by Maria E. Bellini
Whereabouts is it?
The Gargano is right at the top of the southern Italian region of Apulia in the province of Foggia.
Seen from above, this knobbly promontory juts out into the sea, interrupting Italy’s long, almost-straight coastline, therefore earning it’s nickname of the “spur”. But it wasn’t always like this – today the Gargano is actually part of Italy – but over one hundred and sixty million years ago it was a nearby island, which due to rising of sea levels slowly merged with mainland Italy.
Inaugurated as a National Park in 1991 – the Parco Nazionale del Gargano, cherished for its natural riches and prehistoric treasures, offers a stunning environment for all outdoors enthusiasts. It’s characterised by hills, the Umbra Forest, and the marshy wetlands – the highest point being Monte Calvo at 1065mt. There are way marked trails in the Umbra Forest and an annual Trail Running and Walking Festival is held in April.
The Foresta Umbra
A magical forest, with giant, sturdy trees – ancient, wise oaks, beeches and hornbeams. The thick vegetation gives a dramatic atmosphere and an aura of peace. The Umbra Forest has it all. A forest to inspire Tolkien, lakes, dramatic coastlines, and teasing hills, plus remote villages perched high on cliffs, and a cluster of islands, off the coast, the Tremiti islands, make this a fascinating destination for runners, walkers, cyclists… and photographers!
Town and Villages
A well loved holiday destination, the Gargano Peninsula, with it’s picturesque towns of Vieste, Peschici, Mattinata and Rodi Garganico quickly fill up during summer months. Hop on a ferry from Peschici or Vieste for a trip to the popular Tremiti Islands.
Lakes, Wetlands and Beaches
Water plays an big part in the Gargano’s identity.
The Gargano offers one of the best examples of marshland in the Mediterranean. The coastal wetlands – Lago Salso Oasis, are today, a conservation area, which aim to preserve the great biodiversity that inhabits the three basins which make up this protected area which extends to the Sipontine marshes.
Don’t miss the lagoons of Varano and Lesina, the two largest lakes in Southern Italy.
Three quarters of the Gargano is surrounded by the Adriatic Sea and there are many hotspots for swimming and snorkeling – You’ll definitely find a place that’s right for you, whatever you fancy! Soft sands, craggy rocks, lively and colourful, pocket-sized and remote, or fully serviced for families.
The Gargano is steeped in mysticism. An area rich in religious tradition and beliefs where two different sites are visited by thousands of pilgrims each year. San Giovanni Rotondo, birth and burial place, and present day spiritual hub for the recently canonised Padre Pio, and Monte Sant’Angelo site of the basilica of S.Michele Archangel.
Laid back or active
The Gargano offers plenty of activities to enjoy: hiking and running, windsurfing, mtb, horse riding, boat tours and visits to the Prehistorical Sites in the Umbra Forest.
Fly to: Bari, Naples, Brindisi or Pescara
Mukanda Festival – Music, Arts and Tough tuffs
where: Vico del Gargano
Carpino Folk Festival
Maria Elisabetta Bellini is Italyontrail.com’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.