Vista sull'isola di San Nicola, Tremiti, Foggia
Also known as the Capitanata or Daunia, the Province of Foggia marks the northern border of Apulia, near Molise and Campania.
The eastern part is occupied by the promontory of Gargano, the "spur of the boot," and the beautiful Tremiti Islands, a favorite destination for the many visitors who every year choose an Apulian vacation. The numerous locations along the Adriatic coast offer many opportunities for fun and relaxation, especially for beach lovers and those interested in taking excursions through nature.
But the charm of the hinterland is in no way inferior to the beauty of the seascape. The Tavoliere is the largest plain in the south of Italy, with its wide expanses of grain fields that shine in the summer sun and are interrupted only by the Dauni Mountains, at intervals covered with green woods. The colors, scents and sounds endow this landscape with its own particular charm.
A land rich in history, archaeological excavations have uncovered its first signs of settlement, from imposing Medieval castles to a wealth of religious buildings. And, a genuine, artisan cuisine makes a trip to the Province of Foggia even more pleasant.
Gargano and the Tremiti Islands are definitely the stars of the province of Foggia. Crystal-clear waters, caves, inlets, colorful gardens and lush vegetation are the distinguishing features of these masterpieces of nature.
Among the many places to visit, Vieste is certainly the most famous. Long stretches of sand in a particular color and lapped by a beautiful sea, alternate with stretches of coastline interrupted by numerous marine cavities such as the Sfondata and the Grotta Smeralda (Emerald Cave). The small white houses, the intense green of the Mediterranean bush and the blue of the sea are the colors that tinge the pretty Peschici, with beaches nestled in the rocky walls of the coast, ideal places to relax under the sun while being refreshed by a gentle sea breeze.
South of Gargano and facing the homonymous gulf is Manfredonia, a characteristic Medieval town with a Castle built by Manfred of Swabia. Today it is home to the National Museum, where finds from the Neolithic period are exhibited.
The Cathedral, dedicated to San Lorenzo Maiorano, Bishop of Siponto, preserves valuable works of art: the icon and the wooden statue of Madonna di Siponto (Our Lady of Siponto), the wooden crucifix dating back to the 13th century, and Cristo alla Colonna (Christ at the Column, 16th Century). Also worthy of note are the Church of San Benedetto in the heart of the old town, characterized by clean lines and adorned with pilasters, stucco reliefs and capitals; and, just outside Manfredonia, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.
Along the coastal strip, extending from the Gargano to the mouth of the Cervaro River is the Archaeological Park of Siponto: in addition to ancient settlements dating from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, it reveals the extensive development of this area once Sipontum became a Roman colony.
The many places of worship and the many religious celebrations that take place throughout the year in Apulia speak of the deep devotion that these people have demonstrated since ancient times. San Giovanni Rotondo also sits within the Province of Foggia. In its Santa Maria delle Grazie complex the remains of Padre Pio are kept, and a new Sanctuary, designed by Renzo Piano, is dedicated to the Saint.
Along the line of the route known as Via Sacra dei Longobardi (the Sacred Road of the Lombards), rises Monte Sant'Angelo with a fantastic view over the Gulf of Manfredonia and the Tavoliere. Here, in one of the many caves scattered in the limestone of the Gargano promontory is the Altar of San Michele Arcangelo eventually incorporated into the homonymous Basilica, still a place of pilgrimage as it was in ancient times.
Futher into the plain of the Tavoliere lies Lucera, an ancient village built on a Neolithic settlement and the scene of important historical events. Lucera experienced immense cultural and urban development during the Roman period, when the great Amphitheatre was built. Two great doorways are adorned with Ionic columns marking the entrance to the arena, which is crossed by a tunnel and three underground rooms that housed the animals and tools used during games and public spectacles.
Testimony to the Swabian-Angevin period is the fortress that dominates the whole town. Built by Frederick II where the ancient Roman acropolis stood, the fort was later enhanced by Charles I of Anjou with the construction of a 2,953-ft. wall, with 22 watchtowers, and a deep moat dug around the perimeter.
Overlooking the beautiful Piazza Duomo is the Angevin Cathedral, dedicated to Santa Maria dell’Assunta, the town's Patron Saint. The exterior façade features an asymmetrical structure and three access portals. The interior, meanwhile, is divided into three naves and contains rather interesting works of art. A journey through the history of Lucera, from prehistoric to Medieval times, is offered by the Civic Museum - named after Giuseppe Fiorelli, famous Italian archaeologist, and housed in the eighteenth century Palazzo de Nicastri-Cavalli in the old town. At the centre of the Tavoliere Plain is Foggia, capital of Capitanata.
The beauty of the sea and the richness of the seabed of Gargano and the Tremiti Islands offer the opportunity to practice all forms of water sports. Sailing, windsurfing, kite surfing and canoeing are ideal and adventurous ways to explore every corner of this earthly paradise, as is diving for those ready to plunge into the deep blue of the sea. Swim among the lush and colorful vegetation of the seabed and the different species of fish that populate, undisturbed, the marine reserve of the Tremiti Islands.
To see the inland landscape, a mountain bike or horseback ride is recommended for following the old cattle tracks that cross the Daunia. Clean air, unspoiled nature and strong scents are good companions for those who prefer trekking or an ecological two-wheeler.
The Park of Gargano is a paradise for those who love bird-watching, both in winter and summer. Stilts, avocets, little terns, rosy gulls, ferruginous, night herons,and egrets are just some of the many species that can be spotted walking in the green land of this natural jewel.
Moreover, if the time is right, do not miss the famous Carnevale Dauno di Manfredonia (Dauno Carnival of Manfredonia), now in its 57th edition, a big colorful party with a rich parade of floats and masked groups of participants.
Bread is one of the many delicacies of the Apulian cuisine. In the land of the Tavoliere Plain, the yellow corn lends to the entire landscape its color. And fortunately, there is never a lack of recipes that can pair with a tasty bruschetta or a slice of hardened bread topped with tomatoes and raw onions, and drizzled with the excellent local olive oil.
In some of the longest-standing trattorias one can still enjoy the pancotto, a simple but very tasty peasant dish recipe. And in a land where the making of bread is considered an art, pizza and focaccia are prepared with care and enriched with juicy tomatoes, sweet onions and fresh anchovies.
The first courses include the traditional homemade pasta - think classic orecchiette, along with tempting soups like maritata and minestrone, a triumph of flavors thanks to the freshness and quality of wild herbs and vegetables.
Lamb meat, tender and delicate, is used as a condiment for pasta dishes, or to prepare typical main courses using all parts of the animal.
The sea offers up the contents of sumptuous fish soups, grills and recipes with blue fish. An excellent lobster sauce is used as condiment for pasta dishes and, for those who love "raw" food, the intense flavor of oysters of Gargano is not to be missed.
Rich is also the production of cheeses that includes, among the typical products, the canestrato, aged in fiscelle (wicker baskets); pecorino (sheep milk cheese), great to eat with a slice of Pugliese bread or to season pasta dishes; and Mattinata cheeses, made in a small peasant village surrounded by unspoiled nature, and where the dairy production respects ancient traditions. Rich and savory dishes enhanced by the intense flavor of Apulia's famous olive oil, that here is labeled Dauno DOP. Sweet and fruity is the one produced in Mattinata, land of the ogliarola olive of Gargano.
Finally, a glass of wine of San Severo, Orta Nova, Daunia or Cacc'e Mmitte of Lucera complete the sumptuous meal typical of Capitanata.
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