitors, a weekly card is € 20 and weekend € 12.

Flying into San Domino by helicopter

As the Gargano website says, visit il Gargano ‘per una vacanza tra natura, mare e cultura’…for a holiday among nature, sea and culture!  Buon Viaggio, Cristina